Facility modifications – big and small – can improve the healthcare experience of older adults who are frail, have impaired cognition and trouble with sight, hearing and mobility, according to a new report from Kaiser Health News.

Many healthcare facilities have been designed for middle-aged adults, not the elderly, geriatrician Lee Ann Lindquist, M.D., told KHN. “Additional thought has to be given to seniors who have functional disabilities,” she said.

The report identifies common concerns among seniors and geriatricians, and provides recommendations for operators who wish to up their game with facility modifications, including:

Small improvements

  • A place to hang a cane helps keep the device from falling to the floor
  • Large lettering on signs accommodates elders with vision problems
  • Well-placed signage may help those with cognitive impairment find their way
  • Strategically placed seating, such as benches, allow rest breaks during walks
  • Chairs with higher seats and arms help with standing
  • Grab bars positioned where most needed aid in balance and help prevent falls

Big improvements 

  • Wide exam tables that can be lowered electronically address fear of falling
  • High toilets ease sitting and standing
  • Electronic doors – at entrances and exits – allow use by people who are frail or who use a wheelchair or walker
  • Parking lots on the same level as the building minimize difficulties with inclines for wheelchair and walker users
  • Well-cared-for sidewalks around a facility can minimize fall risk