Choosing a Safer Rug For Your Elderly Loved One


While the safest rug is usually not having one at all, many elderly people refuse to give up the comforts of home. So, if you must, choose a rug with a thin profile, low pile, and a no-slip backing to reduce the chances of a fall.

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son walking his elderly mother with her cane on a safe rug

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of comfort that a rug can lend to an otherwise hardwood or cold floor. They offer both comfort and warmth and can help to make a house feel more like home.

However, some of the rugs that we use in our homes may even be dangerous due to trip hazards. This is especially true when older adults use loose rugs, rugs that bunch up, and rugs that tend to slide as we attempt to step on them.

The safest recommendation is to get rid off all rugs. But, I get it. In reality, this isn’t always feasible. So, if you or the senior you love are not willing to get rid of rugs altogether, there are some safer options.

Keep reading to learn more about them.

What Types Of Rugs Are Safer for Seniors?

While no rug is perfectly safe for elderly people with mobility issues, there are some choices you can make that reduce the chance of a rug contributing to a fall.

  1. Rug with Thin Profiles – Look for a rug that has a thin overall profile – not more than a 1/4 inch overall. This is extremely important for seniors with shuffling gaits or tend to scoot their feet along the floor rather than lifting them up.
  2. Low Pile Rugs – If you choose a rug with carpet fibers, choose one with a low, dense pile that is looped. This style will reduce the chance of a trip while stabilizing the feet. Thick, plush carpets are not stable enough for some older folks and can lead to loss of balance.
  3. Choose a Dense Material – Look at the density of the rug meaning how “tight” the fibers or materials are. The want one that is firm not cushy. You want a rug that supports balance, not one that lets the feet sink into it.
  4. Non-Slip Backing – You should make sure the rug secures itself to floor in a safe manner to prevent it from moving. Often, you’ll find non-slip rugs with rubber backings on them that keeps them from scooting along the floor when walked on.
  5. Get A Heavy Rug – Many rugs are also lightweight – especially when buying thinner profiled rugs. This is a problem because they don’t have enough weight to hold them in place. Lightweight rugs are more likely to move and slide when walked on.
  6. Add A Rug Gripper – If you have an existing rug you think may be ok but want to reduce the chance of it slipping, consider a rug gripper or rug pad. These are special mats designed to go between the floor and the rug to keep it from moving. I cover these in more detail a little later in the article.

Generally, the following styles of rugs are the ones you should be considering:

  • Rubber-Backed Kitchen Rugs – these are available at lots of retailers and are familiar to most people. You can also get lots of design and style options. Just make sure the rug is heavy enough to not scoot along the floor when walked on.
  • Anti-Fatigue Mats – This style is used frequently in offices or other places where people stand a lot. They offer a bit of cushioning to comfort the feet but also support the legs and feet. There will be fewer design choices with this type.
  • Fall Mats – These are a special type of rug/mat that are honestly designed to provide some cushioning in the event of a fall. But, they do have a place in your fall prevention program. I have a guide dedicated to fall protection mats that you can read for more specifics about them.

Examples of Some Safer Rugs For The Elderly

If you can’t convince your loved one that a throw rug isn’t in their best interest, at least make sure that you’ve done all that you can to make sure that the rugs that they are using are safe.

Here are a few throw rug options for the elderly that should help to reduce the risk of falling.

Kapaqua Custom Cut Plain Color Rubber Backed Rug

This plain-colored rubber-backed rug is available in a variety of sizes to give you lots of options. They have about eight colors to choose from and the rug features a low pile and the rubberized backing that will help to adhere it to the floor. Because of the ribbed texture of the carpet, seniors should be able to maintain traction easily – whether barefoot or wearing shoes.

RELATED: Shoes for Seniors That Help Prevent Falls

Plus, these rugs are easy to care for and all it takes is a good vacuuming with your lightweight vacuum cleaner weekly to maintain the integrity of the rug. If you do need to wash this rug, it’s hand wash or spot clean. This rug is not machine washable unfortunately.

Secure® FlatPad Waterproof Beveled Edge Fall Safety Mat

Secure® FlatPad Waterproof Beveled Edge Fall Safety Mat

This is a more medical grade item what is primarily designed for fall protection. Because of this, is is a bit more pricey than the above-mentioned rug, however, it’s very cushiony and easy to care for. The outer edges are beveled which makes the edges less like to be a trip hazard. This an ideal choice if your loved one is in a wheelchair or uses a walking aid.

Comprised of a high density molded foam, this rug offers plenty of cushiony softness as well as being easy to care for. To clean them, just give them a good wipe down.

All American Wellington Peel and Stick Carpet Tiles

While this option isn’t technically a rug, you can use products like this to give the look of a rug. These tiles are roughly 24″ square with a rubber backing that has a built-on adhesive. Simply remove the protective plastic barrier and stick it where you want it. You can use multiple tiles to cover a larger area or a unique pattern.

