What can be done to make climbing stairs safer for senior citizens?
1. Get a stairlift
The safest way for elders to get up and down the stairs is using a stairlift. Electric stairlifts carry seniors up and down the stairs. And they’re effortless to use. There are stairlift models that suit both straight and curved stairways. They’re usually used inside the house, but there are also outdoor stairlifts. Stairlifts can be installed in a day. They won’t vandalize your walls and can be held back so that others can walk up the stairs without any inconvenience.
2. Add railings
Stairways in the house should have railings on both sides. The CDC recommends railings as an essential safety fix for elders living at home. Railings must be easy for the users to grip and available from the bottom to the top, with no gaps. As you add railings, ensure they are securely mounted and are not wiggling. Also, add railings to all stairways, including the steps leading into the home.
3. Eliminate carpet runners
A slippery surface can make walking up and down the steps difficult for older adults who are unsteady or use a cane. You should remove any carpet runners from the stairs to have the safest surface. While a lovely décor addition, these runners also increase tripping risk.
4. Add non-slip strips
While carpet runners are a tripping risk, it is also possible to slip on hardwood stairs. To make hardwood stairs safer for elders, add non-slip strips to the stairs. These will prevent slips and falls.
5. Add a resting spot
If the staircase allows it, you can add a bench to provide a safe place to take a rest on a landing or curve. Some larger houses allow for such an addition. A small bench can give a senior a much-needed rest on the way up or down the stairs.
6. Check the lights
Vision difficulties can make walking up and down the stairs dangerous. A stairway that isn’t well lit is particularly problematic. You can add safety measures by ensuring the stairs are well lit inside and outside the house. Shadows can also make stepping hard for seniors who have trouble with depth perception. Add overhead lighting as required to prevent shadows and make the stairs secure.
7. Keep the path clear
Stairs should provide a clear path and be free from clutter. Many people, not just elders, use the first few stairs to hold things that need to go upstairs someday. However, these piles of laundry or clutter can pose a trip hazard. Instead, you can keep a basket near the stairs to put those things into and ask someone to take them up at another time.
8. Use contrasting colours
It can be challenging for seniors with vision difficulties to tell where one step ends and the other begins. To help them, you can paint the stairs in contrasting colours. Alternate dark and light colours to make the stairs visible. Consider asking a designer to choose colours that will look appealing. This DIY project can be done on the weekend.
9. Adjust the rise
In some circumstances, a complete renovation of the stairs can be the right choice. If possible, choose stairs with a lower rise so that you or your beloved doesn’t have to step as high to reach the next step. This will help elders with leg conditions to take less painful steps.
10. Reduce stair time
Consider adapting the house’s design to lower the number of times an older adult should go up the stairs. For instance, a downstairs bedroom or a bathroom can cut down on going upstairs—the fewer trips up the stairs, the lower chance for falling on them.