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The Best Type Of Carpets For Seniors (Flooring Options)

carpetingAging in place is becoming more popular in these past few years and as long as the home is modified to meet the safety needs of its occupants, remaining at home is an excellent solution for many seniors.  One of those modifications to be considered should be the carpeting within the house.

So, what is safe carpeting for seniors? Home safety for seniors should always include short cut pile carpet no thicker than 1/4 inch pile height.  The padding underneath should also be as thin as possible.  If there is high traffic in the area or a wheelchair is in use I recommend a commercial grade carpet such as a loop pile type of carpeting. 

What is a loop pile carpet? This is a very durable type of carpeting, often found in commercial buildings. It’s made with loops that are all the same height. This ends up creating a smooth and flat type of flooring material.

When my mother was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis she had to begin using oxygen which the wonderful organization of Hospice provided.  It was a large tank that sat in a carrier with 2 wheels.  She wasn’t too happy about lugging that around but it was better than not being able to breath properly.

Because my mother had thick carpeting throughout her living room and bedrooms, she found it very difficult to maneuver this tank on that type of carpeting.  It was an unnecessary struggle for her.  It would have been much easier if she had a low pile carpet.

As seniors age, oftentimes their mobility becomes compromised.  This could be due to a number of issues such as…

  • Parkinsons
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Vertigo
  • Poor balance
  • Poor vision
  • Joint issues in feet, ankles, knees and/or hips
  • General weakness
  • Arthritis

Of course, not all older adults develop these problems and then again, some will end up with a combination of these. No matter what is causing the problems in mobility – the safety measures to modify the type of flooring in the home are the same.

  1. Keep the carpet pile short so that it won’t get caught on a cane, walker, foot, etc.
  2. Keep the padding under the carpet as thin as possible because it decreases the chances of tripping and falling due to poor balance.

Note: In this article I’ll be referring to carpets and rugs.  Generally – I do not recommend rugs in homes with older adults – it’s simply too easy to trip over them but I also understand that some seniors will strongly refuse to get rid of their rugs.  So, if you MUST have rugs in your home – PLEASE ensure they are non-slip rugs.

Choosing Low Pile Carpeting And Rugs

As I mentioned earlier, low pile carpets and rugs are deemed best for homes with seniors simply because they are much easier to maneuver a walker or cane or wheelchair on that type of surface.

The other benefits of low pile carpets and rugs are:

  • They tend to trap fewer allergens so they tend to be a better choice for anyone who suffers from allergies.
  • They also trap less dirt and stains so they are easier to keep clean.
  • These types of carpets are easier to maintain. Much easier to run a vacuum or Roomba on them than high pile carpeting.
  • They generally are not as expensive as high pile carpeting.
  • Low pile carpeting tend to be very durable and therefore last longer than other types of carpeting.

But, it’s important to note that although I recommend low pile carpets for all the reasons listed above, I do want to caution you that if your elderly parent has a high risk of falling, this type of carpeting may not be suitable.

I don’t really know of any flooring material that will prevent injury from a fall. But the more insulation and padding the floor may have, the better the chances are that a fall will not result in a broken bone or other serious injury.

But again – there’s no guarantee of avoiding an injury even if your senior parent fell on a thick mattress.

Best Carpet For Seniors With Walkers

If the senior that is aging in place uses a walker, the best kind of flooring has the following qualities.

  • It’s slip resistant
  • It has a smooth and regular surface texture
  • It has a matte finish
  • Is low maintenance
  • Is very durable to wear and tear

Of course hardwood floors and the many different types of today’s laminate flooring, especially the luxury vinyl floors are excellent candidates for these qualities.

But perhaps due to frequent falls or other issues, carpeting becomes a necessity so how to choose a carpet that meets these parameters?

As mentioned above, I recommend carpeting that is low pile such as the loop pile carpeting no thicker than 1/4 inch. Also, the padding underneath the carpeting should be as thin as possible.

Safe Rugs For Seniors

Generally, one of the very first things I would do as an Occupational Therapist conducting a home assessment for my patients was to recommend removing the rugs throughout the home.  But, what I found was that most of my patients were not very compliant with that recommendation.

Many elderly people use rugs in doorways where a wood or tile floor meets carpeting.  My mother did that throughout her entire home.  Her reasoning was that it kept the carpeting from wearing out because of the high traffic.

Of course, another reason many of us, elderly or not, use rugs is for decor.  But in my eyes, safety trumps decor so I simply recommend that you do your best to convince your elderly parent(s) to remove those extra, non-essential rugs throughout the house.

But, if you can’t convince them, I found that the next best alternative is to at least switch the type of rugs being used.

I would recommend to replace traditional rugs and bath mats with non-skid mats.  There are several types you can use:

  • Carpet squares – these low pile carpet squares adhere to the floor.  Although they are intended for your pets – they can be excellent for seniors. 
  • Low Pile rugs – there are a variety of low pile rugs you can choose from – they key is to make sure they are non-slip.
  • Rug Grips – if you have a rug that is suitable but it’s not non-slip then you can add rug grips to make it safer.

If the home you are modifying has rugs on top of carpeting – there is no safe solution for that except to remove the rug entirely.  I know most of these rugs are for decor but it’s not worth the injuries that could come from a fall just to make the area look prettier.

Best Non Slip Flooring For Seniors

It used to be that your choices for flooring were hardwood, ceramic tile, linoleum, vinyl or concrete.

But oh how times have changed.

Today – the very large variety of flooring includes a wide variety of hardwoods, cork, engineered flooring that looks like wood or tile.  Vinyl that is virtually waterproof and more textures and styles than you can imagine.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) use slip resistance standards for flooring that are also used globally.

The Slip Resistance Values (SRV’s) are:

  • 0-24 = Higher Potential for Slipping
  • 25-35 = Moderate Potential for Slipping
  • 36 and higher – Low Potential for Slipping

(from: The Importance of Slip Resistance Tests and Values)

Floor manufacturers normally apply an “R” rating to the non-slip value of a product. These ratings are as follows:

R9 – the lowest slip resistance (not so good)
R13 – the highest slip resistance (the best)

So, when shopping for non-slip floors look for the R13 ratings. This will give you the safest possible flooring.

Make Your Existing Floors Slip Resistant

If replacing your existing flooring is not an option – you can look into a company called Trusty-Step.  According to their website…

“Trusty-Step International offers a complete line of slip-resistant floor and bathtub treatments. Our non-skid products will make any type of floor slip-resistant when wet, including tile, marble, granite, terrazzo, cement, wood, fiberglass and vinyl. In addition, Trusty-Step products may be used indoors or outdoors.” – www.trustystep.com

Another company called Slip Doctors also provides a variety of products designed to make multiple types of flooring non-slip.

SlipTec Solutions offers a large variety of products for any type of flooring including ceramic tile, terrazzo, porcelain, quarry tile, fiberglass, brick, wood, concrete, marble, granite, vinyl, travertine tiles and vct. They even have a treatment for bathtubs!

All in all – there are many options available for seniors aging in place when it comes to carpeting and flooring and improving the safety of the home.

It’s important to take into consideration the current needs of the homeowner(s) but also to do your best to anticipate any future needs.

I wrote an article about some of the great anti slip products that are available today – check it out by clicking here.

Related Questions

What is the safest flooring for aging in place? – Waterproof luxury vinyl planks.  They are smooth, easy to maintain, waterproof and come with a cork underlayment which, when coupled with a bit of insulation can help to add some cushioning in the case of a fall.

Is cork flooring a good option for elderly parents? – Cork floors are generally softer than other hard surface flooring materials and for that reason they are a good option for your elderly parents.

Are hardwood floors safe for seniors? – When it comes to falling, hardwood floors are not as safe as vinyl or cork or carpets. But when it comes to being slippery, hardwood floors CAN be made less slippery by removing any waxy residue and keeping them clean and dry and possibly using some anti slip products.  Read more here.

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