Simple steps to fall-proof your home for an independent and vibrant life

Mar 11, 2024
There are plenty of simple steps we can take to make our homes safer allowing us to enjoy a confident and vibrant life for years to come. Source: Getty Images.

As we journey through life, the prospect of suffering a fall unfortunately becomes increasingly significant. These unfortunate incidents can have severe consequences, such as hip fractures, head injuries, and even the loss of precious lives.

It’s a sobering fact that nearly one-third of older Australians have experienced a fall within the past year, with one out of every five resulting in hospitalisation. While not all falls result in injury, they often shake one’s confidence and lead to withdrawal from the activities they love, all in an effort to avoid another fall.

Our homes, the safest place we know, can sometimes be where accidents often happen. But there’s good news! There are plenty of simple steps we can take to make our homes safer allowing us to enjoy a confident and vibrant life for years to come.

Dr. Angela Catic, associate professor in the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine, offers some sound advice for creating a safe living environment.

“It’s important for older populations to remain as independent as possible in their own homes. You can help support this by making sure common falling hazards are not in their homes,” Catic said.

Catic offers the following suggestions to improve safety and fall-proof your home:

Promoting healthy habits 

  • Stay active as you age.
  • Avoid exercises and equipment that may compromise your safety (e.g., treadmills).
  • Consult with a physical therapist for a personalised exercise plan.
  • Be aware of medications that can affect cognitive function.
  • Choose shoes with better traction for added safety.
  • Ensure well-lit living spaces indoors and outdoors.

Optimise your living spaces:

  • Keep clutter-free pathways at home.
  • Remove rugs to reduce slipping risks.
  • Safely conceal extension cords.
  • Address any loose or uneven carpet patches.
  • Add high-contrast colors to stairs for better visibility.

Kitchen improvements:

  • Arrange items at eye level for easy access.
  • Use a stable step stool with a bar when necessary.
  • Consider using a high stool for comfort while cooking.

Ensuring bathroom safety:

  • Install grab bars near the shower, tub, and toilet.
  • Avoid using towel racks as grab bars.
  • Use slip-resistant aids in the bathtub or shower.
  • Consider a sliding tub transfer bench for ease of access.
  • Think about raised toilet seats with attached arms for added support.

Embracing outdoor activities:

  • Wear suitable footwear when going outdoors.
  • Use assistive devices like a cane or rollator on uneven terrain.
  • Maintain porches and patios to prevent accidents.
  • Consider a walker with a seated option for gardening.

“These tips are great for geriatric populations, but they aren’t the only population at a high risk for falling,” Catic said.

“People with cognitive impairment, dementia, arthritis, orthostatic hypertension or even neuropathy also can experience a fall.”

Benefits of fall-proofing the home

Modifying the home to reduce fall risk has numerous benefits. In addition to decreasing the likelihood of falls, fall-proofing the home can also make it easier for you to perform daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and cooking, by incorporating features such as grab bars, handrails, and improved lighting.

Finally, it can provide peace of mind for both you and your loved ones, knowing that you are living in a safe and secure environment that has been tailored to meet your needs.

However, Research Fellow Dr Claudia Meyer from Bolton Clarke Research Institute considers the “greatest benefit” of modifying the home to reduce fall risk is that it allows “older people to live safely and comfortably within their homes, as independently as possible”.

“It provides people with the confidence to carry on activities of their choice,” Meyer explains.

“Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing and there is much that can be done to reduce fall risk.”

By taking proactive steps to ensure our homes are fall-proof, we not only avoid the potential hazards of falls but also create a safe environment that champions our independence and well-being.

Embracing these measures can ensure that our later years are marked not by limitations but by the boundless possibilities of a life lived with confidence and vitality.


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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