Proper planning is key.
Whether you’re a retiree looking to give your home a much-needed makeover, or a homeowner living with their elderly parents/grandparents, creating an elderly-friendly home will be very, very important.
In fact, 44% of falls among the elderly happen inside the home, with the biggest culprits being unsafe bathrooms, clutter, and dim lighting.
And while the government is already taking measures to elder-proof newer homes, not every elderly person will have the opportunity to live in such flats. So, proper renovation is still required – and here are the things to take note of:
For the bathroom
With the high occurrence of puddles and collecting pools of moisture, your bathroom is perhaps the most dangerous room for your elderly loved ones.
One of the simplest ways to prevent falls is to use anti-slip tiles. While regular porcelain or ceramic floor tiles tend to be highly slippery (especially when in contact with water), anti-slip tiles usually have a special coating and textured surface that improve traction.
If you’ve already renovated your home and haven’t installed these tiles, you can place anti-slip mats on top of your existing flooring.
Installing elder-friendly accessories will also be key in helping you navigate the space. For example, having grab bars beside the WC and in the shower area will make it easier for them to sit, stand, or maintain their balance, while a ramp at the entrance will ensure easy access for wheelchair users.
Other things you can do to elder-proof your bathroom include:
- Ensure the bathroom is well lit and spacious
- Keep the floor even, with no kerbs or level drops that may cause tripping
- Use a regular walk-in shower instead of a bathtub
- Use taps with levers to allow your folks to grab onto them more easily
- Use a handheld, adjustable showerhead instead of a fixed one
- Consider installing bells or buttons that the elderly can use to signal for help
For the living room
To create an elderly-friendly living room, the most important thing is to a) minimise clutter like wires and cables to prevent anyone from tripping over them, and b) create ample space so that it’s easier to move about – which is especially important for anyone needing the assistance of a wheelchair or walking cane.
If you’re planning to use loose furniture, keep an eye out for pieces that provide better lumbar support and comfort, like padded armchairs and recliners. They also shouldn’t be too low (like Japanese seating options tend to be), to ensure that your elderly parents have an easier time getting up or sitting down.
On furniture pieces to avoid, it’s advisable to steer away from carpets and rugs, as they increase the likelihood of tripping and falling.
For the kitchen
From food to everyday necessities like cups and kitchen rolls, the kitchen is home to a great many things – which is why ensuring that everything remains accessible will be an important part in keeping your home elderly-friendly.
Some accessories you can include are pull-down and pull-out shelves, which prevents your folks from straining themselves (or falling off from a stool!) as they reach for things they need. Do also avoid using tiny cabinet knobs on your carpentry, as the small size makes it tougher to get a firm grip on them.
You can also consider using curved surfaces over regular straight-laced edges. They’re not only a huge interior design trend in 2024, but are also much safer for the elderly, as they don’t cause as much physical pain in the case of falls.
For the bedroom
Like the kitchen, ensure that everything frequently used – like medication and lotion bottles – are within reach. Having a side desk or side cabinets for this purpose is the easiest way to do so.
For every room
Aside from the room-specific tips mentioned above, there are also other things you can do across the home to make it more elderly-friendly, namely:
- Keep each space well-lit and spacious
- Pair a smart switch with a motion sensor that triggers the lights upon detecting movement at night, so that everyone can find their way easily
- Use door knobs with levers for easier grip
- Widen your doorways to create more room for anyone using mobility aid (e.g. walkers and wheelchairs)