Finding the best flooring for senior citizens is going to require balancing safety against ease of maintenance. The ideal material will be soft and yielding, in order to ensure that bones don’t break and bruise if someone slips. At the same time you want flooring that is relatively easy to clean, and keep clean, so that the seniors living there don’t have an undue burden placed upon them.
Soft and Warm: Carpet is a very cushiony material, that can be comfortable underfoot, while also being proof against physical harm from trips and falling accidents. Additionally, it is quite warm underfoot, even in the winter, and its thick body can act as a sort of insulation on a room, helping the space to retain heat more efficiently.
Air Quality: The fibers of carpeting tend to collect dirt and dust that floats through the air, holding them in their plush arms, only to send these debris particles spewing into the room whenever someone steps on the floor. This can be harmful to the indoor air quality of the space, especially for seniors dealing with respiratory illnesses.
Cleaning: It is also very hard to keep a carpet completely clean. The fact that it is made up of cloth strands, means that spills can soak in, and stains can smear permanently into the material. This can be both a hassle in upkeep, and an unsanitary situation if not dealt with regularly.
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Softness: Cork is another material that will be very soft, both underfoot, and under a body if the person living in the space trips and falls accidentally. Like carpet, the thick material is also able to help insulate a room against both heat loss, and outside noise.
Non Slip: Another benefit of cork flooring is that it naturally provides traction underfoot. That means that people will be less likely to slip, trip, and fall when walking across a cork floor.
Cleaning: As long as a cork floor is properly maintained, it is relatively easy to clean and care for. The sealant over the surface protects the porous material from stains, and all the senior living there will have to do is sweep or vacuum regularly to keep it looking its best.
Water and Damage: Because cork is so soft, it can be damaged relatively easily, by punctures from furniture legs, high heels, or any sharp object poking or scraping its surface. It is also prone to damage from water, and floods will ruin a cork floor, making it risky for bathrooms, and unacceptable for below grade installations. In addition, cork will need to be sealed once a year in order to protect it from stains and discolorations.
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Cleanliness: Linoleum is a very easy to maintain flooring material that only requires basic cleaning on a regular basis. This is important for older residents who may not have the physical ability to complete complicated maintenance regimens. Linoleum is also naturally anti static, and anti microbial, so both dust, and harmful microorganisms are inherently repelled from it.
Padding: Linoleum itself is a relatively thin material, which will take on the characteristics of the subfloor it is installed over. However, padding can be placed between the linoleum and the subfloor, in order to create a surface which is soft and safe for senior use.
Cost: Linoleum can be a relatively expensive flooring material, starting at around $3 - $4 per square foot. This is in addition to any installation costs, and material fees for adhesives, padding, and sealers. Unfortunately, this puts linoleum outside of the budget of some seniors who may be on fixed incomes.
Maintenance: Vinyl is one of the easiest flooring materials to care for. It is nearly impervious to stains and water damage, and maintenance is a matter of sweeping it clean on a regular basis. This makes it an ideal, hassle free solution for senior citizen flooring needs. As with other resilient flooring materials, it can also be padded with a layer of felt, or cork, in order to give the floor a soft, yielding feel.
Ecology: The one major drawback to vinyl flooring for senior use is it’s impact on the environment. On the large scale, vinyl is produced from petroleum, a non renewable resource. Its manufacture also releases toxins into the environment, consumes fuel, and creates harmful and dangerous byproducts. At the same time, a new vinyl floor can also offgas small amounts of Volatile Organic Chemicals into an interior space, after initial installation.
Further Reading On Vinyl
Safe: Rubber flooring is usually used in gyms where you want a surface that is safe for doing physical activity. That is because it is both very soft, and naturally slip resistant. Rubber is also naturally resistant to fire. By installing these floors in the home of a senior citizen, you can ensure that the entire building is padded against physical harm, creating a very safe environment.
Clean: When treated with a proper water soluble wax, a rubber floor can become nearly impervious to stains and water damage. That is why you will often see it used in outdoor environments. This makes it an easy to maintain solution for seniors, who may have limited mobility.
Expensive: Rubber flooring is one of the more expensive materials that you can choose to install, with average costs for quality products running from $8 - $15 per square foot. This puts it outside of the budget of most people, especially seniors living on a fixed monthly income. Rubber may also have a slight smell which, while not harmful, can be irritating to some.
Rubber Flooring Information
Flooring Materials For Seniors To Avoid
Natural Stone: A very hard and unyielding material, natural stone also requires regular maintenance in order to keep the material clean.
Brick: Easier to maintain than natural stone, brick is also a very hard, very harsh and unforgiving material if a senior should happen to fall on its surface.
Ceramic: While ceramic tiles are relatively easy to care for, they are also very hard and can be dangerous for senior citizens.
Glass: This is one of the hardest, and most difficult to maintain flooring options. It poses a risk both as a very rigid surface, and as a cutting hazard if the glass shatters during a fall. At the same time maintenance of glass tiles requires a constant regimen of cleaning.