With increasing life expectancy, breakage of joint family system, and higher living standards, the safety of the growing number of the aged is a major concern. They have special needs due to :
1. Changes in the ability to smell a leaking gas or a burning item, increase in reaction time to any event, and lack of alertness in the morning if sleeping pills has been taken at night. Most accidents involving the aged are found to occur during the morning hours.
2. Arthritis or other physical problems which decrease or slow down the movement of various muscles and joints.
3. Lapses in memory which may contribute to inattention to important things like food on the stove and inability to notice wet floors. This increases the probability of slipping over a wet surface.
4. General decline in strength which makes it difficult to lift loads including grocery bags.
5. General decline in vision may result in inability to see danger in many situations, specially when the light is low or the contrast in the scenery is not sharp. Adjustment from light to darkness or vice versa also takes longer. The angle of vision too decreases; thus, the field of vision is reduced.
6. Hearing sensitivity also decreases with age.
Hence, in a household with elderly members, a number of precautions need to be taken. Many of these can be taken care of at the time of construction of the house.
1. Fire alarms should be installed in rooms and hallways and tested periodically.
2. Grip bars should be installed in the bathrooms and bathtubs to prevent falls.
3. Hand rests or banisters should be used on all the stairs.
4. Bright lights must be used in rooms including bathrooms. There should be a lamp or light switch and a telephone within the reach of the bed for use at night.
5. The base of a walking stick, if used, should be at least as wide as the top. If the stick is used at an angle, a narrow base results in slipping, specially while rising from a chair or a bed.
The elderly should be extra careful about smoking in bed, using a step stool, using sharp implements or power tools, having too much furniture crowding the house, lifting heavy loads, etc. They should be especially careful in the kitchen, the bathroom, roadside and while driving.