6 Best Floor Options for the Elderly: Visual Table Guide Included


According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of the fatal and non-fatal injuries for the elderly or the senior citizens. So every little lifestyle change that would help prevent slipping, tripping, or falling will help minimize the risks of injuries happening to senior citizens. We can start this in our homes by choosing the right kind of flooring to install that will be appropriate for the use of the elderly.

When choosing a floor option for the elderly, you should be looking at the following important criteria:

  • Slip resistance – Look for a non-slip, and good traction floor types. A good non-slip flooring should be safe to walk on not only when it’s dry, but even when it gets wet as well.
  • Cushion – The risk of falling may not be totally avoided. So a soft floor, or one that can absorb some of the impacts of falling, reducing the risk of fatal injuries would be a good choice for the elderly. Soft floors are also pleasant to walk on as it reduces the impact on the joints. Most soft floors are resilient or feel like rubber when you press against it.
  • Ease of travel – The flooring should be comfortable and safe enough to traverse. Simply walking, with or without a cane or walker, or with a wheelchair shouldn’t take much effort. Any protruding element or feature of the floor that may pose to be a tripping hazard should be avoided. Usually, a flooring with a flat and smooth surface is the best.
  • Comfort – Floors can also contribute to the quality of life of the elderly by offering some kind of comfort. A warm surface underfoot during winter, for example, is one such comfort it could offer.
  • Ease in cleaning and maintenance – Not all senior citizens have someone to help them with the all the cleaning and maintenance inside the house. Floors that virtually low-maintenance and a breeze to clean is the best.
  • Durability – Any flooring you wish to use should have very long wear and tear life. A good durable floor should have protection and are resistant against water damage, scratches, or anything that could contribute to its potential damage. A good floor for the elderly should basically need to last decades of use.
  • Style – The look or style of the floor is actually the least criterion you should be considering. Although a floor that also looks good may contribute to the quality of life of the elderly psychologically when evaluating each criterion, safety and comfort should always be at the top of your priorities, and style should take a backseat.

Below is a table with all 6 best floor options for the elderly with a corresponding rating for each of the criterion mentioned above. 5 is the highest rating, while 1 is the least.

There is actually no flooring so far that has a perfect rating for all criteria, and the best thing you can do is to choose a floor that has high criteria you have priority on such as slip resistance, cushion, and ease of travel.

Flooring MaterialSlip ResistanceCushionComfortEase of TravelEase of Cleaning and MaintenanceDurabilityStyle or BeautyTotal RatingGood for Which Space
1. Cork Flooring544544430All indoor spaces except for bathrooms, and basements.
2. Linoleum Flooring323544324All indoor spaces except for bathrooms, and basements.
3. Carpet Flooring555223527All indoor spaces except for kitchen, bathrooms, and basements. Best to use for stairs.
4. Luxury Vinyl Flooring423554427All indoor spaces
5. Rubber Flooring555554130All indoor spaces
6. Non-Slip Porcelain Flooring412555527Bathrooms

Continue reading below to know each floorings pros and cons especially with regards to senior citizens.

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1. Cork Flooring

PROS

  • Soft and quiet to walk on.
  • Resilient and offers some cushion when you fall.
  • Easy to walk with a cane or walker.
  • Easy to use with a wheelchair.
  • Naturally non-slip
  • Effective thermal insulation. It does not feel cooler or warmer than room temperature.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Water and stain resistant.

CONS

  • Susceptible to water damage if water is left standing for a long time.
  • Can be punctured by furniture legs, or sharp objects.
  • Fades in direct sunlight.

Cork flooring is one of the best floorings you can use for the elderly. It is a natural and sustainable product made from the processed bark of cork oak trees.

It is naturally non-slip even when wet. The natural texture on its surface gives it enough traction for senior citizens to walk on. The surface is smooth and flat, making it also ideal for wheelchairs to roll on.

Cork floors are resilient and soft, giving you enough cushion when you accidentally trip and fall. It is also quite comfortable underfoot, being a good insulator, it maintains a neutral room temperature even during winter.

Being a soft and resilient floor, it absorbs any impact on it. It is virtually quiet to walk on it.

