Section 3: The Safe Living Guide - A Guide to Home Safety for Seniors – The facts – aging brings changes

Aging affects each individual differently. Some seniors experience physical limitations that seriously affect their level of activity while others are able to remain quite active. The natural process of growing older, however, generally includes changes in abilities. If you're experiencing some of the problems associated with the changes described below, consult your health professional and make sure you undertake whatever changes or adaptations will help you cope and compensate.

Vision

Eyes take longer to adjust from dark to light and vice versa, and become more sensitive to glare from sunlight or unshielded light bulbs. There is a decline in depth perception that can make it hard to judge distances. Perceiving contrasts and colours can also be more difficult.

Touch, Smell and Hearing

Sensitivity to heat, pain and pressure decreases; this may make it more difficult to detect a liquid's temperature or changes in ground or floor surfaces. Sense of smell diminishes, making it harder to smell spoiled food, leaking gas and smoke. Hearing loss can result in difficulty hearing telephones, doorbells, smoke alarms, etc.; it can also result in a decrease in balance, which can make falling more likely.

Bone Density

Bones naturally become less dense and weaker with age. Bone loss (osteoporosis) among seniors can be worsened by lack of exercise and nutritional deficiencies. Bone loss can lead to painful fractures, disfigurement, lowered self-esteem and a reduction or loss of mobility.

Balance and Gait

Balance is a complex function involving eyes, inner ear, muscular strength and joint flexibility. Any one of these can change as a result of aging. A general decline in equilibrium can make it more difficult to maintain or recover balance, meaning that a slip or trip can become a fall. The speed of walking, the height to which the heels are lifted, and the length of a person's stride can change with age. These changes can make it more likely for someone to experience a fall.

Memory

In general, sharp brains tend to stay sharp. Cognitive processing and memory may take a bit longer, but this is a normal effect of aging. This is why it's important to make lists and keep phone numbers handy.

Most seniors develop effective coping mechanisms as they age. Being aware of the normal changes of aging allows you to plan for home and lifestyle adaptations that will help you retain your health, quality of life and independence.


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