Safest flooring for the elderly - what option is the best?

SafeStepBlog > Safest flooring for the elderly – what option is the best?

5 January, 2024

Home is where we feel comfortable, safe, and protected. Yet, some homes are not safe enough for elderly citizens. Unfortunately, aging people can face too many unwanted risks at home, like trips, falls, and slips on wet surfaces, possibly causing issues with mobility. Let’s explore the safest flooring for the elderly, which options you can find on the market, and which perks and cons they offer!

Why Flooring Safety is Crucial for Seniors

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention in the United States, about 36 million falls are reported each year among aging adults. The numbers are really concerning, as falls are not a natural part of aging. So, what can you do to minimize the risk of falls and trips that might lead to senior injuries or fatal incidents? 

Prevention is crucial to eliminate any risks. That is why you should invest in high-quality, reliable, and non-slip flooring. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for you or for the aging loved one. Safe flooring offers numerous benefits. Moreover, it prevents home accidents that cause immobility or send you or your relative to the assistance-living facility much earlier.

Why Flooring Safety is Crucial for Seniors

The Best Flooring Materials for Seniors

If you’re in the midst of renovating a house or just bought a new place that requires some love and care before your aging family member or you can move in, you should explore the safest flooring options. Here are the top 7 of the best surfacing solutions for elderly citizens based on various factors. Let’s compare the pros and cons to find the most optimal floors for your home!

The Best Flooring Materials for Seniors

Hardwood

Pros: 

  • Natural flooring: Wood or bamboo are hard floors with a soft look. It’s a relatively easy-to-maintain, durable, and reliable choice that will serve you many years if you take good care of it. 
  • Visual aesthetic: Many choose hardwood floors for their chic and elevated look. You have a variety of wood and colors to choose from, including oak, ash, walnut, hickory, cherry, and many more. Additionally, you can customize the layout of the hardwood flooring to create a unique design. 

Cons: 

  • Cost: Hardwood floors are not a low-budget makeover. Natural material is quite expensive, and professional installation will increase the cost. 
  • Hard: Well, it’s hidden in the name – the natural wood floors are not the softest option, laking cushioning ability. It might not be the best fit for aging people with restricted mobility. 
  • Moisture:  With the proper care, the hardwood floors can last for ages. However, it’s not water-resistant enough to surface the area in the bathroom or kitchen. Standing water can cause permanent damage.
Hardwood

Laminate

Pros: 

  • Natural look: Laminate is a budget-friendly brother of hardwood floors. It imitates the natural wood, offering many colors and tones. 
  • Cost: The material and installation fees are significantly cheaper than natural analog.
  • Great for DIY projects: Laminate became an extremely popular floor renovation option, as it’s easy to install without professional help. 

Cons: 

  • Hard: As well as hardwood floors, laminate won’t soften the fall in case of an accident. 
  • Noisy: Many homeowners note that laminate is a highly noisy material that can cause inconvenience if you’re wearing shoes at home, own animals, or simply drop stuff.
Laminate

Carpet

Pros: 

  • Soft: Carpeting is one of the most comfortable and softest options on the market. It softens the landing with its cushiony surface in case of a fall or trip. 
  • Warm: It’s a great solution for a cold house. It’s warm and soft to the touch, allowing you to walk barefoot or relax next to the fireplace. 
  • Quite: Carpets are sound-absorbant and help you create a cozy space. 

Cons

  • Maintenance and Cleaning: Carpet maintenance will require effort and time, including regular vacuuming, stain removal, or costly deep cleaning. If you or your aging loved one suffers from allergies or respiratory difficulties, carpet might be too problematic. Additionally, homes with pets need extra cleaning measures to avoid fur buildup on the surface. If you’re struggling with mobility, taking care of the carpet might be challenging without help. 
  • Transportation: Aging adults in wheelchairs should avoid carpeting in the house. Most carpets are not compatible with wheelchairs or will cause trips and malfunctions. 
Carpet

Vinyl

Pros: 

  • Cleaning: Unlike carpet, vinyl floors require minimal effort to maintain and keep in the perfect shape. It doesn’t hold onto pollen or dust, eliminating the need to jump through hoops and loops to clean it. 
  • Cost: Vinyl is a plastic version of linoleum flooring. It’s a DIY-favorite surfacing option as it’s affordable and super easy to install. 
  • Hard: Vinyl is smooth and hard and will work well with wheelchairs. It’s a better choice compared to hardwood, natural stone, or tiles. 

