Do you know how often we injure ourselves at home?
To give you an idea, in New Zealand, around 300,000 people fall at home every year and over the last 5 years in excess of $2 Billion dollars has been spent by ACC (Accident Compensation Commission) on people who had falls in their homes. In addition people cut themselves (around 4,000) and burn themselves (around 700) badly enough each year to go to hospital.
Is this OK? Certainly not.
The Truth is: some of these injuries could be avoided with a good home design.
The ability to create a safer home is within the power of each home occupant and owner. It starts with understanding the risk areas in your home. Here are some things to consider:
- STEPS AND STAIRS
A fall on a step or stair can often result in hospitalisation, long recovery periods and a loss of independence. Hip fractures and head trauma can also have significant consequences, with an estimated 40% of people aged 65+ with hip fractures being unable to return to their own home.
It’s difficult to completely avoid stairs in your home, but we can make them safer to use.
One area to think about is lighting. It’s really important your stairs have good lighting to allow people with visual impairments (or even yourself, especially when you have just woken up and are still groggy) to see the steps properly. Also if there aren’t switches at the top and bottom of stairs then these should be installed.
Any room with water presents a danger. Consider a non-slippery floor surface, we know it’s nice to have a shiny floor but one false step and you can easily break a leg or worse.
Also consider the shower itself. Baths can be hard to get in and out, especially for older people, so a level-entry shower is considerably easier. The shower over bath is also a concern and a risk area.
It’s important to choose the right tap. Make sure yours has the blue and red code to indicate which way is cold and which way is hot and lever handle taps are much easier to use.
More accidents happen in the kitchen than in any other room in the house. There are a range of dangers; you can cut yourself, burn yourself or fall over. How do you avoid these?
Firstly you need good lighting. Task lighting above the benches is best. This will allow everyone to see properly when cutting vegetables etc. and for cooking in general.
Placement and design of the oven and cook tops is also essential. The hotplates should be flush, so those with limited mobility (or anyone, it’s just very practical) can safely transfer pots of boiling water, for example, to the sink. Therefore, the controls for the cook top should be on the opposite side to the sink to allow for this. Colour contrasting can play a big role. If your hotplates are black and your kitchen worktops are black also, people with visual impairments can have trouble distinguishing between the surfaces and burn themselves.
Your home entrance can also be a high risk area. When the weather is bad (and you all know how it can be during winter) you need to do everything to prevent trips and falls. How can you do that?
First, does your entrance have a step free entry? This will reduce the risk of trips and will also help you if you are using wheels, like a stroller, suitcase, wheelchair etc.
Also, it’s winter so it’s often dark when you leave your home early in the morning and dark when you return… so again think about the lighting! Nothing worse than trying to find the door lock or having to avoid obstacles in the dark. Consider installing sensor lighting at the entrance to make life easier.
Finally, make sure you have sufficient overhead shelter at your entrance. This way you will keep both yourself and your entrance dry and will reduce the risk of a fall … or maybe a cold!
The ability to create a safer home is within the power of each home occupant and owner. We have provided some tips to reduce risks and you can use the Homescore self-assessment tool to see where you may still need improvements.
A safer home benefits all occupants (and visitors), not just older people. Children, in particular will benefit from a design that recognises and addresses risk areas and by doing so creates a more liveable space for everyone.
It’s time to prevent accidents with better designs,
and create homes that are safer for everyone.