Aging in Place: A Brief Introduction to NORCs

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety It can be easier to Age in Place when you are part of a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC). A NORC is a community that was not originally designed for seniors, but that has gradually begun to have a high proportion of older residents. More specifically, the term denotes any community in which 40 percent of the population is aged 60 or over and lives in their own homes. This could be an apartment complex or a few adjacent neighborhoods. These associations are often used as a way to forgo moving to a senior living facility, thereby allowing the members to Age in Place. These types of communities began to appear in the mid-1980s, and they are now spreading across the country as seniors are looking at their future housing options. As of 2012, there were 29 self-identified NORCs in operation.1 However, it is estimated that about 5,000 non-self-identified NORCs currently exist in the United States.2

What Does a NORC Entail?

Beyond being naturally occurring, NORCs do not follow one codified example, although some do have certain qualities in common. For example, many NORCs will elect some type of board to make decisions for the community. NORCs can become NORC-SSPs, or naturally occurring retirement communities – supportive services programs. NORC-SSPs provide their members with more services in exchange for dues. A few of these services include:

  • Health care management
  • Home repair
  • Group activities
  • Food delivery
  • Legal & financial advice
  • Mental health counseling
  • Disease management

NORC-SSPs frequently rely on government or philanthropic subsidies. Without this assistance, many NORC-SSPs fail to last. Although there might be some local ordinances that NORCs must follow, they are not regulated at the state or federal level. This makes it different than most other forms of senior housing.

It is worth noting that a NORC is not a senior village. We have discussed senior villages in a previous post. To reiterate, a senior village is a membership-based organization with a paid staff. NORCs do not have this staff to rely on. It is usually the members’ responsibility to plan and develop the NORC, so they decide how the group is run. In general, a senior village will offer more services to its members than a NORC does. Villages and NORCs cater to different needs, so it is important to know what you want from your senior living community before signing up.

Examples of NORCs

To better understand what a NORC is, it might help to examine a few that already exist:

  • Lincoln Towers: Located in New York City, Lincoln Towers were originally built as a rent-stabilized complex in the 1960s. At the moment, about 40 percent of the residents are over 60. To meet the needs of the senior residents, the NORC created Project Open, an outreach program that helps connect the community’s older members through activities and provides services (like grocery shopping) to help them Age in Place.
  • Tierrasanta Project: This San Diego naturally occurring retirement community has more than 5,500 seniors. Many of the current homeowners moved to the area in the 1970s, when the neighborhoods in Tierrasanta were built. These residents wanted to remain in their homes as long as possible, so they formed a NORC. They often have workshops and group activities, usually led by retired professionals from their community.
  • St. Louis NORC: Covering a three-mile area in suburban St. Louis County, the St. Louis NORC connects seniors through classes and get-togethers to keep them engaged in their community. The NORC also helps them accomplish routine tasks around the house, making it easier to remain in their homes. U.S. News & World Report featured the St. Louis NORC as model of Aging in Place.3

Benefits of Living in a NORC

As we mentioned earlier, NORCs can provide a lot of resources that the members might not have been able to access without the group. Buying these services in bulk could also mean that the NORCs get a better deal, which would mean paying less in membership fees.

NORCs can give people a safety net in the neighborhood that they have grown to know and love. Moving can be stressful at any age, but it is especially hard for seniors. If you have become attached to the place you live, then it might be difficult to leave behind not only your house, but also your friends and neighbors. If you would like to stay in your current home after retirement, consider encouraging senior support programs and communities to help your own neighborhood flourish into a NORC.

It’s common for NORCs to organize group activities (like book clubs, museum tours, picnics or exercise classes) so that friends and neighbors can interact with each other more frequently. These gatherings can cut down on senior isolation and the accompanying depression and anxiety, potentially adding years to a person’s life. In fact, living in a sociable and pleasant neighborhood or community has been linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.4

Remember, NORCs are Not Perfect

We have to remember that NORCs are not an adequate replacement for when home care or assisted living services are needed. These communities primarily benefit seniors who are healthy enough to live at home. If you do not think that you can inhabit your home safely in the immediate future, then a NORC will likely not be able to give you the assistance you need.