Cons: 

  • Appeal and feel: Vinyl looks and feels like plastic. Therefore, it might cheapen some areas of the house, like the living room or bedroom. Mostly, vinyl is used in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, or mudrooms. However, some companies offer luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) that imitates hardwood surfacing.
Vinyl

Cork

Pros: 

  • Softness: Cork is a medium-hard surface with a great level of cushioning. It feels softer than other hard materials while walking and will soften the fall. 
  • Cleaning: Cork flooring needs some regular cleaning, such as pretty standard vacuuming and mopping. The dust bits and pollen won’t clog the surface’ pores if you apply the proper sealant.
  • Transportation: If you’re looking for flooring compatible with wheelchairs, cork will work perfectly for you. 

Cons: 

  • Damage risks: Cork is relatively soft flooring, so it’s easy to scratch and damage the surface with metal furniture legs, heels, or other sharp objects. Additionally, cork doesn’t like water. You should immediately clean the spill to protect it before it absorbs into the surface, leaving the stain.
Cork

Linoleum

Pros: 

  • Softness: Linoleum is in between hard and soft flooring choices. With its smooth texture, it’s compatible with wheelchairs. Yet, it offers a little cushioning effect and feels soft to your feet. 
  • Natural: Linoleum is not plastic. It’s made from pine rosin, cork, and linseed oil, offering exceptional quality
  • Maintenance: Linoleum is extremely easy. It’s water-resistant, noise-absorbent, and doesn’t hold onto dust. 

Cons: 

  • Cost: Unlike plastic or artificial materials, linoleum can be quite expensive to cover large surfaces in the house. Yet, it’s still a budget-friendly option compared to the hardwood floor. 
  • Cold: Many homeowners state that linoleum feels cold to the feet, especially on the ground floor.
Linoleum

Rubber

Pros: 

  • Safe: Rubber flooring for the elderly is the safest option on the market, hands down. Rubber is known as a surface in high-risk areas, like gyms, playgrounds, pool decks, etc. It’s slip-resistant, cushioned, and shock-resistant. 
  • Transportation: Rubber is excellent for wheelchairs and won’t restrict any movement. 
  • Durability: Rubber is a low-maintenance surface. Yet, it’s highly durable and reliable. For outdoor paving, rubber is the best choice, as it’s heat-absorbant and weather-resistant. 

Cons: 

  • Visual Appeal: Rubber is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, choose rubber to surface garages, mudrooms, outdoor areas, or even bathrooms. 
  • Cost: Rubber flooring might be a pricy option, depending on the size of the surface. However, the benefits are worth the investment. 

The bottom line: Rubber flooring is the safest and the most reliable flooring choice for aging adults.

Rubber

Additional Safety Enhancements

No matter what surface you choose, there is a way to enhance the safety. If your concern is slips and water absorbance, you can apply various products to create a waterproof space. That will eliminate the risk of puddles and standing water. 

With several flooring options like laminate, carpeting, vinyl, or linoleum, there is a possibility to add specialized pads under the surface to enhance the softness.

Flooring Materials For Seniors To Avoid

We’ve covered the best surfacing options on the market. Let’s talk about the red flags and what flooring you should add to the no-list time to guarantee yourself or your loved ones a safe home. 

  1. Sectional and decorative rugs. For most senior citizens, rugs are the number one trip hazard. They easily bunch up or slide around, increasing the risk of accidents. Aging adults with low mobility can struggle even with the slightest height difference. If you like the comfy look of a rug, ensure it covers the whole surface of the room, with edges covered by furniture, or opt for full carpet flooring. 
  2. Tiles. Sure, the ceramic or porcelain tiles create an amazing look and are really easy to maintain. Yet, such floors are extremely slippery if wet and can feel really cold on bare feet. Additionally, the grout joints can cause tripping accidents. 
  3. Natural stone. Avoid this chic surfacing material for the same factors as tiles: it’s slippery, cold, and causes many accidents. 

Enhance the safety and comfort of a home by choosing the best flooring materials instead of prioritizing trendy aesthetics and visual appeal.

Flooring Materials For Seniors To Avoid