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Staying Safe on the Stairs continued...

5. Make the last step stand out. Consider painting the last step a different color or applying brightly colored tape to make it stand out. “Some people lose their depth perception as they age, so a fall may occur because they don’t recognize the final step,” says Tim Kauffman, PhD, a physical therapist and fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. And be aware that wearing bifocal or trifocal glasses can also aggravate perception problems on steps because they don’t correct vision at all depths.

6. Install hand rails. If you don’t have a strong handrail on your stairway, install one. Better yet, install one on each side.

Throughout the House

Most home safety tips can be used throughout the house. Try these to make your entire home a little safer.

7. Reduce clutter. Papers, books, clothes, shoes, newspapers, boxes, plants, and other items can be fall hazards. Clear them out of the way so you have plenty of room to move around on stairs, in hallways, and in rooms.

8. Keep wires out of the way. “Wires are often a problem in older homes,” says Pynoos. “People will stretch wires in ways that they are both a fire hazard and tripping hazard.” Install more electrical outlets or go wireless when you can. For example, a cordless phone can move where you do, so you can always have it close at hand if you do fall.

9. Take care around uneven floor surfaces. “Be careful when you move from carpet to linoleum or hardwood, or over doorsills when moving between rooms,” says Kauffman. “That little half-inch rise can cause a fall.” A change in color between the carpet and floor may be enough to remind you of the change in floor surfaces, or put colored tape there as a reminder.

10. Keep items within easy reach. “Try to put the items you use most often at a level where you don’t have to bend down too far or reach too high,” says Pynoos. “Some people put small shelves under cabinets for glasses and cups and hang a few pots nearby so they don’t have to bend down to low shelves.” He also recommends putting a small shelf outside the house next to the front door. “You can put a parcel or grocery bag there when you’re opening the door, so you don’t have to put it on the ground.”

11. Use a stepstool. If you must get to something up high, make sure you have a sturdy stepstool with wide steps and a rail at the top to hold onto. Never use a chair or other household item not made for that purpose.