Fire Safety for Seniors Living At Home

Fire safety is an important consideration for any senior who chooses to age in place. With some planning and a few precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk of accidental fires in the home.

Here are some important considerations when it comes to fire safety for seniors:

  • An escape plan.Everyone should have two potential escape routes in mind in case of a fire. When it comes to planning a fire escape for seniors, keep floors free of clutter, especially in bedrooms, hallways, and staircases. Have a light and telephone within reach of beds and any areas that you (or your ageing loved one) spends a lot of time. In-home caregivers are trained to spot potential tripping and other safety hazards and can ensure areas are clear and that the care recipient has what they need nearby when they go to sleep.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.There should be a working smoke detector on every level of the home and a carbon monoxide detector outside of sleeping areas. Each one should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly or sooner if needed. As this usually requires reaching high and/or getting on a chair or ladder; the responsibility can be assigned to a caregiver who can do it safely.
  • Cooking safety. You can reduce the risk by keeping flammable materials away from burners, setting timers, and turning pot handles away from you to avoid accidentally knocking pots over. Don’t cook wearing long or loose sleeves or any clothing that can dangle and make contact with the stove. Meal preparation is one of many in-home care services offered by Living Assistance Services. Having a caregiver take over cooking can eliminate the risk. For seniors who love to cook, a caregiver in the home while they’re cooking can also help. This is especially important when cooking multiple dishes or deep-frying.
  • Space heater use. Space heaters on common in most Canadian homes thanks to our frigid winters, but they’re a common cause of accidental fires in homes. Choose heaters with an automatic safety shutoff that turn off when moved or tipped over. When using a heater, keep it 3 feet away from curtains, furniture, and any materials that can catch fire. Post a note as a reminder near the door to shut off heaters before you or the caregiver leaves the home.
  • Smoking safety. The risk of accidental fires is higher for seniors who smoke. It’s important to never smoke in bed or when tired because of the risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette. You can also reduce the risk of smoking-related fire by using special products, such as a smoker’s bib to protect clothing from a dropped cigarette or ashes, or an ashtray with a remote tube that leaves the lit cigarette over the ashtray at all times while you smoke via the tube.

Accidental Fires – A Leading Cause of Death in Seniors At Home

Older adults are more likely to die or be injured in a house fire than other populations, according to the Canadian Safety Council and the Canadian National Fire Information Database.

There are a number of factors that put seniors at higher risk of accidental fires. These include:

  • Vision changes. Seniors with poor or no vision risk falling on top of space heaters or falling while trying to escape from a fire. They’re also less likely to notice potential sources of fire, like combustibles that are placed too close to heat sources, such as dish towel too close to a stove burner or a lit cigarette discarded near paper.
  • Hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is common and can affect a person’s ability to hear a smoke detector. The risk is even higher during the night, which is when most fire-related fatalities occur. Even seniors with mild to moderate hearing loss are less likely to respond to a regular residential smoke alarm when sleeping, according to research.
  • Decreased sense of smell. Smell is another sensory ability that diminishes with age, which can prevent a senior from being alerted to a fire in the home at any time of day. For instance, a senior may not notice the smell from a forgotten pot on the stove or a lit cigarette that makes contact with clothing or bedding.
  • Diminished sense of touch. As we age, our skin changes and our sense of touch decreases. A diminished sense of touch means that older adults can have trouble sensing pain or heat, and have a slower reaction to tactile stimulation. This can lead to more serious burns if they don’t notice a sleeve has caught on fire while cooking or a hot door handle that could otherwise alert them to a fire elsewhere in the home.
  • Mobility issues. Trouble with mobility makes it harder for a person to react quickly in the case of a fire. It can impede a person’s escape from a burning home. A senior with even mild age-related mobility changes is more likely to accidentally trip over a space heater.
  • Illness. The risk of illness increases with age and many older adults live with chronic illness. Conditions that cause physical or mental capacity can impact reaction time and affect how quickly and well a person responds to a fire. Reduced mental capacity can also make it difficult for some people to recognize fire-risks or engage in activities that increase the risk for fire.

Learn New Skills and Make New Friends—it’s Never Too Late!

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford

The most wonderful thing about the internet is that it’s opened up a world of possibilities and experiences to everyone. This is particularly exciting for seniors who want to be engaged and learn something new—which can actually make the mind 30 years younger and slow cognitive aging, according to research.

You’re never too old to learn something new and what better time to try your hand at a new skill and make new friends than now! Get your university degree, learn a new language or musical instrument, or pick up social media skills that to have some fun with your grandkids or even become the next TikTok sensation!

Get your university degree online

Taking university courses online isn’t just a way to keep learning and earn a degree, but also a wonderful way to socialize and connect with “classmates” of all ages during virtual classes and even online study groups.

Seniors who enroll in continuing education courses or university programs may be eligible for significant discounts and even free tuition. These savings apply to in-person and online learning.

For example, York University, waives the tuition fee for people over the age of 60, as does Brock University, and the University of British Columbia, to name a few.

George Brown College is one of the many schools offering a 20% senior discount for continuing education courses.

If you want to earn your university degree online, the cost and timeframe depend on a few factors such as the field of study and number of courses needed, and extra costs such as text books and supplies, which are not included as part of the tuition fee.

Typically, an undergraduate degree can takes 3 or 4 years to earn. The average tuition cost in Canada is $6,580, though that would be waived if you enroll in one of the universities offering free tuition for seniors.

The Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) offered by the Government of Canada can also help you finance full-time education or training by allowing you to withdraw up to $10,000 from your RRSP.

You can find all the post-secondary education options in Canada using the Government of Canada Colleges and Universities online search.

Learn a musical instrument online

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to play the guitar, piano, or even the accordion; you can learn just about any musical instrument online.

The social aspect alone makes music lessons especially enjoyable because you get to connect and make beautiful music with others with a share interest through group classes or practice sessions.

If you’re the type who prefers to fly solo, you can take individual classes or even learn an instrument by watching YouTube videos. There are also numerous music apps available that you can use on your smartphone or tablet, too, if you’re app savvy!

A 30-minute music lesson typically starts at $25, depending on the instrument and the teacher. You can save money by taking group classes or purchasing a package of lessons. Many instructors and schools offer seniors discounts and a free introductory class.

Here are some options:

The Music Studio’s Virtual Seniors Connecting Through Music Program

Canada Music Academy

BestBeginnerGuitarLessons.com (also available on YouTube)

Learn a new language online

If you ever dreamed of learning a new language but thought you were too old, think again. There’s no critical period for language learning, according to experts, and learning a second language is in many ways easier for older adults than it is for youth.

Online group classes are loads of fun and there are plenty of apps available to help you learn and practice skills on your own, too. Babble and DuoLingo are just two popular options.

Online language classes are available through most colleges for around $350 and most offer senior discounts.

You can find information on classes offered by different schools at OntarioLearn.ca. Your local community center and public library may also offer language classes online.

Learn how to use social media apps online

Social media apps, like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok offer numerous benefits for seniors, according to research. Not only can social media help seniors stay connected to family and friends; it can also keep you learning and improve the way you live by giving you access to information on healthy cooking and lifestyle habits.

Seniors can learn how to use social media online thanks to free online workshops offered by local libraries and other organizations. Seniors Tech Services.ca, for instance, offers various workshops each month for Canadian Seniors on social media, as well as things like online safety, online shopping, and online dating for seniors.

If you have grandkids, having them teach you how to use social media is a great way to bond and continue to engage with them now and once it’s safe to get together in person again. (It’s also a great way to cinch your status as Coolest Grams/Gramps Ever!

 

 

Article Resources

Brock Tuition waiver for Seniors. Brock University. https://brocku.ca/retirees-association/tuition-waiver/
CEGEPs, Colleges and Universities Search. Government of Canada. https://tools.canlearn.ca/cslgs-scpse/cln-cln/rep-fit/cu/af.cu.clsea-eng.do
Cognitive Effects of Social Media Use: A Case of Older Adults. Kelly Quinn. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2056305118787203Continuing Education: Seniors. George Brown College. https://coned.georgebrown.ca/policies/seniors
Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/rrsps-related-plans/lifelong-learning-plan.html
Tuition fees for degree programs: Interactive tool. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/71-607-x/71-607-x2019011-eng.htm
Waivers and Payments by a Third Party: Academic Fee Waivers for Senior Citizens. York University. https://sfs.yorku.ca/fees/waivers