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Designing and building housing for older people is becoming very important as the Australian population ages. Each year one in three every older Australians will suffer a fall, with around 5 to 10 per cent of these falls causing an injury which requires medical attention.

Many of these falls around the home are preventable. Sensible designs and construction in new homes can minimise risk of falls by the elderly (or any age group for that matter).

Buyers, builders and tenants should do a risk assessment audit in home design by thinking about the following issues:

  1. Using non-slip tiles rather than standard tiles, particularly in wet areas like bathrooms and laundries. Make sure that floor tiles are laid level.
  2. Minimising the use of steps and stairs in and around the house and garden. If stairs are a requirement, ensure that the design minimises accidental tripping.
  3. Ensuring that your lighting plan allows sufficient light, including in outside areas where steps are involved.
  4. Shower hobs can be dangerous for elderly persons. Also make provision for a soap holder in the shower design.
  5. Once construction concludes, be mindful of loose surfaces, cracked footpaths, loose pebbles and stones. Remove these dangerous items.
  6. Inside the home make sure that floor coverings and rugs are secure, and that there are no loose electrical cords.
  7. Handrails may be considered in suitable areas in and outside the home.

Potential safety problems can be avoided by proper planning and suitable design in your new home. Talk to your builder about tenants’ or your needs and incorporate these elements into your building specifications. It is often easier to do this during construction rather than retrofitting items once a building is complete.

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