“A body at motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest.” We’ve all heard Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, and it applies to motion everywhere, including in long-term care communities. Limited exercise and too much time spent sitting can have effects on the health of people of all ages. However, the impact is magnified as we age. A sedentary lifestyle leads to a higher risk for depression and diabetes in elder adults. It also contributes to bone loss and the loss of muscle mass. Time spent outdoors has been associated with reduced sedentary time and increased physical activity among the elderly. However, it can be difficult to create a safe and inviting outdoor space at a long-term care community. Try these tips to increase resident safety outdoors.

1. Add Visual Cues to Alert Residents to Danger

You’re accustomed to the yellow caution tape that alerts the public to unexpected dangers. Dimming eyesight can make raised spots or steps difficult to see, creating a tripping hazard. Increase resident safety outdoors and minimize these dangers by lining steps with yellow tape.

Paint curbs and elevated areas with bright paint colors to draw attention to changes in elevation. These simple changes can be all it takes to make otherwise dangerous areas easier to navigate.

2. Post Large, Bright Signs

Familiarity represents safety. When you go for a walk in an unfamiliar area, you use visual clues to remind you how to get back to your residence. For elders who have failing vision, bigger, brighter cues are required. Signs that direct residents to entrances or lead the way to established outdoor seating add familiarity to walking paths and outdoor activity areas.

3. Include Seating Areas

Seating may not seem like a safety feature. But fatigue is a major contributor to falls. Creating shaded seating areas and placing multiple benches along walkways offers plenty of spots for a quick rest for those who need it. That helps increase resident safety outdoors. Instead of overheating or becoming short of breath, residents can regain their energy for a safer walk.

4. Keep the Grounds Clean

Fallen branches and even leaves can be a tripping hazard for those with poor vision. Keeping your landscape clean and tidy is essential for curb appeal and creating an appealing appearance for visitors. 

It’s important to go one step further to create a safe outdoor space for elder adults. Conveniently placed trash cans will help eliminate litter. Frequent cleanups by your landscaper can help prevent natural debris from building up around seating areas and walkways.

In addition to keeping the grounds clean, smooth pathways are a necessity for easy navigation. Paved and gravel walkways create an attractive outdoor space. However, cracks, bumps, and uneven layers of gravel create a falling hazard. Paved walkways with cracks and dips represent a falling hazard. When gravel creates humps, the terrain can become impassable. Inspect all walkways routinely to increase resident safety outdoors.

5. Provide Emotional Security 

Resident safety outdoors is about more than physical safety. Feeling safe is an important part of having the confidence to explore new options. You wouldn’t embark on a dangerous activity without a safety harness. 

Reduced activity often occurs alongside the transition to a new home. Residents faced with new surroundings see danger everywhere, and rightfully so. It’s easy to lose your way in unfamiliar territory. Dimming vision means new terrain can lead to a painful fall. 

Without encouragement, elders don’t get the opportunity to get used to these surroundings. So a sedentary lifestyle quickly follows. When residents are equipped with pendants that connect them directly with staff members, they have a safety line so they can explore. RCare pendants are comfortable to wear on a necklace or wristband, have advanced location protocol, and bring help with the push of a button.

6. Use Fences and Borders

Sudden changes in terrain can be dangerous. While flowerbeds and mulched areas create an attractive landscape, sudden changes in terrain can cause twisted ankles and falls. Blocks and short fences surrounding flower beds and mulched areas can eliminate hazards and also allow you to keep attractive features that residents enjoy. Increasing resident safety outdoors doesn’t need to conflict with curb appeal.

7. Enhance Accessibility

Indoor accessibility is a common concern. However, for many retirement communities, the outdoors focuses on curb appeal instead of accessibility. Narrow pathways and sloping terrain aren’t particularly inviting for residents confined to a wheelchair or dependent on a walker. 

Like the ramps and specialized landings found indoors, the outdoors needs to provide comfortable accessibility for those who need it most. Wide pathways, traction strips, and rails near curbs, stairs, and uneven terrain will make outdoor spaces easier to navigate. This means residents will become more likely to use the space.

Time spent outdoors provides a wealth of health benefits. Sunlight provides vitamin D, and simply going outside more frequently leads to increased activity and a healthier lifestyle. Daily walks can increase muscle mass and improve bone health, leading to better balance and more strength. Ultimately, when you increase resident safety outdoors, you improve the health of elders in your long-term care community. Contact us today to learn more about our safety solutions.