Falls are the most frequent accident affecting people aged 65 and over and they are also the leading cause of death by injury in those aged over 74. The biggest risks for falls include problems with balance, decreased muscle strength, and visual problems, but one important factor that should not be overlooked is clutter in the home. In the book The Second Fifty Years: Promoting Health and Preventing Disability, R. Berg and J. Cassells note that the biggest environmental hazards for falls are clutter and mess. It is therefore key for seniors to give their home a good spring clean, and to take the steps they need to keep their home tidy throughout the year.
Ideal home layouts
It is important to analyse the interior of one’s home to spot possible tripping hazards. These can include books piled up on the floor, low lying furniture, and even small toys left by a grandchild or other member of the family. Floors should be swept or vacuumed regularly. The elderly should have plenty of free space to walk through, though ideally, large furniture pieces should be placed close enough to each other so that they can be used for support. The key is to have as much clear space as reasonably possible and to keep all furniture close to eye level. One study found that loose, unsecured rugs and carpets with curled edges “are recognised environmental hazards that may contribute to falls.” Seniors should opt instead for either wall-to-wall carpeting or laminated or wooden floors.
The effect of clutter on the senior psyche
Around 90% of British people feel that mess and clutter makes them feel unproductive and unhappy. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that these feelings can have serious consequences for a senior person’s health. Depression in older people, for instance, is linked to an increased death of death and disability. It is also linked to cognitive problems and a higher likelihood of developing dementia - all of which can increase the lack of safety and the risk of falls. Seniors can do plenty to improve safety at home by making their environment more appealing. They can boost their self-confidence with safety systems that inform emergency departments if they have had a fall. Phones can be placed in more than one room, whenever cables are covered so as not to pose an extra tripping risk.
A clutter-free environment is a daily task
In order to avoid clutter build-up, filing important documents and tidying up daily are key. Older people who may need help can benefit greatly from part-time cleaners who visit the home and keep surfaces clean and clear. A filing system should also be set up for bills, correspondence, and other written information. Family members can help seniors to switch to online billing, helping them with tasks such as creating Cloud-stored files for any bills or important information they receive by e-mail.
Many studies have shown that clutter can bring about physical and mental risks for persons aged over 65. Clutter should be taken seriously and if necessary, professional cleaners should be relied upon to help those with limited mobility or those who choose to rely on a bit of extra help for greater comfort. Finally, older people can benefit from relying less on paper-based correspondence and more on e-mails as a way to avoid having to file items daily.
Inspiring the UK to Spring Clean their homes and lives.