It is very easy to clean. You only need a quick sweep with a broom and maybe a damp mop to keep it dust-free. It is naturally water and stain resistant to some degree, just don’t let any liquid pool and stand for a long time on its surface. Water damage can still penetrate the surface and cause damage if left unattended for a long time. Wipe the cork floor dry as soon as spills happen to prevent any potential damage.

As a floor for the elderly, cork flooring is good to install for any rooms, except for wet areas such as in the bathroom or basements because of its susceptibility to water damage.

Because it’s a soft floor, cork flooring can be punctured or dented by furniture legs, stiletto heels, or any sharp object. Install furniture pads underneath your furniture legs, and avoid walking with abrasive shoes to protect the floor.

Cork flooring can make your interior warm and cozy looking, with its natural earthy color. Avoid placing it near windows with direct sun exposure though as it can fade with prolonged exposure to the sun.

In terms of its durability, with the right care and maintenance, cork flooring can last for upwards of 25 years.

2. Linoleum Flooring

PROS

  • Easy to walk with a cane or walker.
  • Easy to use with a wheelchair.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Water and stain resistant.

CONS

  • Susceptible to water damage if water is left standing for a long time.
  • Offers very little cushion when you fall.
  • Can be slippery when wet.
  • Relatively cold underfoot.
  • Colors and patterns often go out of style.

Linoleum flooring is another sustainable product made from natural plant materials. It is the original resilient flooring before vinyl came to be.

It is moisture and stain resistant but to some degree. As long as you wipe any spilled drink or liquid, and not letting it stand too long, then it will be fine. It is susceptible to water damage as water can find a way to penetrate the surface if you let it sit too long on the surface.

It has a smooth and flat surface, suitable for walking without any tripping hazard, and for a wheelchair to smoothly roll on. It’s not a good insulator however and can be quite cold underfoot.

Easy to clean and maintain. A regular sweeping, or vacuum, combined with a wipe of a damp mop is good enough to keep it clean.

It is a bit hard to fall on to. It smooth surface can be slippery, especially when it gets wet. There are however non-slip floor treatments you can apply over the linoleum floors to add traction to it and make it less slippery. It is recommended that you add this layer of protection if you plan on using linoleum flooring.

Linoleum flooring comes in a variety of colors, patterns, and design, but they normally go out of style faster than the lifespan of the floor.

It can be used for any space or room inside your house, except for extremely wet areas such as in bathrooms or in basements.

3. Carpet Flooring

PROS

  • Very soft, and offers a nice cushion when you fall.
  • Non-slip.
  • Good thermal insulation, gives comfort underfoot during winter.
  • Quiet to walk on.

CONS

  • Not water-resistant.
  • Can easily get stains.
  • Traps dirt and dust particles. It can become a problem for people with allergies.
  • Not easy to clean. It needs constant vacuuming.
  • Carpets with long piles can be a tripping hazard.
  • Wheelchairs doesn’t roll easily on the surface.

Carpets are one of the most comfortable flooring you can use for the elderly, but it also comes with its own disadvantages.

Carpets and very soft, and offers a nice cushion to fall onto if you accidentally trip yourself. It is also non-slip because of its pile and texture. It can also give some comfort underfoot, especially during winter. Its temperature remains neutral, it doesn’t retain heat or cold like most hard flooring.

It is a good sound absorber as well. It is quiet to walk on, and reduces noise created by dropped objects and furniture movement.

Because of its texture, wheelchair doesn’t roll easily on its surface. And although it’s easy to walk on it, carpets with long piles can become a tripping hazard for the elderly. For carpets that will be used for the elderly, its piles should not be more than 1/2 inch thick to avoid tripping accidents.

Almost all carpets are not water and stain resistant. It will quickly absorb and develop an unsightly stain if you accidentally spill water or any liquid on it.

It can also be hard to clean and maintain. It traps dirt and dust particles easily, which can be problematic for people that has severe allergies. Regular vacuuming is necessary to avoid accumulation of dust on the carpet.

It can be installed to any space or room, but not in wet areas like the bathrooms or the basements. It is also a good flooring to use for your stairs as it can help reduce impact of falling. For the stairs, use 1/2 inch pile height or less to prevent tripping accidents.

4. Luxury Vinyl Flooring

PROS

  • Very easy to clean and maintain.
  • Water-proof and stain proof.
  • Hard-wearing and will last long.
  • Easy and safe to walk on, with or without a cane or walker.
  • Wheelchairs roll on it easily.
  • Some styles have beautiful simulation of wood look.
  • Affordable.
  • Non-slip.