A NORC will usually reflect its users. If the members put a lot of effort into running their community, then they will likely have a well-developed system that offers more resources and benefits to each person involved. If the members do not all see eye-to-eye on the community, then problems may arise, ultimately hurting the community.

We hope you found our look at NORCs helpful. If there is something that you would like to add, please share it with the Staying Put at Home community in our comment section!


1. Aging-in-Place Spotlight: Rutgers Study | Return to Text
2. Connected to the Community: Current Aging-in-Place Choices | Return to Text
3. NORCs: Unique Havens for an Aging America | Return to Text
4. Home Care Supports Our Senior Neighbors | Return to Text

How to Declutter Your Home for Aging in Place

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety After accumulating a lifetime’s worth of belongings, it can be difficult to cut down and decide what can be discarded. It can be even harder to stick through this process until the end. However, a clean, organized home can reduce tripping and fire hazards and make it easier to stay in your house longer. This week, Staying Put at Home has come up with a few tips to make decluttering your home a more manageable mission.

Start Small

It is tempting to begin with the area you think is most cluttered. Put all your energy into the most cluttered area of your home and pluck out the root, right? This method can exhaust someone quickly, leaving much of your home untouched while you need to relax. Beginning in one area that you know you can clean quickly can let you build up energy to move on to the tougher tasks.

Stick to a Schedule…

Organization can make a big difference when tackling a major project like decluttering. Without a schedule, your attention can drift. Distractions can quickly pile up, eating up your time and foiling your efforts. Also, make sure that your schedule is realistic. One professional home organizer estimated that it takes 20 to 30 hours to fully declutter a home.1

…But Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break

Don’t think that you need to get through decluttering hastily. In addition to being time consuming, it can also be emotionally draining. If you need to recharge, then take some time to rest.

Use the Three Box Method

As we mentioned, hesitating and putting off a decision to dispose of something often lets the problem remain unsolved. Using the three box method can reduce the time it takes to decide. For this, designate one box “Keep,” one box “Donate” and one box “Sell.” For each item, as you encounter it, judge which of the boxes it can go in. By having a physical and visual method of categorizing your clutter, you will be able to go through the process with fewer pauses to assess and reconsider throwing something out.

Keep the Memory, Not the Object

At that crucial moment of deliberation whether to keep an item, a memory associated with it is frequently the deciding factor. There is nothing wrong with being sentimental. Maybe it’s a souvenir from a vacation you took several decades ago. Perhaps it is a rarely used gift that came from a loved one. Whatever the case may be, it can be hard to part with the object.

One way you can preserve that memory is by photographing the item. This allows you to hold on to the memory attached to the item without letting the object take up space in your living room.

Contact an Outside Agency If You Need Assistance

Getting all the details right when decluttering can be a tedious, stressful burden, but you don’t have to do it alone. An outside agency can help you draw up a plan and provide advice as to what areas need the most help. The extra pair of hands can also cut down on the amount of labor. These agencies often have information about what charities and organizations will accept your donations, thereby saving many of your items from going to the trash. You can also enjoy the tax write-off benefit of a donation. While it might seem unnecessary to involve an agency in your home, a professional can make all the difference.

Outside agencies can also help if you decide to have an estate sale. Not only can this help your wallet, but the agency’s expertise might be able to show you the true value of that vase or painting.

When to Get Help for Hoarding

It’s important to remember that accumulating items is not the same as hoarding. A person who hoards will compulsively collect something, believing that these items will be necessary or valuable in the future. People with hoarding issues will often avoid inviting friends or family to their home, as they are afraid that they will be judged or shamed for their living condition. This frequently makes the person feel isolated, which can lead to depression.

Hoarding can be especially dangerous for seniors, severely limiting mobility and making it harder to stay in the home. One study found that 45% of older adult hoarders could not use their refrigerator, 42% could not use their kitchen sink, 42% could not use their bathtub and 10% could not use their toilet.2 Hoarding also increases in severity over time,3 meaning that seniors who hoard will be affected more and more as they age.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is hoarding, then treatment is available. Removing the amassed objects from a home will usually not eliminate the root of the problem. Certain medications are considered effective treatments. Another method is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help people dispose of items without feeling stress. Consult a doctor about what treatment would be the best course.

