Approximately 28% of adults aged 60 or older live alone in the United States. That amounts to roughly 14.7 million older adults living on their own. It's no wonder many older adults wish to age in place — living at home offers many benefits for those who want to remain independent for as long as possible, including comfort, affordability, and empowerment.
However, aging in place also comes with potential safety concerns, including an increased risk of isolation and loneliness, accidental overdose or poisoning, and falls. If you desire to age in place comfortably and confidently, keep these eight tips for living alone safely as an older adult in mind.
1. Schedule a Home Safety Assessment
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home for older adults living alone. Fixture leaks, slick floors, poor lighting, and loose rugs are responsible for many preventable trips and falls.
However, a simple home assessment can identify trip, slip, and fall hazards within your home. These evaluations will also help you identify opportunities to make subtle, safety-enhancing tweaks, like installing handholds and bars in the shower or beside the toilet.
2. Practice Kitchen Safety
The older we get, the more susceptible we are to foodborne illnesses due to decreased immunity. If you enjoy cooking, always keep food preparation safety in mind. Do your best to store foods appropriately and never consume expired food items.
Like the bathroom, the kitchen is responsible for many preventable injuries, including burns and fires. Regularly test your home's smoke detectors and install automatic shut-off devices on kitchen heating appliances if you're prone to leaving them on.
3. Maintain an Active Social Life
Living alone can be isolating, so maintain an active social life and frequently check in with your neighbors, friends, and family. Checking in will assure them you're doing well, and spending time with others can keep you happy, healthy, and thriving as you age in place.
The next time you're out on a walk, stop by your neighbor's house to say a casual hello. You can also invite your friends or family members over for coffee or dinner. Signing up for a local gym membership or library card is also an excellent way to meet new people in your community.
4. Be Prepared for Medical Emergencies
Emergency preparedness is crucial if you live alone — no matter your age. Always have a first aid kit on hand and know who to call during emergencies. Having a medical alert device is especially helpful when emergencies arise. Often, accessing a phone to call 911 during the event is challenging. However, a medical alert system can connect you with help during an emergency. Whether you choose a mobile or home-based medical alert system, these systems offer peace of mind for older adults living alone. A monitored medical alert system will connect you with a live, highly-trained life safety consultant who can assess the situation and alert the appropriate help. Nonetheless, you should also keep the following numbers nearby in case you need assistance quickly:
- Emergency services
- Poison control
- Your physician's office
- A close friend or family member
- A neighbor
Many older adults also have health conditions that require daily medication, like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Running out of these medications can be hazardous or even life-threatening. If you have a health condition that requires medication, keep extra medication on hand if possible. Otherwise, set a calendar reminder to call the pharmacy so you remember to refill important prescriptions.
5. Install Motion-Activated and Stick-On Lights
Our vision might begin to decline as we age, but this does not have to affect our ability to age in place gracefully. While many people associate motion-activated lights with their lawns or gardens, you can install them indoors or out. You can also purchase night lights and place stick-on lights within dark hallways, closets, and other spaces in your home to improve visibility. It's especially important to have well-lit stairs, focusing at the top and bottom of the steps.
6. Invest in a Home Security System
If you're concerned about theft, burglaries, or other property crimes, installing a home security system is an easy way to monitor your home for unusual activity. Many home security systems allow you to monitor your home from a mobile device, so whether at home or on vacation, you have a bird's-eye view of your home's security.
These systems can also provide you with a sense of safety and security, especially while you sleep. Plus, if you believe you forgot to shut the garage door or suspect a package has been delivered, you can double-check and ask a trusted neighbor to assist you.
7. Wear a Fall Detection Device
A wearable fall detection device features advanced motion sensing technology that can sense an abrupt change in your position, activity, or movements. If you fall, the device will initiate an alert to a monitoring center that is open 24/7. You can then communicate with a life safety consultant through the device's two-way speaker. However, if you are unresponsive, the operator will dispatch emergency services. It is still important to note that no technology is effective 100% of the time so a best practice is to push your medical alert button after a fall if possible.
Fall detection devices offer many benefits for those concerned about trip and fall hazards. For example, they provide invaluable peace of mind if you have limited mobility or balance concerns caused by muscle weakness, lightheadedness caused by medication, or vertigo.
Enhance Your Home's Safety With Medical Guardian Medical Alert Devices
Contact Medical Guardian today if you'd like to learn more about how a medical alert system can enhance your or a loved one's safety while living alone. Whether you'd like to install a home-based medical alert system or wear one on your body, we offer stylish, innovative mobile and home-based medical alert systems that fit your lifestyle. Our medical alert systems connect you with live, highly-trained operators in our monitoring center, which is open around the clock.
Call 1-800-668-9200 today to speak with a Medical Guardian representative and learn more about our medical alert systems. You can also take our product quiz to select the best system for your unique needs.