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Home safe home

Guide for a safer interior design
By Dr. Rhonda Collins

Revera was the first company in the Canadian senior living sector to appoint a Chief Medical Officer. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Home. It's a little word but it means so much. Home is comfort, it's warmth, love, family. Importantly, home is safety. A safe home can mean the world of difference to older adults when it comes to their health. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among older adults and many times falls happen inside the home.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 20 to 30 per cent of Canadian seniors fall each year. Over the course of my medical practice, I’ve known many older patients who have been seriously hurt from falls and have seen their quality of life diminish as a result. It can be devastating for them and their families.
“Decorating your home is something that’s deeply personal. It involves taking a cold, impersonal space and filling it with your memories and items that represent who you are.”

Falls are not an inevitable part of getting older and there are steps you can take to make sure your home is safe and free of hazards. Safe, however, doesn’t mean your place needs to be boring or to look like a hospital. Here are a few tips on how you can decorate your home true to your personal style, while still making sure your space is functional and safe.

  1.  Reduce slips, trips and falls when moving around your rooms by placing slip-reducing tape or backing on area rugs. Also, make sure any cables and cords are out of sight behind furniture to make sure your feet don’t get tangled. 
  2. A strong contrast in colours between pieces of furniture, walls and even your bedding is not only pleasing to the eye, but also helps people with poorer eyesight navigate the room more easily. Changes in eyesight as we age can make it difficult to see things that are similarly coloured. A dark chair in front of a white wall makes the chair stand out, for example, reducing the risk of injury. 
  3. Your furniture should be well-built and sturdy to make getting into and up from easier. Also, avoid buying furniture with sharp corners or glass tops as these can be very dangerous if a fall occurs. 
  4. Items you use frequently should be stored in waist to chest high cabinets to reduce the need to reach up or bend over, ensuring you don’t ever lose balance while grabbing your favourite snack, for example. 
  5. Keeping plants in your home is a great way to add a lively touch to your décor and can also be a fun outlet for you to practice your green thumb. Certain plants, can also help filter the air in your home. Good examples include Boston Ferns, Palm Trees and Rubber Plants. 
Decorating your home is something that’s deeply personal. It involves taking a cold, impersonal space and filling it with your memories and items that represent who you are. As we get older our tastes inevitably change, but that doesn’t mean your living space ever needs to be boring. The place you call home, however, does need to be safe.

For more information on how to style your space in a way that’s senior-friendly, check out the first edition of Revera’s Art of Aging series. This new series will share practical advice on how to adjust to life’s changes as we age. All of the content will be reviewed by me, with the view to offering helpful tips you can use every day.
Rhonda Collins
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Dr. Rhonda Collins brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.