Aging in Place, Health and Welfare, Interior Design and Decorating, Senior Safety

An Aging in Place Couple Consider Stairway Safety Options

Tilly and Harold, a couple of mature seniors living in their fifty year old home, are ready to remodel so they can remain in their home and be comfortable and safe. There are several things they will want to include in their home remodel to help prepare for their long term comfort, especially since their home has two levels and they know from their research that a single level home would be the best. They want to make sure their stairs are optimum for their safety since moving isn’t an option for them. Senior Couple At Home

They have been working with a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) they located through the NAHB website to help them navigate this process. Since Tilly and Harold want to know as much as they can to help them understand what they should be thinking about, they also consulted many different sources like the checklists by AdaptMy for information along with some research they found on the InformeDesign.Org Website. They have started a list of safety requirements to discuss with their CAPS.

Remodel ChoicesTilly stood at the bottom of the stairs with a checklist of stair suggestions in her hand. “Harold, I think we need a handrail down both sides, not just the one side.”

“That makes sense. I agree on that one. I have always wondered why there was only one handrail.”

“This list also suggests the handrails should extend past the top and bottom of the stairs and be rounded on the ends. The handrail should be mounted between 34” and 38” above the treads,” said Tilly. “I don’t think ours is the right height Harold.”

Harold stood with a finger to his lip, “We need to look at a whole new railing. According to that list, there should be an inch and a half space between the stair rail and the wall to allow for gripping. Those newel posts don’t allow for the railing to go the whole way along the stairway.”

“One good thing is the steps are all the same height and length. Not like John and Elsie’s with that first step shorter than all of the others. It’s a wonder one of them doesn’t misjudge and take a tumble down those stairs. Says here the recommended tread depth is 11” and recommended riser height is 7” from tread to tread. I think we are good with that. Also lists stairs should have rounded or sloped nosings that do not protrude from the step more than one and a half inches because a person with decreased balance and flexibility could trip on the stair if it extends further. The stair riser should not be open either because it creates a tripping issue.”

“Harold, the stairs should not have anything loose on them by way of finish treatment. I think that means the carpet needs to go since it loose in some places. Oh, listen to this, ‘Stability and balance are better on harder surfaces so consider laminate or wood flooring. Just don’t have a high gloss finish because that could create a slip hazard.’ I think that is a good tip.”


“Yes, that is a good tip. I almost lost my footing the other day on the step because of that old carpet.”

“You know,” said Tilly, “we need to look at the lighting too. I know there should be plenty of light and the ability to turn the light on and off from both the top and bottom of the stairs. I have always missed being able to turn on the lights from both floors. Wouldn’t it be nice to have those little lights that run along each of the steps?”

“Tilly, that would be very nice but I don’t know if the budget will allow it. How come I have to worry about the budget?”

“I know, I said it would be nice, Harold. Just being able to turn the lights on and off from both floors would be better than it is now. We will be improving things immensely with that and putting in a handrail on both sides that has space to grip the railing,” said Tilly as she started into the kitchen. “Okay, guess I will make us some lunch?  Will you put  the list with the others?”

Further and more in depth design guidelines are available at: ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG).


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