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Best Flooring for Elderly: Choices and Considerations for Maximum Safety

Best Flooring for Elderly: Choices and Considerations for Maximum Safety

When planning new flooring for seniors there are several considerations. Think about the senior's mobility, how slick the floor surface is, the maintenance the floor requires, and how well the flooring will absorb the shock of a fall. Here are the best flooring choices for the elderly with a few to avoid.
best flooring for elderly
best flooring for elderly
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You may not realize it, but flooring is one of the most important factors of home safety, especially for an elderly person. The flooring in your home can impact your quality of life in many ways, including safety, noise levels, and amount of effort you have to put into cleaning. For seniors, you’ll also want to consider how the flooring will affect their mobility, especially if they use mobility aids like walkers or wheelchairs.

Below is a list of some of the best flooring choices for senior’s homes. I’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as some safety tips for each type and the best area of the house for each material.

Factors to Consider When Looking at Flooring Options

Ask yourself these questions when shopping for new flooring, as they’ll have a much bigger impact on your life than just how they fit into your decor.

  • Elderly person’s mobility. Is this material easy to walk on? Will it be compatible with wheelchair or walker? How about a cane? What are their future needs?
  • Non-slip surfaces. How slippery is this material? Will it be dangerous to walk on in slippers or house shoes?
  • Easy maintenance. How often will you have to clean this surface? Will it require any extra maintenance by you or professionals?
  • Shock absorption. Is it sufficiently cushioned to absorb the shock of falls? This is a safety concern, but it also helps decrease noise levels in your home. Cushioned surfaces may also be more comfortable to walk on, putting less pressure on your joints.

Carpeting: Is it the Right Choice for Seniors?

close up of brand new plush gray carpetPin
Carpet is softer than other flooring choices but doesn’t work as well with some mobility aids.

Carpeting Does Have Some Advantages for Older Adults

Carpeting is one of the best materials for flooring in terms of cushioning and shock absorption. It acts as a buffer in all kinds of ways. Carpeting provides protection against injury from falls, it’s easier on joints and very comfortable to walk on, and it also makes your home a little quieter.

It’s also slip-resistant, even if there’s a spill on the surface. The soft material of the carpeting will absorb that extra moisture and keep you safe while walking on it.

Another unique advantage of carpeting is that it’s much warmer than other materials, and can make any area of your home that it’s placed in warmer than the rest of your house as well.

But, Carpeting Has Some Disadvantages, Too

There are two main disadvantages of carpeting — it requires a decent amount of cleaning, and it’s not the easiest material for senior disability walking aids to maneuver. Carpeting tends to collect dirt and dust much more easily than most other flooring materials due to its fibrous build. It also stains very easily for this reason, and often requires deep cleaning on your hands and knees to get stains out. Obviously, this isn’t ideal for seniors, and they may have to hire outside help for this.

RELATED: Lightweight Vacuum Cleaners for Seniors

Carpeting can also bunch up and create potential obstacles and hazards for wheelchairs and walkers. It’s also generally just more difficult to roll over than smooth flooring surfaces. The best carpet for people with wheelchairs or walkers shouldn’t be any higher than a half inch, and the padding underneath should be firm and not too squishy.

Where Should Carpeting Be Used?

A living area or bedroom would be the best places for carpeting in a senior’s home.

A Word About Area Rugs and Carpets

Area rugs, without any added security, are an accident waiting to happen in a senior’s home. I highly advise against these. If they’re placed on a smooth surface, they can easily slip right out from underneath you.

If they’re fairly large, about the size of a room, that can be a safer rug option for seniors, but you’ll still want some sort of sticky material to secure it to the floor underneath to be as safe as possible.

Is Linoleum Flooring the Best for Seniors?

white and black linoleum floor against a dark wallPin
Linoleum floors are popular in bathrooms and kitchens because of its waterproof characteristics.

Advantages of Linoleum Floors

Linoleum is possibly the best type of flooring for seniors. It’s smooth and hard with a flat surface that is usually installed over a wood underlay or other sub-flooring material, but it’s also slightly softer than other alternatives because it’s made from natural materials like linseed oil, cork, or jute.

This makes it the best flooring for scooters and power chairs, and other walking aids, to maneuver because they can smoothly roll over the surface.

Linoleum is also an easy to clean material since it is water and stain resistant and doesn’t hold onto dust or dirt. The smooth surface makes it easy to clean with a standard broom, mop, or other cleaning apparatus that doesn’t require getting down on hand and knee.

Disadvantages of Linoleum Flooring

However, linoleum can be a pretty costly alternatively, averaging around $4 per square foot before installation. It’s also not as cushioned as carpeting.

Where Should Linoleum Floors Be Used?

Linoleum is best placed in a kitchen or bathroom area of a senior’s house, or a place where there’s a lot of water and potential for staining, as it’s resistant to these kinds of issues. It’s probably the best bathroom flooring for elderly people.

Are Hardwood Floors a Safe Choice for the Elderly?

honey colored hardwood flooring with dark knotsPin
Hardwood floors are known for their durability but have some maintenance requirements you should know about.

Benefits of Hardwood Floors for Seniors

Hardwood is one of the most beautiful materials for flooring, and it has been for decades. It’s a timeless, clean, natural look that adds a nice touch to any home. It’s also relatively cheap for a laminate, which can cost about $1 per square foot. If you want to get higher quality materials, you’ll have to pay more of course. Hardwood also doesn’t get dirty as easily as something like carpet, and it’s easier to clean as well. It’s also very durable — it can last for years if cared for properly.

Drawbacks of Hardwood Floors for Seniors

While it’s fairly easy to clean and doesn’t stain easily, it’s not water resistant like linoleum. Water can cause permanent stains. The finish of hardwood is also easily subject to damage, so this type of material requires a lot of maintenance on a regular basis. Finally, hardwood doesn’t offer much sound absorption, so it can make your home a little more noisy than you may like.

What is the Best Area of the House for Hardwood Flooring?

A living area or bedroom is the best area for hardwood. Keep it out of kitchens and bathrooms, or anywhere else it may be subject to water stains like a laundry room.

Should Elderly People Use Vinyl Flooring?

floral patterned vinyl flooring in bright colors on a white background.Pin
Vinyl flooring is very durable and resistant to moisture and water.

Advantages of Vinyl Floors for Older Adults

Vinyl is similar to linoleum in that it’s low maintenance, stain resistant, water resistant (or even waterproof in some cases). It’s also smooth and hard, making it easy for walking aids to maneuver and travel over. Vinyl is relatively low cost as well in terms of materials and installation, and absorbs slightly more sound than its counterparts as well.

Disadvantages of Vinyl Flooring for Older Adults

Basically, it doesn’t look great. It’s primarily plastic, so it feels, looks, and sounds like plastic. This isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as most other materials on this list. It’s definitely a practical option, but not quite as luxurious or enjoyable as others.

What is the Best Area of the House for Vinyl?

Many people have vinyl floors in areas that aren’t used as much as others, like laundry rooms or second bathrooms. It’s also good for the kitchen.

Flooring to Avoid for the Elderly: Ceramic Tile, Porcelain, Stone

gray and white ceramic tiles in a checkerboard pattern.Pin
For senior safety, ceramic floors are not the best choice for most situations.

Avoid any cold, porous material for flooring in an elderly person’s home. These materials — namely ceramic tile, porcelain, or natural stone — may look nice, but they require a lot of regular maintenance and cleaning.

They’re also easy to stain, usually not water resistant (which makes them more slippery as well), and very cold to walk on. The uneven surface created with grout in between these tiles also makes it dangerous for a senior with a walking aid to maneuver and could lead to trips or falls. Since these surfaces are also very hard, this could make that incident much worse.

If you have this type of flooring in wet areas of your home, encourage the elderly person to wear some sort of non-slip water or shower shoes to reduce the chance of slipping.

Summary and Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many considerations that go into picking the perfect type of flooring for a senior’s home. There are many materials to choose from, and they each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, this guide allows you to prioritize what you need out of a flooring material, and make the best choice based on that.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to share with family and friends! Comment below with your experience with different types of flooring as well.

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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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3 thoughts on “Best Flooring for Elderly: Choices and Considerations for Maximum Safety”

  1. dkdc

    Our contractor put in this really smooth slippery easy to clean tile – but it is really easy to fall too. I tried acid treatment but that stained it . I tried taping down anti slip tape – but it keeps coming up. Trying the anti slip tape with special glue now. Bed Bath and Beyond has some non slip strips for bathtub that stay on pretty well but get dirty looking. Any thoughts? Thanks. (Not sure we want to re-tile to a tile that has more of a non slip surface)

    • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

      I can understand that! Re-tiling a house could be quite expensive. My first thought when I read this are the plastic runners that you can buy for hallways. Most of those though have those little nubs on them to help them grip carpet better. I would think that would create an unstable walking surface on tile. There are runners through without those that come in clear and black. Most of them are ribbed for traction when walking but I am not sure how well they would stick to ceramic tile or harder flooring surfaces. Amazon sells this one that is designed for garage and concrete floors that may work. My thought is you could create “paths” with them for safer walking and they could even be rolled up if you had visitors over. My other thought is the self-adhesive carpet protectors like these (Amazon Link) that stick to carpet – you’d have to try them on tile to see how well they stick. Hope these ideas help and keep safe out there!

      • dkdc

        Thanks – it is just bathrooms and entry ways that are tiled – but I will check out the links. We also put some paint on grip surface stuff on the stairs – works well but gets and stays dirty. People didn’t want carpet on the stairs – so this was the next best option – but not the best option I think,

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