An accessible home free of trip hazards is good for everyone—even if no residents have mobility concerns. You never know when someone with limited mobility will visit, you have an accident or are carrying an awkward item and need a clear path.
You also don’t have to sacrifice design for a safe home. A few easy adjustments will make your home more navigable—and feel warm and welcoming—for everyone. Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC, a wellness design consultant and the author of Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press), shared some tips for a healthier home.
“When I started as a designer in 2004, I worked with numerous older clients on creating accessible spaces for their safety, comfort and functionality,” Gold said. “In doing so, I realized that the suggestions I was making for their homes could benefit the younger homeowners I was working with too.”
Start with the walkway to your home, whether it’s to the front door or from the garage.
“A barrier-free home entry is easier for someone who uses a walker, but it’s also helpful for an active parent pushing a jogging stroller or an executive heading out for a trip with a roller suitcase,” Gold said.
If you live somewhere where you get snow or ice, be sure to have a shovel handy to create a safe path to the front door for visitors or delivery people who work through harsh conditions when everyone else wants to stay cozy inside. Alternatively, have a neighbor kid lined up to take care of these areas for you.
Next, you’ll want a mat at each door for cleaning off shoes before entering the house. Make sure it’s heavy enough not to slip. Set up a place for wet shoes, coats, and umbrellas so they don’t create slippery floors!
A nice-to-have is a bench near the front door, Gold suggested in her book. This will give you a place to set things down while unlocking the door, a loved one a place to sit to wait for you to get home, or the UPS driver a spot to stop and tie a shoe.
Get things off the floor
Not only is it good feng shui to get things up off the floor, it also eliminates possible trip hazards. Instead of lining hand weights on the floor between sets, for example, can you put them on a shelf?
A common hazard is children’s toys. Providing bins and teaching kids to put things away when they’re done can prevent accidents. If kids aren’t cooperative, consider limiting toys to certain areas of the house.
A double win for safety is an ottoman with soft, rounded edges instead of a coffee table with sharper edges, Gold said. You can open it up and stash things inside and off the floor. And if someone bumps into it, it doesn’t leave a mark.
Thousands of people trip over cats and dogs every year and end up in the hospital. It’s tough to get pets off the floor, so instead train yourself to look out for them and the toys they leave laying around.
Watch the cords
Layers of light are nice for illuminating our gray days, improving mood, and making tasks a bit easier. But lamp cords pose a risk. Place lamps and their cords along the walls or behind furniture to avoid getting a toe caught.
Another option is to hang pennant lights above reading chairs to bring the light a little closer, Gold said.
Take the time to position wires on temporary items like fans and phone chargers, too. It only takes one misstep to take a tumble.
It would be no good to reach out for a piece of furniture for stability only to have it topple over, too! Securing dressers, cabinets, and TVs to the wall will help keep people safe in the event of an earthquake—and also in a moment of instability.
Similarly, rugs should have a gripper system below to keep edges from turning up or the whole thing from sliding.
A serious trip hazard is piles of clutter creating too narrow of paths around the house. Getting rid of things you no longer need will contribute to an all-around healthier home.
“Clutter collects dust and creates stress reactions,” Gold said. “It can also be a fire hazard, especially when it stacks up on a kitchen countertop (as it so often does!), and a trip hazard when left in stacks on the floor. Clutter can become a choking hazard for young children and a potential danger if it blocks emergency workers from responding to a health crisis. Last but not least, it can become one more germ magnet during cold and flu season.”
Image by Tunatura