Home Safety Tips for Seniors

There are many steps older adults can take to prepare for the unexpected and avoid unhappy accidents.

November 27, 2023 | | Over the Next Hill

The Farmers’ Almanac predicts a great season for skiers, snow bunnies and winter lovers in general. Snow, and lots of it, is coming our way over the next few months. Are you ready? Are your snow tires in place? Is there salt (or kitty litter) handy, both at home and in your vehicle?

What about spikes on your boots? I don’t so much dislike reasonable cold … we do live in the Great White North … but I fear the ice underfoot. My new winter boots have retractable spikes. What a confidence builder they are.

And speaking of confidence builders, Caledon resident Michele Aplin, retired public education officer with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, and her husband, Glenn, a retired fire captain, kindly came to my home recently to assess my smoke alarms.

I have somehow managed to ignore my two smoke alarms, one on each floor. In fact, I’ve only given them a tiny, passing thought for the entire 22 years I’ve lived in this house. I did register that each still had a green light glowing and therefore assumed they must be happy campers.

Apparently not. In fact, it was a thoroughly incredulous Michele who, on closer inspection of what had been attached to my ceilings all those years, informed me that my alarms were so hopelessly out of date she definitely would not have trusted them to function properly in an emergency.

Oh, dear!

Tips for seniors to stay safe at home

There are many steps seniors can take to stay safe at home, including checking smoke alarms.

She and Glenn kindly picked up a couple of new ones (Kidde, with built-in carbon monoxide detection capabilities) and installed them for me a few days later, reminding me that the lifespan of smoke alarms is only 10 years, even if the green light is glowing.

Michele has some scary statistics. “People over 65 are twice as likely to be killed or injured in a fire compared to the population as a whole. This increases to three times over the age of 75, and four times over the age of 85,” she said.

“Most fatal fires occur at night when people are sleeping. As we age, we are less able to take the quick actions necessary in a fire. This may be as a result of some medications that can affect quick responses and proper decision-making capabilities. Or could be the result of physical, visual or hearing impairments. And you may have less than one minute to escape a fire in your home,” she added.

In 2022, there were 133 residential fire deaths in Ontario, the highest total in 20 years. Statistics suggest many of those deaths could have been prevented if people had working smoke alarms.

Michele also reminded me that heavy snow has the potential to block furnace outlets, which should be checked regularly throughout the winter months, and that working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are the law in Ontario.

Thanks to Michele and Glenn, I’m now prepared for the unexpected.

And while we’re talking about safety, what do you think about those new doorbell cameras popping up everywhere? I guess it depends on which side of the door you’re standing. I don’t like them if I’m on the outside … they make me want to fuss with my hair and apply lipstick. But those who have them are very happy with the extra security they provide when the doorbell rings.

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  • Russell and Barb Imrie of Caledon just completed a kitchen renovation, which included all new appliances. It looks lovely and includes many environmentally friendly upgrades. The induction cooking surface was a big draw for me. It has no burners and uses less energy than a traditional electric stove because the heat, created by an electromagnetic field below the cooktop surface, transfers to the cooking pans, which must be magnetic.

    Because the heat generated reaches the food more directly, induction cooking surfaces heat faster and are more efficient and safer because there is no flame. And they remain cool, making cleanups quicker and easier.

    Hmmm, I’m beginning to dream about a kitchen renovation, though it’s likely an expense and bother beyond my current tolerance level.

    We evolve throughout our lives. I’m definitely not the same person I was at 65, nor at 75. The human trajectory waxes and wanes as our bodies give in, little by little, and our minds can’t hold all the information our frantic world throws at us.

    I seem to be continually adjusting what I expect of myself. I’m aware I’m moving a bit more slowly, but if I keep safety top of mind and continue to take in the view along the way, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

    About the Author More by Gail Grant

    Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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