Tips for maintaining a healthy home for seniors

(NC) As we age, our immune systems become less effective at fighting disease, which can increase our risk of developing health complications. Older people are more likely to develop heart or respiratory illnesses and are more susceptible to the potential health impacts from a variety of exposures in our day-to-day lives.

The following simple steps can help you stay healthy as you age:

• During hot summer months, keep your home cool and stay hydrated. It can be dangerous if it gets too hot inside your home, especially if you have existing medical conditions such as heart or kidney problems, breathing difficulties or hypertension. Drink plenty of cool liquids before you start to feel thirsty, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Arrange for visits by family members or friends during very hot days, in case you need assistance.

• Improve air quality in your home by having your home tested for radon, a radioactive gas that is produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It enters homes through cracks and gaps in floors, walls, windows and doors and is in every home in Canada at varying levels. Indoor exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada after smoking.

• Allow fresh air into the house regularly unless it is very hot or smoggy outside, in which case using air conditioning is recommended.

• Remember to always use exhaust fans when cooking and showering to reduce the build-up of moisture and indoor air pollutants.

• Use household chemicals safely – read and follow all instructions, store chemicals properly when not in use, and dispose of household hazardous waste products safely.

Wash re-useable grocery bags frequently with hot, soapy water, especially if they have been used for raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood.

• Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Follow the manufacturer's suggestions for installation, testing, use and replacement. The most important place to install a detector is in the hallways, outside of sleeping areas.

Health Canada has produced a simple, easy-to-read Environmental Health Guide for Seniors at Home that can be ordered by calling 1-800-O-Canada or by visiting This guide is a useful resource on how to stay healthy at home.