An organized, decluttered home doesn’t need to be a fantasy. Having a schedule and knowing the basics can make this task surmountable. If you have any recommendations for keeping clutter at bay, please leave us a comment!


1. AARP: Declutter Your Life — Now! | Return to Text
2. Types of Hoarding | Return to Text
3. Age of Onset and Progression of Hoarding Symptoms in Older Adults with Hoarding Disorder | Return to Text

How You Can Make Your Kitchen Safer

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety Whether you are a master chef or a microwave connoisseur, it’s likely that the kitchen is one of your household’s central hubs. With the kitchen getting so much use, it is not surprising that fires and falls are frequent mishaps. In fact, home fires kill seniors at twice the rate of society as a whole.1 While we have already covered some helpful tips on this subject, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a more comprehensive look at how you can modify your kitchen to make Aging in Place easier and more comfortable.

What to Do With Power Cords and Socket Covers

  • Reduce the amount of cords in your kitchen to as few as possible. Make sure those remaining are not in any pathways. Not only will this save you energy, but it will also remove a number of tripping hazards. In addition to removing these cords, getting rid of certain appliances, like blenders and toasters, could lower the risk of an accident.
  • Make sure that your appliances are easy to unplug and not near your sink. You put yourself at risk of injury if you constantly need to bend over to unplug something.
  • Put socket covers on your wall outlets to diminish your risk of shock. This is extremely important in your kitchen, as a lot of liquid flows here.

Have Safe, Convenient Light Switches & Outlets

  • Have your light switch by your doorway. How many times have you walked through your kitchen in the dark looking for your light switch? It doesn’t matter if you have done it a thousand times, one open cabinet door or a chair out of place could be a dangerous tripping hazard. With a switch near your doorway, you can light your kitchen as soon as you enter.
  • If you are having trouble seeing your light switch, then place brightly colored tape on it to make it more visible.
  • Install motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights trigger automatically when they detect the least bit of movement. This means that you would never have to navigate your kitchen in darkness.
  • Ensure your outlets are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupters). GFCI-protected outlets reduce the risk of electrocutions. A GFCI monitors the current flowing through a circuit. If the current differs by even a slight amount, then the GFCI outlet will shut off power immediately. Your kitchen may already be equipped with GFCI outlets, as they have been part of the National Electrical Code since 1987.

Don’t Hurt Yourself Trying to Open Your Cabinets

  • Install pull-out and pull-down shelves. Pull-out shelves make it easier to access items at lower levels, as you just have to pull the shelf out instead of crouching to find something. If you have osteoporosis, hip or back problems, then bending over could be difficult and dangerous. Consider getting a pull-out shelf if you have this condition. Pull-down shelves allow you to bring a shelf to your level, meaning you won’t need a hazardous stepstool. Furthermore, food that is hard to reach often does not get used, causing it to expire. Not only does the food go to waste, but eating it can lead to illness.
  • Install “D” shaped handles to make it easier to open cabinets. This is especially helpful for somebody with arthritis.

Make Your Sink Easy to Use

  • Place the faucets and sprayer on the side of your sink to make them easier to reach. Consider getting lever handles that are easier to use.
  • Use anti-scald devices on your sink to prevent burns.

Find the Right Dishwasher

  • Raise the height of your dishwasher so that it is easier to load and unload. Like with low shelves, it might not be feasible to bend over to empty your dishwasher on a regular basis. Lifting your dishwasher to a more manageable level could make this routine activity much more comfortable.

Use a Chair to Preserve Stamina

  • Use a chair to sit at your countertop or at your stove so that you won’t tire as easily. While you stand at your countertop chopping vegetables, you might feel yourself getting a bit fatigued. As you age, you tire more easily and tend to have less energy than younger people, meaning it can be harder to stand for long intervals.2 Always remember to return your chair to a familiar, out-of-the-way area so that it does not pose a tripping hazard.

Make Your Stove Safe

  • Make sure your stove has an automatic gas stove shut-off feature in case your pilot light goes out. This device automatically detects unattended cooking by monitoring the user’s movement in the kitchen, preventing stove top fires and dangerous gas emissions. You don’t want to fill your house with gas.
  • Ensure that your knobs are permanent and not removable, as it is easy for these knobs to be misplaced.
  • Never leave your stove unattended. Fire spreads quickly, and it can take seconds for your entire kitchen to be engulfed.
  • Throw away any frayed and tattered oven mitts. These can lead to burns when removing an object from your stove.

Cut Down On Fire Hazards

  • Designate an area of your kitchen away from your stove or oven where you can place potential fire hazards. Keeping items like paper towels, dish rags, potholders and oven mitts near an open flame could cause a disaster. Most home fires begin in the kitchen,3 so moving these objects away from a flame is a great step to protect yourself.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher within easy reach and make sure your fire alarms are functional.

We hope that these tips help you think about how to make your kitchen safer. If you have any suggestions of your own, please let us know in the comment section.


1. “Aging in Place” Topics | Return to Text
2. Aging Changes in the Bones – Muscles – Joints | Return to Text
3. Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment | Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 5 – How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety As we have mentioned elsewhere on Staying Put at Home, a safe bathroom is critical to Aging in Place. This week, we have a few more suggestions for how to improve the safety of your bathroom.

Remove Tripping & Slipping Hazards

In 2009, bathroom slips, trips and falls accounted for over 230,000 nonfatal injuries in the US.1 These accidents are particularly dangerous for the elderly, as falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.2 Here are several ways to avoid these mishaps in your bathroom:

  • Replace throw rugs with nonslip mats and pads around your plumbing fixtures
  • To reduce slipping, have flooring that is matte-finished, textured tile or low pile commercial carpet
  • Wipe up wet spots immediately
  • Wear proper footwear

Install the Right Toilet

Having a toilet that properly fits you can make your bathroom much easier and safer to use. A toilet between 14 and 16 inches off the ground can cause pain for those with arthritis and back, knee and hip problems. The National Association of Home Building recommends installing a toilet that is 2 ½ inches higher (17-19 inches) than the standard sized toilet.3 This should make it easier for you to stand up and sit down. Also consider the following ideas to make your toilet safer and more comfortable:

  • Installing an elevated toilet seat or toilet seat riser from Home Depot or another home improvement retailer so that you don’t have to replace your entire toilet
  • Covering your seat with a soft toilet seat cushion
  • Having a toilet seat color that contrasts with the rest of the toilet and the surroundings to make it easier to see where you are going to be seated
  • Installing a Kohler nightlight toilet seat so that your toilet shines in the dark and is easy to find at night
  • Using grab bars with nonslip grips on adjacent walls or armrests on your toilet’s sides to easily get up and to stabilize yourself
  • Making sure toilet paper rolls are within reach and can be changed easily

Walk-in Tubs

Depending on your needs, a walk-in tub could be one of the safest investments you make. Here are a few practical reasons why a walk-in tub can improve your health and lead to a safer bathing experience:

  • The low threshold makes it easier to get in and out, greatly reducing the chance of losing your balance
  • Many walk-in tubs have nonslip floors
  • A walk-in tub seat allows you to sit down and relax, and it is easier to stand up and get out of your tub
  • In-tub grab bars can provide stable support, which you won’t find in a standard bathtub
  • Warm water bathing relieves arthritis pain,4 alleviating stiffness in arthritis sufferers and saving money on health care and physical therapy
  • Soaking in a warm bath increases heart rate while lowering blood pressure5
  • Bathing improves blood circulation, strengthens your immune system and gives you more energy.6 Increased blood circulation promotes cell growth, organ function and healthy skin.7
  • Water therapy can help in recovery from strokes,8 connective tissue diseases9 and other respiratory related problems
  • A warm bath before bed time promotes drowsiness and relaxes muscles, resulting in a good night’s sleep10
  • Studies show that those with Type II diabetes who used warm water therapy reported a reduction in blood sugar levels, improved sleep and an increased sense of well-being11
  • Warm water immersion can protect the heart from arrhythmia and strengthen the heart muscle12
  • Water therapy can alleviate back, knee and hip pain
  • A relaxing bath can soothe hemorrhoids, varicose veins and tendinitis
  • Many walk-in tubs have a detachable hand-shower that makes it easier for bathers to get to those hard-to-reach areas

