"What if all homes could be suitable for anyone, regardless of a person’s age or physical ability? What if a person who wants to live independently, regardless of his or her age or physical ability, could do just that?" - From AARP’s HomeFit Guide.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in those 65 years and older. As a former Ombudsman, I visited with many older adults living in long term care who ended up there because they fell in their home. Concerned family members gathered and decided that their parent/grandparent/spouse could no longer live at home as it was 'not safe'.
In this Assistive Technology (AT) for Aging post, I'm going to talk about 5 technologies that help to prevent falls.
1. Exterior Lighting
Exterior Lighting at night when an older adult is entering (or exiting) the home is important, especially for those with visual challenges. Motion sensor lighting can highlight the walkway and steps up to the porch and make it easier to see the lock and doorknob. There are a variety of motion sensor lights now available that automatically turn lights on when motion is detected and/or turn on lighting at dusk and turn off at dawn. Read More or visit your local hardware store.
Got a sunny location? Try a Solar-Powered Security Light with Motion Detector. It doesn't need batteries or to be hard wired into your electrical system. Amazon offers a variety of styles. This One is very affordable and has good reviews.
2. Interior Lighting
Ah, the challenge of having to get up several times a night to use the bathroom. Or, the struggles with insomnia or needing meds during the night. Motion sensor lighting is not just for the exterior. It can be placed in the home so it lights up the hallway, the route to the bathroom or kitchen. Lighting can help prevent falls due to tripping hazards or sharp corners that need to be avoided.
There are many different types of indoor motion sensor lights at your local hardware store. Some require hard-wiring, others run on batteries. You can also turn a regular light socket into a motion sensor light with gadgets like the First Alert PIR725 Motion Sensing Motion Activated Light Socket or a Motion Sensor Plug.
It's also important to make sure that the top and bottom of the stairs are well lit. Try plugging in automatic night lights or use battery powered night lights. Consider installing illuminated light switches to make it easy to find a light switch in the dark.
3. Fall Detectors
Not all falls can be prevented but there is technology out there to ensure that a fall is immediately detected, and family, friends, and/or emergency services can be notified, and injuries attended to in a timely manner. This technology can give piece of mind to those concerned about a parent living independently.
Wearable fall detectors range from the traditional pendant to watches or bracelets. How do they work? The medical alert button uses advanced sensors to measure orientation, impact intensity, and impact speed of a fall. Some can differential between a fall vs someone throwing the device. Some include GPS locators to assist in determining location when an individual is away from home. All will notify your emergency services and/or key family members/friends in the event of a fall. Read More.
Have a family member who won't wear a fall detection system? Try a wall mounted device. A motion sensor is placed in each room. When a fall is detected it automatically places a call for help. Read More.
4. Vibrating Insoles for Shoes
As we age and become less active, develop ear problems, suffer side effects of medications or need a hip or knee replacement, our balance begins to deteriorate. This leads to a higher risk for falls. Recently, studies have been conducted on how to develop textured and vibrating insoles for shoes that help to improve balance for those over 60. Balance is a result of feedback from our senses. These innovative insoles can improve feedback to our bodies, reducing falls. There are also low-tech copper fit insoles or orthotics that can be purchased at the pharmacy, shoe stores or department stores. Do they work? If the cost is low, it’s worth a try.
5. Not so High Tech but Worth Mentioning
Grab Bars. Grab bars are key to fall prevention and aren't just limited to the bathroom. Yes, it's important to have grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet but consider grab bars throughout the house. You can mount them on the wall along the hallway, in the kitchen, in the garage. Anywhere that someone needs extra support to prevent falls.
Toilet Seat Safety Frame. Toilet seat frames provide extra support when for sitting down and getting up from the toilet.