For people aged over 65, falls are the leading cause of hospitalised injury in Australia, with these figures only rising. In fact, tripping on household objects, including steps and stairs is the second largest proportion of these cases.
The good news? These kinds of falls are preventable, so there are things you can do to modify the stairs inside and outside your home so you can freely and safely access all areas of your home, with both feet firmly on the ground!
1. Add handrails
According to Australian standards for stair and handrails, staircases must have a handrail on all exposed sides. In most homes, that means only one side of a staircase has a handrail.
As we age, unsteadiness and a lack of balance makes walking up and down stairs increasingly dangerous. Securely adding a handrail on both sides of the stairs will help you maintain your balance so you can have maximum support and stabilisation when using your stairs.
2. Change the Flooring
Floorboards and tiles are slippery, adding stairs to the mix is an accident waiting to happen. To prevent slipping and falling on these surfaces, ELC Home Modifications can replace your existing tiles with non-slip tiles, apply non-slip tape or mats or apply an R10 rated non-slip treatment.
Some stairs may be decorated with a carpet runner, however, to maximise stability and reduce your risk of tripping, you should remove the carpet runner entirely to ensure each step is level.
3. Stair Walkers
Installing a stair walking aid is ideal for those looking for an affordable and less invasive solution to a traditional stair lift, whilst also improving your mobility.
A StairSteady is a stair assistant that uses a fixed handrail and a sliding supporting handle to help those with reduced mobility. When weight is applied to the handrail, it immediately locks into place to ensure you stay steady as you work your way up or down the stairs.
ELC Home Modifications can help you complete a quick home assessment to ensure the StairSteady can accommodate for your needs and living conditions.
4. Stair Modifications.
Overtime, you may find that your stairs have become too high, too short or too shallow to safely navigate, forcing you to place unnecessary strain on your lower body. In this case, you may want to consider stair modifications.
ELC Home Modifications can lengthen the stairs in your home to offer more stability or reduce the depth of the steps to suit your needs to prevent placing pressure on your joints and allow you to freely and comfortably use your stairs.
5. Add some lights
At night, stairs are hazardous for everyone. But as we age, reduced vision and stability makes stairs particularly dangerous.
Adding lights directly on the stairs, or directly above the stairs will remove shadows that can skew your depth perception and placement, making sure you can see exactly which foot is going in front of the other.
6. Consider a Wheelchair Ramp
Whether it’s the steps leading up to your front door, or the patio out the back, outdoor stairs can be easily transformed into a wheelchair ramp. This will remove your risk of slipping, tripping and falling by creating an even elevation that allows you to easily access your home.
Converting your stairs into a ramp will also make your home accessible for all forms of wheeled mobility, including wheelchairs or walking frames if your needs change in the future.
7. Appropriate Footwear
You have to dress the part. Socks and slippers may be comfortable, but they're simply not practical. Wearing shoes with extensive grip on the sole of the shoe, or shoes specifically designed with a non-slip sole will reduce your risk of slipping on the stairs.
You shouldn’t have to move out of your home because it no longer caters for your changing needs. Whilst stairs are a tripping hazard for seniors, these preventative measures can allow you to confidently and independently access the home you’ve always known and loved.