Roll-in Showers

For those who have mobility challenges and require a wheelchair, getting over a walk-in tub’s threshold may not be feasible. Roll-in showers do not have a barrier so that the transition from your wheelchair to your shower is less challenging. In these circumstances, a roll-in shower may be a more appropriate choice. Consider all your options when contemplating whether to install a walk-in tub or roll-in shower in your bathroom. While a roll-in shower may offer more convenience, they lack the water therapy and bathing benefits of walk-in tubs.

General Safety Tips

Creating a safe bathroom does not stop at your toilet, bathtub or shower. We have some advice for safety-proofing the rest of your restroom:

  • Don’t rush; move at a comfortable, leisurely pace so that you don’t accidentally slip
  • Select grab bars that contrast with the walls to increase visibility
  • Never use towel racks as grab bars, as they are not sturdy enough to support your weight
  • If you are unable to install grab bars where you need them, install a vertical support pole from your floor to your ceiling
  • Have a well-lit bathroom, but use non-glare lighting to keep your vision clear and unobstructed
  • Install an illuminated light switch next to your door so that you can find it in the dark
  • Install a plug-in nightlight that will turn on automatically when the bathroom is dark
  • Make your toiletries easy to reach
  • Remove or pad sharp edges on your countertop
  • Lower your bathroom cabinets by 3 to 5 inches so that your shelves are easier to access
  • Turn your water heater to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns
  • Don’t leave appliances plugged in around plumbing fixtures
  • Purchase a waterproof phone in case you need to call someone in an emergency
  • Always check your medications to make sure that they have not expired
  • Install GFCI electrical outlets in your bathroom so that you lower the risk of electrocution

Keeping a safe, comfortable bathroom makes Aging in Place much more effective. Check back in at Staying Put at Home for future articles on keeping your home safe, and take a look at the other entries in our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Thousands of Injuries Occur in Bathroom Each Year, CDC Reports | Return to Text
2. Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview | Return to Text
3. Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist | Return to Text
4. Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain | Return to Text
5. Foundational Lifestyle Strategies to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure | Return to Text
6. 5 Tips To Improve Blood Circulation | Return to Text
7. Benefits of Increased Blood Circulation | Return to Text
8. The Effect of Aquatic Therapy on Postural Balance and Muscle Strength in Stroke Survivors | Return to Text
9. Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Oldest Form of Therapy | Return to Text
10. Bedtime Behaviors That Work: 7 Habits That Will Prepare Your Body for Sleep | Return to Text
11. Hot Tub Therapy For People With Diabetes | Return to Text
12. Immersion in Warm Water Induces Improvement in Cardiac Function in
Patients with Chronic Heart Failure
| Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 2 – Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety
The key to Aging in Place is having a safe and comfortable home. In Part 2 of our Aging in Place series, we will discuss how you can make sure your home fits your needs.

Every Room

When adapting your home to Age in Place, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are a few steps you can take that will make any room in your home safer:

  • Remove any furniture, clutter or wires that could be a tripping hazard
  • Repair loose carpeting
  • Place secure grab bars and handrails around your home
  • Make sure each room is well lit
  • Install nightlights
  • Have an electrician check any outlets that might be overheating
  • Install and routinely check smoke detectors around your home

Bathroom Safety

Each year, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for bathroom-related injuries.1 These falls can be especially dangerous for seniors. To prevent these injuries, we recommend a few ways to stay safe and comfortable in your bathroom:

  • Install a walk-in tub or shower
  • Put nonskid and rubber mats near your shower or tub, toilet and sink
  • Use raised toilet seats that make it easier to get up and down
  • Clean up any wet spots
  • Make sure your toiletries are easy to reach
  • Consider having a place to comfortably sit when using your toiletries
  • Turn water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns
  • Don’t leave appliances plugged in near water fixtures

Kitchen Safety & Comfort

While cooking can be fun, we need to remember to do it safely. Kitchen fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.2 Slippery floors and knife use can also be hazardous. We have come up with some tips to make sure your kitchen is safe:

