Home Maintenance Tips for Seniors

home maintenance tips

Home ownership can be a true joy. It’s no wonder that so many seniors want to age in place! Home is where everything is familiar. You raise families, make memories, and maybe even build an addition over the years. You likely spend more time at home than anywhere else on the planet.

Some studies say that even before the pandemic, about 90% of our time was spent indoors[1]. And out of that time, home improvement site Angi found that Americans spend about 42 hours every month on household tasks, including home maintenance.

Home ownership means keeping up with the maintenance a home requires. That goes well beyond mowing the lawn or making sure the garden is neat and tidy. Home maintenance includes everything from fixing an old dishwasher to watching out for roof damage to clearing out the gutters every autumn. It means keeping the flooring and walls in good condition, replacing cracked or broken windows after a storm, and making repairs or improvements to anything that begins to break down.

Some of this can be simple to manage. And some of it you might need to hire a professional.

All too often, however, seniors have trouble letting go of the home maintenance tasks they can no longer easily handle. Clearing out the gutters might lead to a nasty fall. Or seniors might wind up injuring themselves by trying to move a heavy bucket or wheelbarrow. Even cleaning the blades of a ceiling fan, which requires either working from a ladder or with your arms above your head, can lead to a loss of balance and a nasty fall.

Before you work on any home maintenance project, do what you can to stay as safe as possible. That can include using a medical alert wireless system from Alert1. These medical alerts allow you get help at the touch of a button, which can be true peace of mind in an emergency.

Handling Roof Maintenance

There is a reason working as a roofer is considered one of the most dangerous jobs[2]. Getting up on the roof requires a ladder (in most cases), you’re working with heavy materials on a slope that makes it difficult to keep your footing, and if you fall, it’s a long way down. If even professional roofers have trouble maintaining their balance up there, it’s best for homeowners to not even try – and especially best for the elderly to stay safely on the ground.

·         You can inspect your roof on a regular basis from the safety of the ground. Binoculars can allow you to see every shingle on your roof and inspect the vents. Look at your roof regularly with the binoculars so you know what is typical and what isn’t – this can allow you to spot problems very quickly.

·         Clearing out the gutters of leaves and debris helps ensure water flows through them and away from your home. But getting up on a ladder to clear out wet leaves can be unsteady work. More than 500,000 people each year are treated for ladder-related injuries, and 300 of them die, according to the CDC. Those who don’t die from the fall can suffer serious injury and disability. Gutter guards cover the gutters in such a way that allows water to pass through but keeps debris out. They also eliminate the need to get on a ladder to clean your gutters.

·         Overhanging trees can do damage to your roof, especially when a storm brings some of those branches down. If the trees are too close for comfort, call an arborist to do the work of trimming them.

Caring for the Structure of Your Home

As you wander around your home, look for issues with the walls. It’s not unusual to notice a small hole or crack after you’ve moved furniture around or otherwise done something that could mar the wall. It’s possible to repair small interior issues on your own with an easy do-it-yourself kit from the home improvement store. But there are some other issues that call for a pro, especially those that affect the exterior of the home or those that spell foundation trouble. 

·         Darkening of the paint or wallpaper could be a sign of mold. More than half of American homes have problems with mold somewhere in the house, according to Senior News. Though anyone can suffer health problems from mold, it might be especially troublesome for seniors, as lung function tends to decline with age. If you suspect mold in your home, get in touch with a professional who can remediate the problem – it’s not something to tackle on your own.

·         Large cracks in the walls or baseboards pulling away from those walls can spell foundation trouble. So do doors that won’t stay open or closed, or slanting floors that indicate the foundation is settling on one side. If this happens to you, you’re not alone: 25% of all homes will experience some sort of structural issue[3]. Calling a contractor is essential. In the meantime, if you live in a home with structural issues, it’s a good idea to use a medical alert pendant or watch. Why? Because those uneven floors can make it much easier to trip and fall, which can lead to serious injury.

·         Look for damage to the exterior of your home. The exterior “wrapping” of your home – which is usually made of siding or brick – helps prevent water infiltration and other damage to the property. That’s why replacing damaged areas quickly is so important. Though a very handy homeowner might be able to replace a bit of siding, calling a pro is always best.

Water Troubles Need Immediate Attention

Your sources of water for the home need constant surveillance and occasional maintenance. From the kitchen faucet to the septic tank, paying attention to these systems can help you avoid much bigger problems. Consider these issues and tips:

·         Look for signs of damage from water, such as damp flooring or cabinets, drops of water around the water heater or outside of the washer, and even leaking faucets. Sometimes it’s easy to fix these issues on your own, such as replacing a few hoses or even installing a new faucet, if you’re the handy type.  But if you’re not sure of your abilities in this area, always call a pro.  

·         Heaving floorboards or walkways outside can mean that water is coming from below. The usual culprit is a broken pipe. Look for damp areas on the ground outside near the damaged walkways. Inside, make note of the area and call a professional. In the meantime, this is another good reason to invest in medical alert technology, as uneven floorboards are a fall hazard.

Pay Attention to Other Home Systems

There are other systems in the home that need regular maintenance and proper attention. Here are some tips to keep your home as safe as possible.

·         Test ground-fault circuit interrupter switches once a year by simply pressing the “test” button. Do this while something is plugged in, such as a radio. Pressing “test” should cut the power. “Reset” should restore it. If this doesn’t work, call an electrician right away.

·         Keep electrical cords short and don’t use too many of them. Replace lightbulbs as needed to ensure proper illumination. Both of these are great fall prevention strategies.

·         Enter into a contract with your gas company or local contractor for inspection at least once a year, preferably every six months. They can examine the pilot lights, emergency shutoff valves, and more. In the meantime, invest in carbon monoxide detectors for every level of your home.

·         Change your HVAC filters on a regular basis, as recommended by the manufacturer. You should also have a twice-yearly visit from an HVAC maintenance company.

·         If you have a fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned every year before you use it. The National Fire Protection Association says that 28% of home fires are due to “dirty equipment” which includes dirty chimneys. Though it might be tempting to clean it yourself, keep in mind that this is a tough job that involves balancing on a ladder and can easily lead to falls and serious injury.

·         Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors once a month. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher and make sure it hasn’t passed the “use by” date.

How to Find Help for Home Maintenance

Seniors on a fixed income can have a difficult time getting the home repairs and maintenance they need. This can lead to them trying to do it on their own, and that can lead to serious injury. Fortunately, there are some potential resources to help the elderly with the upkeep on their homes.

This wonderful list of resources from the Huffington Post is a great place to begin. You can also reach out to your utility companies, which often have programs for seniors. Caring Senior Service offers tips on winterizing the home for better utility savings. Area Agencies on Aging can provide leads to programs in your area that will help with maintaining and repairing your home.

Turn to Facebook, NextDoor, and other online platforms to ask for recommendations on home maintenance companies. Specifically look for those that offer aging in place specialists so that you can get further tips on keeping your home as safe as possible, including fall prevention strategies. Places like Village to Village Network might help you for very low or no cost and Rebuilding Together can assist with home modifications that can make a home safer and more secure.

Finally, speak to friends or family about helping you inspect your home. A fresh set of eyes can spot things that you might miss. Walk through the home, go outside and look at the grounds and roof, and spend some time talking about ways to make your home safer. And don’t forget that for those aging in place, an emergency button alarm with 24/7 protection can make it easier to enjoy your golden years in the home you know and love.