Illustration by Ryan Garcia


How to Keep Mom and Dad in Their Home Longer

Remove the throw rug, add a smartphone and more tips to keep your parents safe

By Lisa Cook

Illustration by Ryan Garcia
December 10, 2018 •

By the time they're 85, your parents have a one-in-three chance of living in a care facility. But seniors in Canada and around the world are moving into facilities and losing their autonomy too soon, says Roger Wong, '90 BMedSc, '92 MD, a geriatrics doctor and advocate for better seniors care.

With the help of new technology and our compassion, seniors can spend longer living at home in familiar surroundings, with familiar people. "Even seniors with early dementia can still live in the community," says Wong, who is also an executive associate dean and a clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He highlights some items in the home that play a role in your parents' safety - some for better and some for worse! Plus, learn more in his TEDx Talk, included at the end of the story.

Throw rug

Sure, that throw rug looks nice but it's a major tripping hazard, and falls are the most common cause of injury in seniors. "A fall could result in a broken hip, leading to disability and loss of independence," says Wong. It's easier to get rid of the rug.

Side table

While you're getting rid of those throw rugs, lose the decorative side tables. They're also tripping hazards.

Carpet and slippers

An overly plush carpet can make it hard to move around using a walker, so consider changing to hardwood floors. It's not as cosy but you can buy Mom and Dad some nice, warm anti-slip footwear.

Toilet seat and grab bars

The bathroom shouldn't be a test of strength. Invest in a raised toilet seat and add grab bars for support.


Make sure your parents have a smartphone with GPS function, so you can find them if they wander or get lost. And make sure you introduce Mom and Dad to phones - and other technology - as early as possible to get them used to using the devices.

Smart door lock and appliances

The internet of things - that is to say, technology that allows you to control everyday objects from a distance - can help people with memory issues stay safe. In the evening, for example, you can use a smartphone or computer to make sure Mom and Dad's front door is locked. Or check remotely to be sure the appliances are turned off.

Home delivery

Grocery shopping can be daunting. Many grocers now offer online orders, and fresh food can be delivered to the doorstep or even kitchen. Also, many places offer meal delivery services. For more in-home care, check with your parents' family doctor to ask about home-care services available in your area.

A device with a social media account

Loneliness is the new smoking. It can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, shaving eight years from our lives, Wong says. Social media allows seniors to still socialize even if they can't always leave their homes. And don't think you will be the only one giving them likes and shares, either. "The number of seniors over 75 on social media has doubled in the last year," Wong says. Of course, "technology can't replace a real hug."

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