Furnish a Living Space for Elderly Parents

Aging and Furnishing Needs

Grandmother and granddaughter knitting together
Camille Tokerud Photography Inc./Stone/Getty Images

Today many homes have become multi-generational as elderly parents are often coming to live with their children. Even when they choose to stay in their own homes, changes in health or mobility can call for a dramatically different approach to living.

For those living on their own, it is easier to maintain smaller spaces. In keeping with that, a simpler, more efficient way to furnish is required. Smaller spaces call for less clutter, as it can go beyond being simply unsightly to creating safety issues.

If not contained, clutter can be downright dangerous and cause falls.

To create a space that is functional as well as visually pleasing, look for furniture that is better suited to their changing needs. And when you do go furniture shopping for an elderly parent, it might be best to take them along to select the furniture. If that is not possible, ask the salesperson for help. They might be able to suggest good options suited to your parent's needs.

Here are some things you may also want to consider:

Floor:

It is best to get rid of throw rugs, as they can cause falls if they happen to skid. If you must have a rug, then make sure that it has a good non-skid rug liner. Double sided tape can be used to keep them in place.

Seating:

  • All furniture should be easy to get in and out of. For that reason, chairs and sofas should be chosen according to the size of the person using them. While taller people require generally deeper seating, a smaller person needs shallower seats. Narrower or shallow seats are also better for someone with bad kneesĀ or someone who has difficulty rising out of a seated position.
  • Recliners can be useful for seniors. They are often used for sleeping at night because of medical conditions that cause breathing difficulties, or when legs need to be elevated for better circulation.
  • Lift chairs are an option for someone who has difficulty getting in and out of a seated position.
  • Choose upholstery that can be cleaned easily, but stay away from vinyl because it can be slippery for someone who has difficulty maintaining balance. Microfiber is a good option.

    Beds:

    • Adjustable beds let the user decide on a sleeping position, and could work extremely well for someone who has breathing or circulation problems.
    • Upholstered headboards and padded bases also provide comfortable surfaces. Remember to choose an appropriate mattress that provides needed support.

    Tables:

    • Round tables, or tables with rounded edges should be used to prevent or minimize injuries that can happen from bumping into sharp corners.
    • Whether you are choosing a dining or a coffee table, select a height that is appropriate for the person who will be using it.
    • Avoid glass-top tables.

    Storage:

    • Everyone requires enough storage space, and an elderly parent is no different. Make sure that storage is easily accessible. For instance, under the bed storage might not work because it involves bending, or manipulating the bed.
    • Dressers with drawers that glide out easily are good. But make sure that they have handles that are easy to grasp, such as cabinet handles. Change the hardware if necessary.
    • Any shelves or bookcases should be secured to the wall, or be fastened with safety straps to prevent tip-overs. Make sure that the shelves are not overburdened and can be reached easily.

    Lighting:

    Good lighting is essential for carrying on with daily activities, as well as for safety.

    Position lamps so they are not in any danger of falling.

    • If using floor lamps, make sure that the bases are sturdy so they don't topple over. Placing them behind some piece of sturdy furniture can also help with that.
    • Place lamps so that they are placed near outlets without having to use extension cords. It is important to avoid extension cords as they can be dangerous underfoot.

    Additional Accessories:

    • Pillows, whether for the bed or for chairs and sofas can add comfort, as the user can arrange them for additional support or cushion as required. For pillow covers, choose textures that are soft.
    • Stable step stools are useful for reaching high shelves or storage areas.
    • Bath chairs or stools can be bought from medical supply stores.
    • Grab bars are especially useful in the bathroom

    Important!

    • Arrange furniture so that it is easy to move around the space. That is especially important if a wheelchair is being used. It should be easy to maneuver.
    • Avoid overcrowding, and never place furniture near exits.