If you are a senior, planning on aging-in-place, you are part of a growing majority of older Americans choosing to remain at home as they age. A recent survey indicates that 83% of older Americans want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. But, most housing is over 20 years old and was never designed to meet the changing needs of families over a lifetime. A home that provided shelter for young, healthy people, can become a hazardous place for an aging person.
Unfortunately, too many seniors resist addressing environmental risks until it is too late, after a devastating fall has robbed them of their health and independence. Almost half of all falls happen in the home, many leading to hospitalization, loss of independence, even death. Of the falls that are reported, most are preventable and are caused by common household hazards that are easily removed or modified. The challenge is to take action, before a fall can happen. The statistics on falls are alarming:


Falls are the leading cause of injury among adults 65 and older in the U.S.


Every 17 seconds, an older American is hospitalized for a fall-related injury.


Approximately 66% of fall victims will fall again within 6 months.


By 2020, the annual cost of fall injury care is expected to reach $54.9 billion.
The good news is that most falls are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, older Americans can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling by doing the following:

  • Exercise regularly with warm-up and cool-down periods
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medications
  • Have an eye exam at least once a year
  • Make home modifications that address fall prevention.

So why do so many seniors resist home modifications until after they've fallen? Studies have shed some light on this, suggesting that people are reluctant to install things like grab bars and handrails because they're seen as signs of a person's declining abilities. These modifications are also viewed as expensive and unsightly, creating an institutional look that will lower a home's value and make it harder to sell on short notice. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is both misguided and dangerous.

The need for adaptive equipment actually is a sign of failure, but not the failure of an aging person, it's the failure of the home's design to properly shelter all of the people who live there. Also, most safety modifications aren't expensive, they don't have to look institutional, and they actually add value to a home because they can benefit all age groups. Grab bars, handrails, wide pathways or light fixtures promote safety for everyone, yet can blend nicely with a homes design.