Thinking of Moving or Renovating? Considerations for Fall Proofing
By Trena Winans, Outreach & Education Director
People of all ages fall, so in an ideal world, every home, apartment and condominium would use Universal Design elements to make the safest possible residences for all—not just older adults. Sadly, it is not an ideal world yet, so if you are thinking of moving to a new home or renovating the one you already have, here are some things to consider.
In the Bathroom:
- Is there, or can you install, a 17” tall toilet bowl to reduce the amount of bending required?
- Are mirrors no higher than 40” off the floor?
- Are floors slippery? Consider a type of flooring that doesn’t get as slick.
- Are there grab bars by the toilet and in and next to the shower? Is it the type of shower liner that will allow grab bars to be added if they’re not there already? A bath liner that extends to the ceiling is convenient for cleaning, but does not allow you to add the appropriate safety features
Special Note: Handles held on by suction cups and towel rods are NOT grab bars. They may steady you slightly but are NOT safe to count on if you should slip. Make sure you can add correctly installed grab bars that get screwed into studs. Anything else could give you a false sense of security.
In the Kitchen:
- Is it possible to have the microwave on the counter rather than above the stove? Taking hot food down from overhead may become dangerous and difficult later in life.
- Are countertops low or can they be lowered?
- Can you reach the cupboards without a ladder or without having to get on your knees? If not, is there adequate storage elsewhere? Alternatively, look into installing pull-down shelving.
- Are cupboard handles large enough to grab easily even if some mobility is lost?
Throughout the Home:
- Are doorways wide enough for wheelchair access if you ever needed one? Look for a minimum of 36 inches.
- Can you reach the controls and all the way to the back of the washer and dryer without climbing on a step-stool? Are they located on the main level of your home? If not, is it possible to move them?
- Are railings installed on both sides of any stairwells and are they well-lit with switches at both the top and bottom? Consider installing non-slip strips if they are not there already.
- Is there a light switch next to the entrance of each room and at the top and bottom of every stairwell? Is lighting bright?
Special Note: Make sure to use the lights you have! Turning off lights may save you a few pennies in the short term, but the potential cost of a serious fall in dollars, pain and potentially lost independence are immeasurable! It is well worth the small expense to turn on the lights when rooms are dim.
Besides all of the above, make sure you keep your walkways clear of clutter and cords. Avoid throw rugs, or at least get ones that are not too thick and have a good non-slip backing. Wear shoes that fit well and won’t slip off your feet. Good habits and a well-designed home can help you remain independent throughout your life. Stay safe!