The Best Flooring Options for the Elderly
Falls in older adults is a public health concern. The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) points out that in the US, every second an elderly suffers a fall, making it the leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities in this cohort. Falls in older adults also lead to immobility and premature nursing home placement.
What’s more? Falling once doubles a senior’s chances of falling again, especially in elders with conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, gait issues, or limited physical capacities. Not to forget, the enormous healthcare costs that come with a fall.
Though falls are common among older adults, they surely aren’t a normal part of aging. Whether you are a senior homeowner wanting to age in place, have an aging loved one around, or own a retirement facility, you can do a lot to reduce the risk of falls. Begin by tackling the top modifiable risk factors for falls in seniors – poor choice of flooring.
This post will help you choose an ideal special needs surfacing to make your home or elderly facility senior-friendly. But before that, let’s take a look at the factors you need to prioritize to make a suitable choice in this matter.
6 Factors to Consider When Choosing Special-Needs Flooring
1. Slip-Resistance – The flooring material should offer a non-slip surface for the senior to move around safely and independently. A material with a high coefficient of friction is recommended as it’s highly slip-resistant.
2. Cushioning – In case your senior happens to trip due to vertigo or any other health issue, the flooring should be able to minimize the impact of the fall. For instance, rubber floorings offer better shock absorption versus vinyl or wooden ones, reducing the risk of serious injuries.
3. Ease of Movement – Is the flooring easy to walk or traverse on? For instance, if your senior uses a wheelchair or a walker, will the flooring allow them to move around with ease?
4. Maintenance – What does it take to clean and maintain the flooring? You are naturally looking for a surfacing that needs minimal maintenance.
5. Comfort – A few flooring types like ceramic and vinyl tiles are tough on our feet, harming joints of the feet, legs, and knees. This often leads to joint pains and makes the feet feel fatigued after standing or moving for long. Choose floorings that have a gentle springiness, allowing seniors to move around comfortably.
6. Aesthetic Appeal – Besides the aforementioned factors, you want the flooring to look good and complement your overall decor.
Each of these factors should be prioritized concerning the location. For instance, the alley or hallway of a retirement facility is a high-traffic zone. Here, slip resistance, ease of movement, and maintenance are the top factors to be considered. Similar is the case with the living room of your house.
On the other hand, for bathroom flooring, you would prioritize factors like anti-skid and maintenance for the safety of seniors.
The Best Flooring Options for Seniors
Now that we know what factors to pay attention to when selecting an ideal flooring option for seniors, let’s get to know the top options.
1. Rubber Flooring
Rubber is an ideal choice for elderly facilities and households with seniors. Owing to its high coefficient of friction, rubber surfacing reduces the chances of a slip, thereby upholding the safety of senior citizens. Unlike area rugs and carpets that may cause tripping hazards, rubber is heavy and highly slip-resistant. They are non-slip even when wet.
Since rubber can absorb shock, it prevents painful impact in the event of a fall. Rubber surfacing is soft, offers adequate cushioning and insulation, keeping them warm and comfortable around the year.
What’s more? With the eye-catching colors and designs they have to offer, rubber flooring renders a contemporary look to the interior and exterior decor. They are easy to clean and maintain too!
The above-mentioned points make rubber flooring an ideal choice for any area in a house or special needs facilities, including bathrooms and basements.
2. Cork Flooring
Cork flooring is soft, comfortable, and provides traction underfoot, thus making it a senior-friendly flooring option. Since cork is a resilient sponge-like structure, it’s easy on the feet and reduces the impact of a fall, protecting aging adults from serious bumps and bruises following a fall. It’s also easy on the feet. Cork flooring usually comes with a strong sealant that protects the surface from stains, making it easy to clean and maintain.
All these factors make cork a great option for senior care centers and homes requiring a senior-friendly decor. However, cork floorings come with a few drawbacks.
– The flooring is unlikely to stay in top condition for long. Cork is vulnerable to dents, cracks, fading, and water damage over time. Therefore, it’s not recommended in moisture-prone areas like the bathrooms or laundry rooms, which also happen to be high-risk areas in terms of slips and falls.
Heavy furniture and household appliances can cause divots, thus damaging the surface. Any scratch or dent is enough to give the flooring a weathered look.
– Cork has its limitations when repelling moisture from spills. Standing moisture can seep in and damage the surface, causing the planks to swell and buckle. The uneven surface increases the risk of a fall.
– The sealant that protects the flooring from discoloration and stains soon loses its effectiveness. As a result, the cork flooring demands a fresh coat of sealant every year.
Owing to its resilience and insulating properties cork makes a great choice for areas occupied by seniors. However, it’s wise to consider the points and precautions shared above before making a choice.
3. Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring is waterproof and easy to maintain. Further, vinyl planks are smooth, making it easy for seniors to move around either by foot or with a wheelchair or walker.
One word of caution, though! Since vinyl flooring isn’t as soft as rubber or cork, the landing won’t be soft in case of a fall. To add some cushioning, you may have to invest money and effort to add extra cushioning using a cork underlayment.
Also, vinyl flooring looks and feels like plastic (it is plastic – PVC). When newly installed, it is known to emit potentially toxic gases consisting of VOCs (Volatile Organic Chemicals), dioxins, ethylene dichloride, and mercury. These emissions are carcinogenic, risking the wellbeing of everyone occupying the area, including seniors.
The modern forms of luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) are quite attractive looking and easy to clean and maintain. So, it seems to be an ideal choice for seniors living all by themselves or in an independent living facility. However, make sure you use it in areas where tripping is not a concern because, as mentioned earlier, vinyl is waterproof.
Carpeting the floor is a great solution to protect seniors from tripping and falling. It offers adequate cushioning, is comfortable underfoot, and acts as an insulator in colder regions where the floor gets too cold. Further, it offers a non-slip surface.
But carpets accumulate a lot of dust and stains over time, making them tough to clean and maintain. Carpets compromise indoor air quality. That’s because whenever someone walks around, the dust and debris tend to rise up in the air. This poses a risk to the seniors’ health, especially if they are suffering from respiratory conditions like allergies or asthma.
Moreover, since carpets tend to hold the spills and moisture they promote the growth of molds and mildew. Carpets are a great flooring option for seniors; however, they need to be regularly maintained and sanitized.
The Winner – Rubber Flooring!
Given its high performance, resilience, cushioning properties, and longevity, rubber emerges as the best choice for seniors. Poured-in-place rubber safety flooring is ideal for homes with seniors and elderly facilities. Rubber flooring is smooth, skid-resistant, easy to maintain, and waterproof. Since it is softer than the hard-surface flooring materials like ceramic or vinyl tiles or wood, it offers effective shock absorption, should there be an accident.
The safety and convenience of seniors should be a priority when it comes to choosing an ideal flooring. The information shared above will help you make an informed choice in favor of your seniors’ safety and wellbeing.