As one approaches old age, preparing the home to ensure convenience, accessibility and safety should be a priority.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global median age is on the rise. Indeed, Malaysia’s older demographic is expanding rapidly: in 2007, the statistics department recorded 1,195,480 individuals aged 65 and above, constituting 4.4% of the population.
This figure increased to 7.2% in 2022 and 7.4% last year, encompassing approximately 2.5 million people.
The National Population and Family Development Board projects that Malaysia will achieve an aged population status by 2035, when 15% of its populace will be 60 or older.
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A concerning trend among older Malaysians is home accidents, often resulting from falls. Statistics indicate a prevalence of such incidents, recorded by 31% of participants, including 4.4% experiencing multiple falls. Slips – a largely preventable issue – account for 49% of these cases.
Several threats lurk within homes that significantly heighten the risk of tripping and stumbling among retirees. Slippery floor surfaces, irregular tiles, and inadequate lighting can amplify these dangers.
Bathrooms, often characterised by smooth surfaces and persistent dampness, stand out as hotspots. Among seniors, the absence of handrails or grab bars further compounds the risk of accidents in the bathroom as well as hazardous areas such as stairs.
Household mishaps involving elements like faulty electrical wiring, collisions with furniture, or cluttered pathways have been frequently observed. These seemingly minor issues pose a significant threat to seniors owing to their reduced balance and slower reaction times, making them more susceptible to injuries.
Addressing these hazards within the home environment is crucial. Consider adopting a minimalist lifestyle, and reorganising living spaces to create unobstructed pathways and reduce the risk of tripping.
Dispose of unnecessary furniture, outgrown clothing, or excessive keepsakes from gatherings or travels, while retaining cherished mementos and personal belongings.
You may want to consider simple renovations such as installing non-slip tiles and handrails in critical areas like bathrooms and staircases. For those experiencing reduced strength, poor balance, dizziness, or impaired vision, grab handrails can provide crucial support and stability, particularly when navigating the shower or bathtub.
Proper lighting plays an important role in reducing these risks, enhancing safety, and fostering a more senior-friendly environment. Well-placed lights not only draw attention to potential hazards but also minimise blind spots and vulnerable areas within the living space.
Finally, consistent monitoring and periodic adjustments to the home layout significantly contribute to accident prevention and the overall wellbeing of retirees.
With advancements in technology and healthcare, longer lifespans are anticipated. As such, planning for a safe, senior-friendly living space becomes pivotal in averting home-related injuries and effectively managing retirement funds.
This article was written by Dr Nor Adinar Baharuddin, professor in periodontics and the deputy dean of research at the Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.