Photo of living room with all furniture pushed out of pathways. Photo credit: Francesca Tosolin @fromItaly
Furniture Strategies in the Living Room to Reduce Falls
We may work with individuals who do not label themselves “visually impaired” however everyone may benefit from strategies that increase safety in the home. Also, mild reduction in visual acuity and contrast vision (ability to see small details and ability to see differences in lighting levels or color shades) is a normal part of the aging process, so all who are middle-aged and older may experience changes in vision. With the number of falls in the home on the rise, adopting basic furniture modification techniques to reduce tripping hazards is a must-do, no-brainer.
The following strategies involve furniture and living room modifications that are quick and easy to do. These adaptations combine concepts of color and contrast with lighting and visibility, as well as placement and replacement of furniture items–to enhance the clients visual awareness of their home environment. The ultimate goal is increased safety and comfort in the living area of the home.
Begin by moving all low-rise or short furniture out of walkways, and moving large furniture out of main traffic areas and up against walls. Furniture with sharp corners or sharp edges should be replaced whenever possible. An alternative is to position a table with sharp edges in a corner of the room where edges are recessed and do not protrude into the walkway. Whenever possible remove all small throw rugs, and tape- or tack-down large area rugs so that corners or edges do not curl up.
If a client is investing in new furniture, avoid purchasing upholstery designs with florals, stripes or other loud patterns that create visual clutter. Also avoid patterned carpets—instead purchase solid colors that fit into the color and contrast strategies used throughout the home. Decorate furniture with solid-colored accessories, pillows and decorative throw blankets using bold color contrast to make furniture easier to locate. To further increase furniture visibility, use contrast in the actual figure-ground furniture placement. For example, place a dark colored sofa against a light colored wall or light colored area rug, or light colored sofa atop dark colored area rug.
Finally, ensure there is adequate lighting near furniture. A floor lamp with an adjustable head may be placed nearby, and if a table is adjacent to a reading chair or sofa—a task lamp is another good lighting option. Strategic placement of lighting near furniture increases visibility of furniture location AND of its edges.
Do your part to adopt and promote furniture modifications and home safety for your client, friend or family member. For more home safety and general fall prevention information, visit the websites below.
Fall Prevention Resources: