Winter weather has arrived in full force in the United States. While the snow transforms the outdoors into a beautiful wonderland, winter can create numerous safety risks for seniors. Protect yourself or your loved ones when you make several home modifications that prepare you for a safe, slip-free and accident-free winter season.
Boost Outdoor Lighting
Dark pathways, sidewalks and home exteriors can increase your fall risk as you head out to run errands or welcome guests in for an evening of card games. Improve safety for yourself and your guests when you install adequate outdoor lights.
Exterior lights should illuminate walkways from the parking area to your house. They should also illuminate sidewalks, the stairs or ramp, the porch and entryways.
Many seniors remain spry well into retirement, but you may suffer from mobility challenges caused by joint problems, muscle weakness or chronic pain. If you notice a decrease in mobility, consider replacing your outdoor steps with a ramp. Even if you don’t use a walker or a wheelchair yet, a ramp serves as an important safety asset and can reduce strain as you enter and exit your home.
Choose a licensed contractor for the ramp construction to ensure it’s properly built and installed. It should feature a slip-proof surface and smooth transition at the threshold.
After you install the ramp, keep it clear during the winter months. Hire someone to remove snow and ice or store cat litter or sand on the porch and sprinkle it on the ramp so you can safely use this home modification all season.
Modify the Kitchen
Hearty soups and stews taste delicious on cold winter days, and they’re easy to prepare if you make a few modifications to your kitchen. These changes improve accessibility and protect you from burns, strains, slips and other hazards.
- Adjust the cabinets and countertops to a lower height so you can easily reach them.
- Place the microwave on a stand rather than on a high shelf or on the back of the counter.
- Install pull-out shelves, lever faucets and bar or D-shaped cabinet hardware to improve access.
- Choose non-slip flooring, such as rubberized mats, stick-on strips or specialized vinyl that prevents slips or falls.
- Utilize reinforced hand grips near the sink, stove and counters.
- Purchase ergonomic kitchen utensils that reduce injury or strain as you cook.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors could save your life. Install smoke detectors on each floor, in the kitchen and on the ceiling near each bedroom. Place carbon monoxide detectors near the furnace and outside your bedroom. Check and replace the batteries regularly, too.
As you age, your vision changes and could become weaker or be affected by age-related eye diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma. Plus, seniors need two to three times more light than a younger person. Definitely install plenty of lights throughout your home to protect your vision as you work, read or relax. Additionally, take these steps.
- Utilize natural light when possible. Open the curtains, wash the windows and let in the sunshine.
- Start using 100 or 150-watt bulbs to reduce eye strain.
- Illuminate stairways, and install light switches at both ends of your stairs.
- Add extra lights to the bathroom.
- Use direct and targeted light as you work around the house. Lamps with flexible arms ensure you always have enough light for your projects.
- Reduce glare with glare-free wall paint and dull floor finishes as you improve your vision at home.
The temperature drops during winter, and you may find yourself shivering more often. To stay warm, you may choose a space heater, wood stove or other form of temporary heat.
Unfortunately, your space heater poses fire and electric shock risks. Always plug it directly into the wall and never into an extension cord. Keep it away from water or flammable material, too. Turn the heater off when you’re finished using it or choose a heater with an automatic turn-off and other safeguards.
As an alternative, winterize your home. Boost the insulation in the exterior walls, roof and basement, caulk windows and close any other drafts. Clean your furnace filters, too. These modifications and a throw blanket or sweater help you stay warmer and safer this winter.
Reduce Tripping Hazards
Area rugs, winter boots, extension cords and other clutter may be commonplace in your home all winter. These items can cause slips and falls, though.
For safety, remove rugs or secure them and any cords with tape. Store your boots in a bin near the door, and remove other clutter, too.
Replace Slippery Flooring
Floors can easily become slippery, especially after you wear snow-covered boots indoors. Install a non-slip flooring near entryways to protect yourself. You may also securely tape snow mats to the floor in areas that are prone to get wet.
Prepare the Bathroom
Warm winter showers or baths ward off the shivers and stress. Several modifications make your bathroom safer.
- Non-slip bathroom flooring
- Walk-in shower or tub
- Portable shower seat
- Shower safety bar
- Moveable or handheld shower head
- Raised toilet
- Lowered sink
Improve Laundry Access
While you must do laundry all year, winter weather may find you washing more loads as you clean large blankets and heavy jackets or sweaters. Move the washer and dryer to the first floor where it’s more accessible, and upgrade to a front loader if you have trouble reaching inside a top-loading machine. A laundry table also allows you to fold and sort laundry with ease as you reduce risks associated with bending, performing repetitive movements or stretching.
Prepare a Designated Exercise Station
Exercise can improve your immune system, flexibility, strength and overall health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that seniors exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes weekly.
To reach your exercise goal this winter, add an exercise station to your home modification list. In a cabinet or bin, store your walking shoes, yoga mat or exercise ball. Clear a spot in your den or living room to work out to a YouTube video or on your stationary bike. Whether you exercise indoors, take walks outside or head to the mall or gym, your exercise station motivates you to get moving this winter.
Assemble a Hobby Station
With a hobby, you keep your mind active and prevent seasonal depression. Create a space in your home where you can put together jigsaw puzzles, whittle wooden animals or assemble scrapbooks for your grandkids. You may have to rearrange rooms or construct a hobby station, but when it’s stocked with an ergonomic table and chair and adequate lighting, you stay engaged and entertained all winter.
Your home can be a slip-free, accident-free safe zone this winter when you make several modifications. As a senior, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to protect yourself. For assistance preparing your home for winter, call us at (610) 518-2221 or use our online contact form. We’re home modification specialists with the knowledge and skill to keep you safe all winter.