If you’re just entering retirement, chances are you have many years of good health and independence ahead. But the normal aging process still brings limitations that we all need to prepare for – such as slower reaction times and declining vision – which can lead to accidents and injuries.
Many accidents are preventable though, and you can take simple measures to enhance your safety as you age.
In your home
Falls are one of the greatest age-related risks inside the home. One in three adults older than 65 falls each year, and the risk of injury rises with age, according to the National Safety Council. Many falls are caused by hazards that are easy to avoid if you know what to look for.
To prevent tripping, eliminate clutter on floors, remove throw rugs or tack them down with double-sided tape, and make sure electrical and phone cords are kept out of the way. You might need to rearrange some of your furniture as well, to ensure that there are unobstructed pathways into and out of every room.
In the bathroom, use a nonslip rubber mat or stick nonslip adhesive strips to the bottom of the bathtub or shower. You may also want to consider installing grab bars. Keep a night light on in the bathroom at night, and remove any obstacles in the path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
If your house has stairs, make sure they have good lighting (with light switches at both the top and bottom of the staircase) and sturdy handrails (preferably on both sides). Attaching nonslip rubber treads is a good idea if the steps are potentially slippery.
The kitchen presents a slightly different set of potential hazards. To reduce the risk that you’ll cut or burn yourself, make sure there is bright, nonglare lighting over all food preparation areas. Also, it’s better to store sharp knives in a knife block or rack rather than loose in a drawer. And make sure any hazardous substances (such as cleaning supplies) are well marked and stored in a place where they’re unlikely to be misidentified or come in contact with food.
To make your yard safer, replace or repair any broken or loose paving stones and clear the walkways of overgrown branches or any other potential tripping hazards. Make sure all handrails are firm and secure. Mark the edges of steps with reflective tape and check that there is enough light to see obstacles at night.
You might want to consider a timer or motion-detector light near the front door so you don’t have to fumble with your keys in the dark. And, just in case, make sure your house number is visible and lighted so emergency personnel can find it quickly.
In the car
To increase your safety on the road, have your vision and hearing checked every year, and, if you need them, wear your glasses or hearing aid when driving. Know your limitations and avoid situations that make you uncomfortable – for example, you may decide to avoid driving at night or on extremely busy roads.
Have your car checked regularly by a trusted mechanic to make sure it stays in good working order, and keep a cellphone with you so you’re prepared in case of an emergency, which can’t be emphasized enough. It’s good to have a cellphone on hand for any type of emergency – not just in the car. In a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of respondents who owned cellphones said that in the past 30 days they had found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped.
Knowing that you can call for help at any time provides great peace of mind, and a cellphone doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Consumer Cellular (www.consumercellular.com), the exclusive wireless provider for AARP members, is one carrier that provides no-contract, cost-effective wireless service and cellphones. Their senior-friendly Doro PhoneEasy 618 is an easy-to-use feature phone with a one-touch emergency button and a feature to store all your I.C.E. (in case of emergency) information.
Most accidents don’t just happen. If you follow these simple safety tips, you’ll decrease your risk of injury – and increase your chances of enjoying a long, happy retirement in the comfort of your own home.