  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Cover shiny surfaces to reduce glare
  • Replace hard tile flooring with a safer linoleum, cork or vinyl alternative
  • Avoid floor wax or polish that will make your kitchen floor slippery
  • Always check food expiration dates
  • Properly store knives
  • Use a kettle that automatically shuts off
  • Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency
  • Make sure that there are no towels, rags or other flammable objects hanging near your stove
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing that could be a fire hazard
  • While cooking, don’t leave the kitchen
  • Store items on a lower shelf for easier access

A Safe Living Room

As you Age in Place, you may be spending a lot more time in your living room. This might be a good moment to consider how you can make this area even safer and more comfortable. Think about these ideas to increase your living room’s safety:

  • Rearrange furniture so that your pathways are not blocked
  • Consider throwing away any coffee or end tables that could cause a fall
  • Choose furniture that is firm and stable
  • Make sure your chairs and couches have armrests so that it will be easier to get up

Keep Your Hallways and Stairs Safe

Moving from one room or floor of your house to another might sound mundane, but you may find hazards along the way. Consider these suggestions to stay safe in your hallways and on your stairs:

  • Consider purchasing a stair glide or stair lift
  • Have light switches at the top and bottom of your stairs
  • Choose a carpet pattern that does not hide stair edges

In The Bedroom

When falling asleep, a dangerous slip might be the furthest thing from your mind. But, a midnight run to the bathroom could quickly become a serious situation. Making your bedroom safer can be accomplished by following these steps:

  • Have a lamp or light switch near your bed
  • Have a flashlight with working batteries in your bedroom
  • Keep a phone within easy reach
  • Choose a bed that is neither too low nor too high
  • Install a bed rail to prevent any falls
  • Remove any phone or extension cords
  • Do not use candles, as they can be fire hazards
  • Make sure your blankets and bedspread are not hanging on the floor
  • Wear slippers that have extra support

As you can see, there are many ways you can make your house safer and more accommodating. While we have outlined several methods of doing this, we welcome your suggestions in the comments. Check back in at Staying Put at Home to see the rest of our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years | Return to Text
2. Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment | Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 1 – Introduction

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyIn the coming months, Staying Put at Home will be covering the foundations of Aging in Place. Here, in Part 1, we introduce Aging in Place and discuss why it is important and how to achieve it.

What is Aging in Place?

Aging in Place refers to the ability to live safely, comfortably and independently in your home as you grow older.

Why is Aging in Place Important?

You might be wondering, ‘Why should I age in place? What are the benefits?’ Successfully Aging in Place allows you to stay independent in a worry-free environment. In 2010, an AARP survey found that nearly three quarters of adults over 45 wanted to stay in their home for as long as possible.1 Maintaining your independence lets you lead the life that you want with the schedule that you enjoy. Connections with family and friends are easier to continue when you stay in your own home. You also won’t have to worry about the hassle of moving out. The comfort that comes with Aging in Place reduces stress, helping your health in the process. Aging in Place also makes financial sense. Assisted living costs an average of $200 per day,2 and live-in nurses can cost thousands per month. Senior care facilities can also be unsafe; between half and three-quarters of nursing home residents fall each year.3 This is twice the rate of falls among older adults living outside these facilities. In addition, illnesses transfer much more easily in senior care facilities. Staying in your home might be your safest, most comfortable and most affordable option.

How Can I Age in Place?

Aging in Place is best achieved by making sure your home is safe. This might call for modifications:

  • Grab bars and handrails that can help prevent falls
  • Stair lifts that can help you get up stairs
  • Lights that turn on automatically as you pass them
  • Lever handles that are easy to use for those with arthritis
  • Walk-in tubs and showers make it easier to bathe without assistance

Fall prevention is extremely important for seniors. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. One in three seniors aged 65 and older falls each year.4 Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently.5 Furthermore, 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, and one out of every five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.6 You can take these precautions to avoid a fall:

  • Exercise to sustain muscle mass and balance
  • Maintain a balanced diet with plenty of Iron, Calcium and Vitamin D
  • Maintain a routine sleep schedule
  • Get regular vision exams to keep you up to date
  • Remove clutter and rugs that could be trip hazards
  • Review medications for any side effects

