Monday, June 10, 2013

11 tips to Keep Outdoor Spaces Safer for Seniors

It’s summer time! And if you live in a colder part of the country, summer often means it’s outdoor time for both family and friends. This added living space may mean you may entertain more or you just might move your usual activities, like eating dinner, outside for a few months.

If you have an older parent or friend with limited mobility who will be joining you in your outdoor space, be it a patio, a deck, or a balcony, there are a few safety issues you might want to take into consideration to reduce the risk of injuries.

Here are some tips to help you keep the fun in summer time:


1- Good lighting helps keep people safe inside and outside. For outdoor lighting, be sure the lights are secured and highlight any possible obstacles, such as stairs, ramps, or furniture. If there are shadows that can make the obstacles hard to see, you may want to add some lighting to those areas.

2- If you don’t like the idea of having bright lights on all over, consider using motion-sensing devices to trigger your lights. This way, when someone approaches the area, the lights go on as needed. An added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about turning off lights after everyone has gone inside.

3- You may have seen small lights on steps. These can be very useful, especially in places where you might not want full bright lights. Small lights can be placed on the stair risers themselves, or along the step sides.

Remove obstacles

The smallest things can be a tripping hazard for anyone, not just someone with limited mobility. Here are some of the more common ones:

Extension cords
Outdoor carpeting
Uneven patio blocks

4- Extension cords for lights, sound systems, or other electronics can pose a tripping hazard. If you need to use lengthy cords, it’s best to fasten them along a wall or railing, out of foot reach.

5- Outdoor furniture is often not as stable or heavy as indoor furniture. Many have wheels on them to make them more portable, easier to move around. This has a drawback: if a guest loses his balance, he may reach for one of these pieces of furniture for support. If there are wheels or the furniture is light, it may push out from underneath, causing a fall. If your furniture has wheels, see if they can be locked, to prevent this type of accident. If the furniture is very easily moved, it’s best to keep it along the walls or railings.

6- Keeping the furniture clustered in one area also reduces the risk of people bumping into the pieces or tripping on a table or chair leg.

7- If you have outdoor carpeting, check it regularly to be sure it’s not lifting along the edges or bubbling near the center. If there are signs of wear, watch that area to make sure it doesn’t split and cause a tripping hazard. Some people place mats at the front of the door so people can wipe their feet. Ensure that the edges or corner of the mat don't curl up.

8- If your patio is made of stones, these should be inspected for shifting. All the stones should be as flush with the ground as possible, to reduce the risk of tripping.

Stairs or steps

9- Patios and decks that have stairs or just go up a step can pose a risk for falls for anyone. You can reduce the risk by installing solid hand bars to both sides of the steps.

10- If stairs are a barrier, you may need a ramp for better accessibility to your patio or deck. If a permanent ramp is not an option, there are different styles of portable ramps available. Don’t forget that backdoors often have a step over them to get outside. This may need a ramp too.

11- Gates are also a good safety feature if you have stairs – they’re not just for young kids. If you have people on your deck, particularly if they use a wheelchair or walker, it could be easier for them to get too close to the edge of the stairs and fall. A gate would decrease this risk.

It’s fun to do things outside, particularly if you can’t do so all year round. But don’t forget the safety issues, because the last thing you want is for your outdoor fun to turn into tragedy.
Do you have any safety ideas to add?

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