CONS

  • Offers little cushion when you fall.
  • Can let water through to the subfloor if standing water is left unattended for a long time.

Luxury vinyl flooring is a type of vinyl flooring with very similar characteristics to linoleum flooring. The main difference is that vinyl flooring is basically plastic while linoleum is all-natural.

Luxury vinyl flooring is a higher-end product type of vinyl floors. And if you’re looking into getting vinyl flooring for the senior citizens, look for luxury vinyl flooring types. Avoid the cheap, and basic vinyl floors as they are not as durable and will post problems for you in the future.

Luxury vinyl floors comes in tiles and planks. Plank types, or most commonly known as luxury vinyl planks (LVP), are the most chosen type. Most LVPs offer beautiful and realistic looking hardwood textures. It is a good alternative for hardwood floors if you want the kind of style and look.

Since luxury vinyl floors are made of plastic, it’s virtually water-proof and stain-proof. It’s very easy to clean and maintain. Even if it’s water-proof though, don’t let water puddle for too long on its surface as water may get through the seams onto the subfloor where it can do some damage.

Most luxury vinyl floors are non-slip, even when they get wet, but always check yourself before you go out and buy. Not all are the same.

It has a smooth and flat surface suitable for walking, with or without a cane or walker, and for wheelchairs to easily roll on. If you’re planning to use this type of flooring for wheelchairs, I recommend you read this article – Is Vinyl Flooring Good For Wheelchairs? Although most wheelchairs will work well with vinyl floors, there are other things you also need to consider.

It is one of the most affordable flooring types you could buy, and with a hard-wearing surface, it is also durable enough to last long.

It is hard, and you could injure yourself if you fall on it. You have the option though to add a layer of felt or cork underneath it to make it softer and add some cushion.

You can use luxury vinyl flooring for any room inside your house including bathrooms and basements. Since it’s waterproof, it will not get damaged even if it gets submerged in water.

5. Rubber Flooring

PROS

  • Offers good cushion when you fall.
  • Slip-resistant.
  • Resilient and durable. It can withstand any physical impact on it.
  • Water-proof and stain-proof.
  • Easy to walk on or roll with a wheelchair.

CONS

  • Can be pricey.
  • Offers very limited style, colors, and design options.

Rubber flooring is normally used in gyms as it has a very good impact absorption and slip resistant properties. It offers a very good cushion if an elderly falls on it accidentally. It gives a very good grip even when it gets wet.

It is very resilient and durable and can withstand any physical abuse and impact subjected to it. Very resistant to damage from furniture, equipment, or any abrasive shoewear, it can last a long time.

It is also waterproof and stain-proof, and is very easy to clean and maintain.

It can be laid over any hard surface such as concrete, and you can virtually install them yourself.

It is available in rolls and sheets, and snap-together tiles. The look and feel though may not be as cozy or homey as other floor types as it offers very limited styles, colors, and textures.

Rubber flooring can be used virtually in any room, including wet rooms such as in bathrooms or in basements. But then the style and look will always be an issue as rubber floors are not as versatile design style wise.

6. Non-slip Porcelain flooring

PROS

  • Non-slip. Look for products with ADA compliance certifications.
  • Water-proof and stain-proof.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Offers a variety of styles, colors, and textures.

CONS

  • Hard and cold to the touch.
  • Only recommended for bathrooms for elderly safety.

Non-slip porcelain flooring is a type of ceramic floor made of a mixture of clay minerals and water. The main difference of it from basic ceramic tiles is that it is made denser, harder, and more impermeable to water. It basically is a better version of a ceramic tile.

Porcelain flooring comes in tiles and planks. It is available in many styles, colors, and textures which can be used for any design style you wish.

It is water-proof and stain-proof, and is very easy to clean and maintain.

The material is very durable and can resist any impact from dropped objects.

It is recommended to use this for bathrooms only as it is hard and cold to the touch, and elders can injure themselves badly if they accidentally fall on it.

There are porcelain tiles that are made specifically non-slip and are rated with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant certification. These are the type of porcelain tiles you should be getting for your bathrooms as they are made safer and specifically non-skid, even in wet areas. When you go and buy porcelain, look for an ADA compliant certification on the product.

Angelo

He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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