Keeping yourself safe is the foundation of any Aging in Place experience. We hope that the information we’ve laid out serves as a helpful introduction to this subject. Check back in at Staying Put at Home to see the rest of our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Home and Community Preferences of the 45+ Population | Return to Text
2. 5 Benefits of Aging in Place | Return to Text
3. Falls in Nursing Homes | Return to Text
4. Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview | Return to Text
5. Costs of Falls Among Older Adults | Return to Text
6. Hip Fractures Among Older Adults | Return to Text

Secure Your Home for a Winter Storm

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyStaying put at home isn’t always about aging in place. When inclement winter weather turns from inconvenient to dangerous, it can become a quite literal need. Though your home can be a safe haven from the storm, key to wellbeing is having the essentials on hand. Getting safely through a blizzard, ice storm or cold snap is doable when you consider ahead of time what you might need for the following scenarios:

Heat Disruption

Millions of people rely on their furnaces and radiators to stay warm throughout winter. All it takes, though, is one faulty appliance part or broken gas line for your heat to be out as long as it takes the HVAC technician or gas company to fix it. To prepare for a heat disruption, stock up on thick blankets—enough to keep warm everyone in your house. Have old towels or torn sheets readily available as well to wedge under doors and shut out frigid drafts and cover windows with extra blankets to retain warm air. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, an ample stockpile of logs could be of huge benefit if your heat is out for more than a few hours.

Snowfall

A sizeable blizzard can leave behind six feet of snow in a single day, and such a storm can make driving or even walking too hazardous to attempt. So don’t. Especially when you might be at risk for a fall or hypothermia, stay inside and wait for the weather to pass. However, when you must stay in your house, food might quickly run out. You can rest easy, though, when you stock up on nonperishable items. Canned and boxed foods often stay good for several months, so you can purchase them before winter rolls in. If you take medication, keep an extra bottle in the house should your prescription run out. And don’t forget the paper towels, tissues and toilet paper!

Power Outage

Nonperishable food can also come in handy when the power goes out. Because refrigerated items can go bad in just a few hours—even when kept in a closed fridge—it’s best to stick with canned or boxed options if you lose power for more than a half-day. Wintertime weather combined with no electricity typically means meager natural light as well, but flashlights can help you easily and safely navigate your home. Candles can also light your way, but to prevent a fire, make sure they are supervised at all times. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also suggests a battery-powered radio to stay in touch with the outside world until your electricity returns.

Have a useful winter storm tip? Help our Staying Put at Home readers stay safe this season and share your suggestions in our comments section.

Wintertime Safety Suggestions

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyThe United States has witnessed its first major snowstorm of the season. Unfortunately, we’re still a few weeks away from the official start of winter. Mother Nature may be unpredictable, but you don’t have to forecast the weather to prepare for it. Seniors in particular should have a plan in place to stay safe when the temperatures drop, as they are often more vulnerable to cold weather illnesses and injuries. So before another arctic blast or polar vortex hits your home, consider your wintertime safety needs.

Fall Hazards

For seniors, fall prevention is a year-round priority. Once winter arrives, though, it becomes all the more important to implement safeguards that will lessen your fall risk. Even if you live in a locale that never sees snow, overnight temperatures can still drop low enough to create a slick porch or sidewalk in the morning. To prevent falls, never leave the house without slip-proof footwear. You might also consider a cane or walker for better balance over icy surfaces. For added protection, coat your walkways with salt, sand or cat litter, and if you do get sleet or snow, ask a friend or family member to shovel it for you.

Hypothermia Risks

Winter weather can make it difficult to stay warm outside, so no matter the duration of your treks outdoors, wear appropriate attire. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that layers retain body heat better than just a thick coat, so dig out that thermal shirt, hat and scarf before leaving the house. When it comes to hypothermia, how you feel might not reflect how cold you actually are so take regular breaks from the cold as well. Also, keep in mind that if sweat or snow dampens your clothes, it can chill your body and drop your temperature. To prevent hypothermia, keep clothing dry at all times.

