Modifying Outdoor Spaces for Senior Safety



With spring fever and the first warm-weather days of the year, we all suddenly want to be outdoors—and that includes the elderly adults in your life. As you open up outdoor living spaces to ready them for the change in seasons, it’s the perfect time to consider senior safety.

The patio, deck or garden sitting area everyone loves might be the perfect oasis for most, but can actually include some hazards for seniors. Whether you want to help an older loved one upgrade their home, or are preparing your own home for your golden years, making some key modifications can help ensure you stay safe while enjoying the outdoors. Keep this senior safety checklist in mind as you prepare your home for an enjoyable spring and summer.

1. Prevent Slippery Spots

It’s easy for a patio or deck surface to become slippery from rainwater. Grab your hose and rinse off the surface. Carefully walk around and check for any slippery areas. If you find some, try one of these remedies:

  • Thoroughly clean the slippery area, as sometimes this will improve the surface texture. If needed, use a cleaner designed for your surface that will remove algae and mildew, which tend to be slippery.
  • Apply non-slip paint to your clean surface. These types of textured finishes add a non-slip coating to a patio, deck, porch or step.
  • Add non-slip doormats inside of the patio door to catch moisture. Wiping feet thoroughly can help prevent falls when moving in from the damp patio to the house.
  • Put down a non-slip indoor/outdoor mat or runner to create a safe walking path.

2. Get a Grip

Stepping up or down to go outside can easily throw someone off balance. Even if the step-out is nearly flat, such as stepping over sliding door tracks, it can be a hazard. Add a grab bar on the inside and outside of the patio door to boost safety for seniors and visitors of all ages. This will allow them to steady themselves.

If there are a few steps involved or even a ramp, be sure there is a steady handrail to hold onto. Make sure neither the ramp nor steps are slippery. Anti-slip stair treads or tape, designed to be used outdoors, can be applied to these areas.

3. Clear the Clutter

Taking a trip outdoors shouldn’t involve a trip and fall. When setting up your outdoor living area for warm weather use, clear all hazards out of walking paths.

  • Move flowerpots away from walking paths. Keep them close by so that your older loved one can still water and tend to them, but not so close that they become a trip hazard.
  • Add a hose reel so to keep hoses out of the way.
  • Place a plastic bin by the door to hold clogs and garden shoes so they’re not loose, creating a fall hazard.
  • Stow away garden tools. Tuck necessary items, such as the dog’s water dish, well outside of the natural walking path.
  • Trim back any shrubs or tree branches jutting into walking areas or interfering with handrails.

4. Choose Steady Furniture

Keep elderly loved ones safe by providing sturdy and steady patio furniture. Lightweight folding lawn chairs, while easily transported, may move or fall over when someone tries to sit in them. Choose heavy, stable pieces for your older loved one to lounge in.

Be aware of the many different moving furniture pieces for a patio—a porch swing, glider rockers, swivel chairs and more—can be a hazard for someone unsteady or who needs to support themselves on the arms to sit or stand. A comfortable, cushioned chair or chaise lounge is a safer spot for your elderly loved one.

5. Be Bright at Night

As evenings become balmy, it’s nice to sit out and watch the sunset. But before heading outside to do that, be make sure there’s adequate lighting for walking on the patio and going back in and out. A dawn to dusk timer or motion-activated light means you and your older loved ones won’t need to remember to turn the lights on.

6. Keep Your Cool

Consider senior safety when it comes to the sun and heat. A large patio umbrella can provide needed shade to your home’s outdoor spaces, especially if there aren’t many trees. An umbrella that tilts will allow you to adjust the shade as the sun moves.

Be sure to follow commonsense senior safety tips in hot weather. These include applying sunblock, wearing sunglasses and a hat, avoiding the outdoors during the hottest part of the day and staying well hydrated. Hanging a basket near the patio door to hold sunblock, sunglasses and hat is a great visual reminder.

This six-item checklist isn’t very long or hard to do, but it will help seniors stay safe while enjoying your home’s outdoor spots. Taking these precautions can help keep outdoor living a joy for all.

Lea Schneider is both a backyard enthusiast and a professional organizer who writes for The Home Depot. She provides tips on creating a backyard that makes the most of your space, from using the right outdoor patio furniture for your lifestyle to creative storage solutions that hide outdoor clutter.


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