While the Motion Picture and Television Fund is proud to offer supportive, high-quality residential accommodation on its Wasserman Campus for members of the entertainment community in their retirement years, the organization also recognizes that many adults who are older prefer to remain in their own homes as they age. That’s why MPTF operates the Home Safe Home program, an initiative that helps make homes safer for residents who are seniors.
Even for fully independent adults who are older, the natural changes that take place with age can make some situations around the home more difficult, and potentially more dangerous, than they used to be. A poorly positioned rug could become a tripping hazard, for example, or an inadequately lit staircase could lead to a fall.
Home Safe Home addresses these concerns by offering free home safety evaluations. The program utilizes a volunteer team of entertainment industry members to conduct a thorough assessment of safety issues around the home and to carry out small modifications—like the installation of grab bars, tub rails, or smoke alarms—that help make the home safer for its residents.
If you have a parent or an older loved one still living in their own home, it can be a good idea to conduct your own home safety evaluation in order to identify potential hazards and prevent accidents before they happen. Read on for a helpful guide to making different areas of the home safe and secure for seniors.
Outside the Home
All entrances to the house should be well lit; if your parent or older loved one prefers not to leave lights on all night, installing a motion detector system is a good idea. Check to make sure that all outdoor stairs, pathways, and decks have textured surfaces, as poor traction in these areas can easily result in a serious fall. In addition, stairs and pathways should be free of clutter, snow, or leaves. If your parent cannot handle shoveling snow or raking leaves alone, you may need to make arrangements with a neighbor or a service to ensure that these tasks are taken care of promptly. Finally, the mailbox should be positioned so that your parent can access it easily and safely.
Inside the Home
All rooms and hallways inside the home should be well lit. High traffic areas should be clear of obstacles; in particular, rugs or mats should never be placed at the top of stairs or in other high traffic areas. Rugs that are placed elsewhere in the home should be secured with non-slip pads so that they won’t slide and cause a fall. A first aid kit should be stored somewhere easily accessible, and a list of emergency numbers should be placed next to each phone extension.
Again, good lighting is a very important part of a safe staircase. Staircase lighting fixtures should be equipped with high wattage bulbs, and there should be light switches at both the top and bottom of stairs so that your parent never has to go up or down in the dark. The steps themselves should be in good repair, free of clutter, and have a non-skid surface (if the home has wooden stairs, consider installing a simple carpet runner for better traction). Finally, there should be solid handrails at the proper height on both sides of the stairway so that your parent can use both hands for support when going up or down.
In the bathroom, the tub or shower should have a non-slip surface, and any bath mats on the floor should have rubberized backing so they won’t slide around. Grab bars should be properly placed and well anchored for use in getting into and out of the tub or shower, as well as for getting on and off the toilet if need be (a raised toilet seat can also be a helpful bathroom addition). It can be a good idea to put a night light in the bathroom, and an emergency release on the bathroom door lock will enable you to get in to help your parent if they have a fall or other accident.
Go through the kitchen with your parent and make sure that the most frequently used items—basic pots and pans, dishes, and staple pantry items—can be easily accessed without too much bending or stretching. Ideally, these items should be stored between knee and shoulder heights. In addition, any heavy items, like small appliances or large pots and pans, should be stored in lower cupboards, and lighter items should be kept in the higher cupboards. A stable step stool with a safety rail is a must for reaching high places. Oven mitts should be within easy reach of the oven, and a fire extinguisher should be mounted on the wall by the stove. In addition, the fire extinguisher should be regularly checked to ensure that it’s functional.