These particular tiles are made of a dense, low pile carpet similar to a commercial type of carpeting. They are only .35 inches thick including the rubber backing. Made of polyester with Scotchguard(tm) coating, they are easy to clean and care for too.

The adhesive keeps the tiles from moving on the floor but is also reusable so the tiles can be pulled up and moved if needed. Just be careful what type of flooring you stick this onto just in case it creates any damage.

Maples Rugs Pelham Kitchen Rugs and Non-Skid Accent Area Carpet

This option is what most people think of when they think of a throw rug or scatter rug. But, this one is a safer option for older adults because it also doubles as a non-skid mat that works to prevent slips and falls.

It comes in 7 size options ranging from small entry rugs to room size rugs. You also get 8 colors to choose from. It could also be used in a bathroom (try to keep it dry though!) as well as in front of a favorite chair or other location. Its affordably priced, has a low, dense pile, and has a pretty latticework design that is pretty neutral and most people would like.

SixHome Extra Support Anti-Fatigue Kitchen Mats

This supportive memory foam rug helps relieves many foot, knee, and back pain by cushioning aging joints while offering the rebounding support of memory foam. It offers both comfort and quality and the beveled edge makes it an ideal solution for those who use a walker or wheelchair or have bad foot clearance. This rug is very reasonably priced and feels good on the feet.

Always Use A Rug Gripper With Jute Backed Rugs

If you have a rug that is maybe sentimental or the senior refuses to remove for other reasons, try using a rug gripper between the rug and the main floor.

A rug gripper is designed to be placed underneath a throw rug and help to adhere the rug to the floor. Note that there are different ones for each flooring surface type. Whether it is being used on a hardwood floor, vinyl floor, or on shorter pile carpeting, many have found that a rug gripper can help to keep the throw rug secured to the regular flooring.

You should absolutely use one with any rug that doesn’t have a built-in rubber backing. They come is a wide range of sizes and can be trimmed to fit any rug. Get the full sized pads – don’t use the ones that attach to the corners only.

Rug grippers also do double-duty as rug pads so there will be no need for an expensive rug pad to be used when using a good quality rug gripper.

Veken Non-Slip Rug Pad Gripper

Mohawk Home Dual Surface Felt Non-Slip Rug Pad

Gorilla Grip Original Extra Strong Rug Pad Gripper

Bad Alternatives To Rug Grippers

Many seniors are rather innovative and will already have a means in place to secure a rug to the floor. These ideas have been used successfully by many seniors to help keep a rug in place. Not all ideas will work well but some of them are rather clever.

  • Silicone – simply use some silicone in a tube directly to the floor in the area where the rug is to be placed. Then place the rug over the silicone.
  • Duct Tape isn’t overly attractive but if you use the double-sided type it can help to secure a loose edge on a rug.
  • Carpet Tape works by securing the edges of a carpet to the floor. However, for room-sized rugs, this may not be a good option.
  • Hook and Loop Fasteners – If you’re placing a throw rug on another carpet, a good layer of hook and loop may work for smaller-sized rugs but not large ones.

While these options aren’t highly recommended, they may offer a brief stop-gap solution while negotiating with your loved one regarding the safety of their throw rugs.

RELATED: Best Flooring for the Elderly

Choosing The Right Thickness For A Rug Pad Or Gripper

When selecting a rug pad or rug gripper, it’s important to choose one that is as thin as possible. While everyone wants a cushiony comfortable rug, it’s not always practical to have one that is thick. Thick rugs can create trip hazards, they can catch wheels or oxygen hoses and cause a person to fall. Many older people aren’t able to lift their feet very high and will walk with a shuffle.

For this reason, it’s important to select a rug pad or gripper that isn’t too high so that the person will have less likelihood of catching something on the edge of a rug. Always make sure that the depth of the rug pad or gripper is as thin as it can be so that this can be avoided.

Ideally, throw rugs should be avoided when at all possible, however, most seniors want something to help cushion their feet and make them feel comfortable. These rugs offer both comfort and practicality without breaking the bank. Always choose an anti-skid rug and make sure to use rug grippers when needed to ensure the safety of your loved one. Avoid rugs that bunch or slide and make sure that you check the rugs on a regular basis to ensure that they stay safe for your loved one.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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2 thoughts on “Choosing a Safer Rug For Your Elderly Loved One”

  1. 1) question: Foot drop – suggestion for shoe designed best to avoid tripping resulting from foot drop ??
    2) suggestion: I’ve found painted floor mats ideas to avoid tripping


    • Hi KB – thanks for the suggestions. I’ll look into some options for foot drop and include that in a future post. I have been researching how colors can help people distinguish between two different surfaces – especially the color red with dementia patients. Interesting stuff! It is especially helpful in the bathroom as a fall reduction technique. – Scott

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