Designing your home requires more planning and insight when you have a senior living with you, particularly if they have a physical disability. Comfort, safety and ease of maintenance are three key factors to consider when choosing a flooring material. The significance of these qualities will also vary depending on the location. Bathrooms, for instance, require a slip-resistant material that’s easy to walk on and clean. For hallways, safety and ease of walking may be most important. In living rooms, comfort is the most important consideration.
Flooring Ideas for a Senior-Friendly Home
As we age, we no longer only think about the look and feel of our home’s interior; we also pay heed to factors that will make our lives easier and more comfortable. The space should be safe, easily accessible, and meet our needs.
That’s the concept behind taking a universal design approach, which aims to make homes accessible to everyone, irrespective of their age or health. Here, we examine some of the most suitable flooring options for the elderly.
Cork flooring is an excellent option that’s warm, soft, comfortable underfoot, and easy to clean. It also comes in a wide variety of styles and finishes.
The best thing about cork is that, unlike carpet, it’s antimicrobial, which means it naturally prevents the growth of mould and microorganisms. Cork also repels dust and dirt because of its antistatic properties. This in turn ensures that the indoor air quality is healthy and clean. This is helpful for seniors who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues. As for the cleaning, you just need to sweep or vacuum it occasionally. Make sure that the surface is sealed properly to make it stain resistant.
Cork’s only real drawback is its softness. Sharp objects can scratch, rip or gouge cork flooring. This can be avoided by using floor rugs or cork tiles that are easily replaceable.
Carpets are a traditional choice for bedrooms because of their warmth, softness, and comfort. They act as a cushion, providing support and safety to prevent injuries due to tripping and falling.
Another advantage of carpets is that they can absorb the noise generated by children playing, running or jumping in adjoining rooms. This is especially helpful when the senior’s bedroom is located above that of a child or the living room. Choose polyester, nylon or polypropylene varieties for the best durability.
However, carpets aren’t easy to clean, making this task challenging for seniors. Their fibres attract dust and dirt, which can lead to an accumulation of particles that can negatively affect air quality. Not properly cleaning carpeting can lead to mould and mildew growth, which could be hazardous to everybody’s health, particularly seniors.
If you love the look of hardwood but want something more comfortable, laminate flooring is a good choice. It comes with a certain level of softness, bounce, and shock absorption which makes it a suitable flooring option for seniors.
Laminates are also resistant to allergens and can be easily swept or vacuumed. Using a foam underlayment beneath the laminate base can make the floor even softer and warmer.
Rubber is a great flooring choice for long-term care homes and homes with seniors. Unlike area rugs and carpets, which can pose tripping hazards, rubber is heavy and highly slip-resistant. Available in a variety of thicknesses, rubber flooring can be helpful for seniors with foot problems, knee or hip replacements, or conditions like Parkinson’s, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Since rubber can absorb shock, it prevents painful impacts on joints in the event of a fall. It’s soft and offers cushioning and insulation that keeps guests warm and comfortable year-round . Additional padding placed beneath rubber flooring can provide even more protection.
Rubber flooring is also easy to clean and maintain.
Tips for Designing a Safe Home for Seniors
- Choose Open Spaces
Homes with an open floor design have large, spacious rooms with fewer barriers like walls and doors. This makes it easier for seniors to move about without colliding into obstacles. Use as little furniture as you can; suggestions include adjustable beds and seat-level automatic closet bars for as much open space as possible. All corridors, foyers and passages should be at least 24 inches wide.
- Ensure a Safe Bathroom
Bathrooms are one of the most difficult areas to access for seniors, especially those with mobility issues. Having more floor space and adding the right shower accessories provides ease and comfort for everybody, including senior family members. Install a countertop-style sink for added support and accessible storage.
If there’s a standard sink, use additional supports underneath so it doesn’t detach from the wall if leaned on. Roll-in showers with handheld attachments are also a great option. Use grab bars mounted to the wall for safety, especially around the toilet and shower. If there’s no free wall space, install an L-shaped bar using the floor and back wall as support points.
- Build Broader Doorways
Make sure that the front door and all internal doorways are sufficiently broad for easy access. The ideal width for the main door is 34-36 inches. Also, consider adding slopes if they’re using wheelchairs for access. Choose lever handles over knobs, as the latter can be difficult to operate for people with fine motor skill problems. If it’s not possible to broaden the doorway, choose doors with swing-away hinges for a few extra inches of width.
Locks should be placed three to four feet from the floor. This is also applicable for any plugs, alarms or switches. Don’t have a disabled senior in your family? These doorway features are still a good investment as they make it easier to enter and exit your house if your hands are full. Wide doorways also make rooms look more spacious.
There are many considerations that go into picking perfect flooring for a senior. Fortunately, there are many options, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Hopefully, this guide helps you prioritize your needs and design a safer home for your loved ones.