Remodeling your home with aging in mind can help keep you in your home safely for years to come. One in four adults aged 65 and older suffers a fall each year, with 20% of these falls leaving to broken bones or head injuries. Safety measures in the home can help prevent these dangerous falls.
No one type of flooring is necessarily best for aging in place. Low pile carpeting and hardwood floors are best for wheelchairs and walkers, but it can be hard to predict whether you will need one when you grow older. The best principles to follow for designing your floors are to minimize transitions across flooring types. This may mean using a consistent flooring type throughout your home or to eliminate or lower thresholds that often separate one room from the other. Older adults tend to drag their feet or not pick them up as high as younger people and are much more likely to trip on thresholds.
Avoiding area rugs is also important for aging in place. While area rugs add décor and warmth they are a tripping hazard and should be avoided. Removing clutter, excess furniture, or anything that narrows walkways is also key to preventing falls.
A room where flooring may be the most important is in the bathroom. Stepping out of tubs or showers is a fall risk for anyone, regardless of age, but especially for aging adults. Install grab bars for extra support while getting out of the shower or tub and make sure any bathmats are heavy enough that they will not slide under your feet. Tile and stone floors are poor options for bathrooms for aging adults since they become very slippery when wet and provide no cushion in a fall. While not the most attractive, a rubber floor is very moisture-resistant and provides some cushioning in a fall.
Low pile carpeting may be the best choice in bedrooms, where falling out of bed is a risk for aging adults. Falling onto carpet provides a little bit more cushion than falling on hardwoods and may soften the fall. Carpet is also warmer under foot, wearing socks on hardwood floors to keep your feet warmer may lead to more falls since they make you more likely to slip.