Falls are the most common cause of injury among seniors in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that around a third of all people over the age of 65 falls at least once a year.
Between 2017 and 2018, over 220,000 emergency hospital admissions due to falls among patients 65 and up. More than half of these admissions (66.6%) were 85-year-olds and older.
Among the elderly population, falls do not just cause pain and discomfort. It may lead to a lifelong disability that will impair their ability to perform daily tasks and negatively affect their enjoyment of life. In some cases, it may also lead to death.
It is important that caretakers decrease the risk of falls. There are many items around the house that creates obstacles and leads to slips, including mats and rugs, stacks of newspapers and magazines, electric cords, and clothes. Removing anything on the floor that is in the way will significantly reduce the hazards a senior loved one faces every day.
The flooring, too, may help lessen the severity of an injury in case an older adult falls. For reference, here are the different types of flooring and whether they are recommended for senior homes.
Floorings made of wood are very popular among homeowners because they exude a natural charm that never goes out of style. Wood is also durable and, depending on the finish, is pretty low maintenance. They can be pretty expensive, however, which is why some people prefer engineered wood flooring as a more affordable alternative.
In a senior home, wood flooring has its pros and cons.
The material is easy to clean which means that an older adult who lives by themselves can do the task without exhaustion. It can be made less slippery by removing the wax or polish used over it.
However, wood is very tough. If your loved one slips and falls, it would not offer protection from injuries.
Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles
Tiles are typically used in kitchens and bathrooms, places where moisture is inevitable. Both ceramic and porcelain are non-porous and, therefore, would not absorb water. Cleaning them is simple, too; the homeowner can wipe the dirt away from the tile with a wet rag.
However, it might be the worst flooring option for senior homes. Tiles are often smooth and, therefore, slippery. Those that have wide grout joints or are uneven can also be a tripping hazard. Moreover, ceramic and porcelain are very hard surfaces. If a senior falls on it, it will hurt and they may sustain fractures.
It is more dangerous in kitchens and bathrooms where there is the added threat of water spilling onto the flooring. It may increase the risk of falls so, as much as possible, stay away from this type of material.
Vinyl is also very common and maybe one of the better options out there for senior homes. This type of flooring material is low-maintenance. It can be cleaned through simple mopping and vacuuming. Vinyl is highly water-resistant which can be a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing because in case some liquid is spilled, it would not stain the floor and it can be wiped easily. However, that also means the water stays on the surface which, if not wiped, can cause slips.
It is more forgiving than your typical wood flooring and ceramic or porcelain tile. It would not completely shield your elderly loved one from injuries due to falls, but it would not hurt as much as other types of materials.
There is one drawback: it may not be aesthetically pleasing. Vinyl, unfortunately, looks artificial. Despite its benefits, vinyl may turn off homeowners who are concerned about how the material will look when installed.
Cork is one of the best flooring materials for senior homes. The surface is smooth enough to allow easy wheelchair travel, but walking on it would not be a problem, either. It is washable, too, because it often has a sealant that makes the material resistant to any type of liquid. Vacuuming it regularly will make it look tidy.
More importantly, cork offers a level of cushioning. It is softer than wood and especially compared to tile which means that falls would not hurt as bad.
However, because it is soft, it can be damaged easily. Regular furniture can leave a puncture on the floor. If your loved one uses a cane to walk, it may leave a permanent mark, too. The sharp claws of cats and dogs may also damage cork flooring.
Carpets are soft and cozy. It serves as insulation, effectively keeping one’s feet warm, even when the temperature outside has dropped. If someone trips and falls on it, they may walk away unscathed.
But, carpets can be a nightmare to maintain. Its fibers capture every dust and dirt within the room. It needs regular and thorough cleaning because, if left on its own, it will trigger an allergic reaction and exacerbate respiratory illnesses.
In addition, carpets make it difficult for wheelchairs to roll around. If the pile is long, it can even cause trips and falls.
Caretakers should take flooring material seriously when choosing a senior’s home. Flooring can either increase or reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.