Getting older can take a toll on our health. People 65 years and over have a higher risk of a number of health complications, including various types of dementia, heart disease, and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But while certain chronic diseases are unavoidable, there are things you can do to keep yourself safer as you age. The CDC notes that some of our high-risk habits can easily be modified. In fact, there's one thing you might already be doing with your furniture that could put your health in danger—especially if you're 65 or older. Read on to find out what you should avoid using in your home.
Never use a chair as a step stool if you're 65 years old or older.
You're more likely to fall as you get older, particularly in your own home. To prevent this, the CDC has created a prevention list of possible hazards in your home that could increase your risk of falling as an older adult. According to the agency, you should never use one piece of furniture in your home—or at least, only use it the way it was intended.
"Never use a chair as a step stool," the CDC warns. Experts from Ohio State University say that many falls among older adults occur when they are being careless, which includes "climbing on a chair" to fix or reach something instead of using a ladder or step stool.
You should also make sure your step stool or ladder is safe enough to use.
While climbing on a chair is more likely to affect your balance, there is still risk in climbing on top of anything as an older adult. If you have to use a step stool or ladder to reach something, the CDC says you need to be using one that has a bar for you to hold onto. "Do not stand on the top step of a stepladder," the experts at Ohio State University also warn.
There are other characteristics that might indicate that you are using a safer step stool as well, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit in Canada. A safe step stool should have steps that are deep enough to fit the length of your feet, have a non-skid surface, and are marked on the edge with a contrasting color. It should also have side rails that extend above the top step and around to the front, a base that is wider than the top to prevent tipping, and legs that are sturdy and fitted with rubber tips.
If you do have to use a chair to reach something, exercise even more caution.
Despite the CDC and other experts warning older adults against ever using chairs as step stools, you might be forced to do so at some point. If that's the case, there are ways you can exercise more caution to lower your risk. According to the experts at Ohio State University, you should start by making sure you are wearing low-heeled shoes before climbing onto the chair.
"If you must stand on a chair, use a sturdy one with a wide base, solid bottom and a high back," the university experts advise. "Place the chair as close as possible to the object you are attempting to reach. Stand on the chair near the middle of the seat, with the back in front of you."
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Falls are the leading cause of injury death for adults 65 and older.
Millions of people 65 and older fall each year in the U.S., according to the CDC. More than 3 million people in this age group need to be treated in emergency departments annually for fall injuries, and more than 800,000 have to be hospitalized. In 2019, falls among adults 65 and older caused more than 34,000 deaths as well, making it the leading cause of injury death for this age group.
According to the CDC, there are many risk factors that contribute to your higher risk of falling as you get older. One of the main factors is increased difficulties with walking and balance, especially since older adults tend to use medications that can further affect their balance.
If you're already having balance issues, climbing on top of something can make your balance even less stable. So to prevent falls caused by chairs or step stools, the CDC recommends that you to avoid placing items out of your reach that require you to use either of these tools. "Keep things you use often on the lowers shelves, about waist high," the agency says.