Fire Dangers

Heating costs can quickly rise during the winter, which may prompt some people to use alternate heat sources such as fireplaces, space heaters or even candles. However, each option can heighten the risk of fire. For this reason, be cautious with these appliances and devices. Never leave a fireplace, space heater or candle lit or on when you sleep or use a different room. Keep easily flammable items such as newspaper and holiday garland far from heat sources as well. Sources that emit carbon monoxide can trigger potentially fatal consequences, too, so invest in a CO detector and make sure that ample air flow runs throughout your house.

Staying Put at Home welcomes your suggestions for a safe winter season. Share your tips with our other readers in the comments section.

Exercise Now–Avoid Falls Later

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyGetting your vision checked. Removing loose rugs and stray cords. Avoiding medication interactions. Each of these actions can reduce your fall risk. But to keep falls from being part of your future, exercise is a must. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists physical activity first among its fall prevention tips.

When exercise isn’t part of your daily life, though, knowing where to start can be a challenge. So first things first: consult your doctor before you begin a workout regimen. Depending on your preferences and restrictions, he can guide you toward the activities that will best improve your fall safety.

Go for a Walk

Walking is an excellent way to get in your daily exercise. With this one activity, you can bolster your leg strength, stamina and balance. Even better, you can do it anywhere. If you’re new to working out, ask a friend to accompany you on your walks. Prioritize safety over speed. You don’t have to walk fast to get its perks, but you do need to do it regularly to enjoy its benefits.

Lift Some Weights

Mother Nature can sometimes throw a wrench into your outdoor workout plans. But even when it’s too wet, windy or chilly to go for a walk, you can still work on your fall prevention exercises. All it takes is a few free weights. Weightlifting is a form of strength training, which can help you build muscle mass and improve bone density.

Take Up Water Aerobics

Do you suffer from stiff joints? Though walking and weightlifting can eventually ease arthritis pain, taking a dip in a pool can also help you fight falls without stressing your joints. When you work out in water, the resistance against your movements can boost your endurance and promote stronger muscles. Plus, water aerobics lets you socialize with friends and meet new people.

Learn Tai Chi

You may have never heard of tai chi, but experts laud it as an essential tool against falls. This ancient tradition focuses on slow and steady movements, making it an ideal exercise to better coordination. Students must also shift their weight, which can improve balance. Facilities around the country offer tai chi classes, so call your local gym or recreation center for more information.

Have more exercise suggestions? Tell our readers about your favorite fall prevention exercises in our comments section.

Bathroom Safety Essentials

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyNIH SeniorHealth states that falls happen frequently in the home, and several factors point to the bathroom as a primary culprit. Slippery floors. Wet shower tiles. Slick tubs. All circumstances that can lead to a fall accident. Rickety towel racks and low toilet seats can also present problems. So when it comes to fall prevention, making your bathroom safe can greatly reduce your risk of fall injuries at home.

Adjusting Toilet Height

Minus the seat, the average toilet height falls below 15 inches. For some people, sitting little more than a foot from the ground and moving back into a standing position can be difficult. When strength or stability is an issue, the effort needed to carry out those movements may eventually lead to a fall. However, you can increase your toilet height—and your overall bathroom safety—by fitting your toilet with an ADA-compliant seat.

Installing Grab Bars

Even with a more suitable toilet, grab bars could prove integral to preventing falls as well. Especially on days when you feel fatigued or weak, a grab bar can ensure your steadiness as you sit and stand. One important note: a towel rack does not make an adequate grab bar substitute. Towel racks are not intended to withstand a person’s weight, so should you use one for support, you may suffer substantial harm if it dislodges from the wall.

Keeping Floors Slip-Free

A safe bathroom is a slip-free bathroom. You cannot overestimate the importance of making sure that every step you take is a secure one. If your floor doesn’t have traction, use non-skid bath mats to reduce the chances of slipping on wet tile. Also keep in mind the safety of your tub or shower. If you or someone in your household suffers from an issue that compromises strength, stability or agility, consider a walk-in bathtub to alleviate your bathroom fall risk.

Fall injuries affect nearly a third of American seniors in any given year. What steps have you taken to protect yourself from this common problem?