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Blogging in Place

Improving Air Quality for Older Adults Is Vital

Oct 16 2019

By Jess Walter

One of the main goals of aging in place, says Marilyn Rantz, a professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing, is “to restore people to their best possible health so they can remain independent.” If you are an older adult living at home, one thing you should prioritize, is your air quality. Indoor pollutants such as dust, pet dander and mold, can have serious health conditions (including respiratory problems). These toxins can interfere with your vitality, mental health and ability to live independently. 

Many Older Adults Have Untreated Asthma

Common signs of poor indoor air quality include fatigue, headaches, sneezing, wheezing and having difficulty breathing. If you have any of these symptoms at all, talk to your doctor to obtain a diagnosis and treatment. One study published by researchers at John Hopkins University found that two-thirds of older adults aged over 65 had either moderate or persistent asthma caused by elements within the home that affect air quality - these include dust mites, allergens from pets and mold. If you have any symptoms of asthma, said the researchers, "Skin tests need to be done so that seniors know what to avoid.” 

Mold Can Go Unnoticed

Mold spores are often easy to spot, especially when they are located in humid areas like the bathroom and basement. However, a need for inspection and testing for mold may be indicated if you have symptoms of exposure, despite not having noticed signs of mold. Toxic spores can hide in areas like the roof, HVAC system, foundation and pipes. It can also have many causes, including leaks, insufficient or broken HVACs, cracks and lack of ventilation. Often, simple changes will make a big difference. For instance, opening more windows (or having a small renovation involving the installation of more windows) will eliminate the conditions mold needs to thrive.

Clearing Up the Air Within

The EPA reports that indoor air pollution can be two to five times worse in the typical American home, than it is outside. They warn that those who are most vulnerable to the effects of indoor pollution are very young children, older adults, and those with cardiovascular or respiratory disease. There are many ways that you can reduce air pollution at home. From replacing pressed wood furniture (which can emit fumes) with solid wood pieces, to replacing bleach and other harsh cleaners with a powerful steam vacuum, you can convert your indoor environment into a much cleaner place. You should also check if your sofas and other soft furnishings contain flame retardants, which emit gases that can harm human respiratory health. Finally, use a HEPA filter to trap dust mites and other tiny particles that are invisible to the human eye, and ensure your HVAC system is functioning optimally.

If you are an older adult wishing to enjoy retirement at home, make yours a happy, healthy one by keeping your indoor ambience pure. Invest in a good hob, prohibit smoking indoors, and replace paraffin candles with natural soy ones if you love having the look that lit candles can bestow. Above all, if you have any symptoms such as tiredness, sneezing, an itchy throat or difficulty breathing, see your doctor, and consider professional mold inspection and testing.