When Nancy Arnegard, 71, began falling a few years ago due to a degenerative disease, she moved in with her daughter, Cece Zavala. But changes needed to be made to the home to prevent more falls.
Zavala installed grab bars in the bathroom and kitchen, ramps for the exterior doors and garage, extra lighting and more.
She knew what to do because she’s a certified aging-in-place specialist who also has a home modification certificate — meaning she’s trained to help others arrange their homes to live comfortably and safely now and in the future.
“The home modifications we made allowed my mom to live safely at home for much longer than anticipated,” says Zavala, of Sacramento, California. “We can create absolutely gorgeous environments that fit in and age with people. Sometimes it’s just making slight changes here and there.”
That’s important, because 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to stay in their homes as they age, an AARP survey found. Their homes, however, may not be suited to their wishes. The risk of falling rises with age, and most falls happen at home. AARP’s free HomeFit Guide features smart ways to make a home comfortable, safe and a great fit for people of all ages.
“Not every fall causes a catastrophic injury that changes your life. But when they do happen, they can be devastating,” says Kathryn Daniel, an adult/gerontological nurse practitioner and associate dean for academic affairs in nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington. Falls can lead to broken bones, like a fractured hip, which can make it hard to get around, do everyday activities or live independently, she adds.
Simple changes can be made in and around your home to help prevent falls and eliminate tripping hazards. Here are 10 suggestions.
1. Remove scatter rugs
Remove throw rugs throughout the home that are easy to trip over. If you must have a rug in the bathroom, make sure it has a no-slip bottom.
“When you’ve lived in a place for a number of years you can collect a lot of clutter, and that can become a fall risk,” Zavala says. Remove items, such as stacks of books or boxes on the floor, that you may trip over or that can cause harm if you fall.
3. Keep pathways clear
Clear pathways of trip hazards — such as clutter, power cords or extra furniture — so that it’s easier to move around. This includes hallways as well as the route around your bed to the door. Get electrical cords with flat plugs or place rubber strips over cords.