Everyone will age and will need to start thinking about how your home will be setup is a way to avoid falls, slips and all sorts of accidents, while providing great looks and comfort.
Choosing a flooring material for seniors who want to age in place in their homes doesn’t need to be complicated. The trick is to consider five main factors and to prioritize those factors for each type of flooring and how and where you will use it.
The five factors are:
Slip-resistance: Does the flooring material offer a non-slip surface even when wet?
Ease of travel: Is the flooring material easy to move over for a person using a cane, walker, or wheelchair?
Cleaning and maintenance: How much work does it require to maintain the flooring.
Comfort: How does the flooring material feel underfoot?
Cushion: Does the flooring offer some shock absorption in the event of a fall?
The importance of these qualities may vary depending on the location. For example, if you’re looking for bathroom flooring, it’s most important to choose a non-slip material that’s easy to walk on and is easy to clean and maintain. In a hallway, ease of travel may be most important, while in a living room, comfort may be the top consideration.
Hardwood, Bamboo, and Laminate for Senior Citizens
Hard but natural: Wood, bamboo, and laminate flooring is a hard surface with a soft, natural look. It’s generally easy to clean and maintain and doesn’t get as dirty as carpet.
Beauty: You can’t beat the look of real hardwood or bamboo flooring. Laminate looks pretty good, too, and at a fraction of the cost of real hardwood or bamboo.
Cost (laminate): Laminate can cost less than $1 per square foot, but you should spend a bit more to get decent-quality material. Bamboo and hardwood are considerably more expensive.
Moisture and care: Hardwood flooring can last for many years if it’s properly cared for, but it’s not water-resistant enough for the bathroom and can be a maintenance issue in the kitchen. It should regularly be vacuumed to remove grit that can damage its finish. Standing water can cause permanent staining and damage.
Noise: All wood and bamboo floors are pretty loud and offer no sound absorption. Laminate is particularly noisy under hard shoes and when something is dropped onto the floor.
Hard and unforgiving: These flooring materials are nearly as hard as ceramic tile, and offer no protection against injury from falls.
Cost and Installation: Solid hardwood and bamboo are relatively expensive and usually require professional installation. Click-together flooring—available with engineered hardwood and bamboo and all laminate flooring—is less expensive and good for DIY installation.
Vinyl Flooring for Senior Citizens
Cleaning and durability: Vinyl offers the same hard-wearing and low-maintenance benefits of linoleum.
Water-resistance: Vinyl is a highly water-resistant material, and high-quality luxury vinyl is virtually waterproof. However, the seams in vinyl tile and planks can let water through to the subfloor, so standing water can be a problem. In bathrooms and kitchens, sheet vinyl is ideal because it has few (or sometimes no) seams.
Cost: Vinyl covers a wide price range but is generally one of the most affordable flooring options, and it lends itself to DIY installation.
Hardness: Vinyl is relatively hard and smooth, making for easy travel, but it’s not as hard or as cold as tile.
Look and feel: Vinyl is plastic, and it looks and feels like plastic. That’s probably why it’s primarily used in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, laundry areas, and entryways, but not in living rooms and other areas where comfort and appearance are critical. However, newer forms of luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) are considerably more attractive than standard vinyl, and it can be manufactured to convincingly mimic wood grains or stone.
Flooring Types for Senior Citizens to Avoid
Natural stone: A very hard and unyielding material, natural stone also requires regular maintenance to keep the material clean. Polished stone flooring is extremely slippery when wet. Like ceramic or porcelain tile, stone floors can be very cold—unless installed with a radiant heating system below the surface flooring.
Ceramic or porcelain tile: Tile is extremely hard-wearing and highly water-resistant, but it’s a very hard material and is cold underfoot. Tiles with wide grout joints or uneven surfaces can be a trip hazard. Standard tile is very slippery when wet. If the tile is used anywhere, it should have a coefficient of friction (COF) of 0.6 or higher for slip-resistance.
Area rugs and transitions: Area rugs can be slippery on hard floors and can easily bunch up to create a serious trip hazard. With any flooring material, you should avoid tall transitions between rooms or transitions between different materials; floors should be as flush as possible, for both ease of travel and to prevent tripping accidents.