Aging in Place and the Importance of Clean Air

October 7, 2015

Image by © Caterina Bernardi/Corbis for

Did you know that breathing in air pollution can actually cause cognitive impairment and increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease? It’s true. According to a recent study by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center those living in close proximity to areas with bad air pollution are more likely to suffer strokes or brain-related problems. As you get older, it’s extremely important that the air quality in your home is as clean as possible, especially if you’re aging in place. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding  air quality in your home.

Using Humidifiers to Clean Air

Ways to Improve Air Quality

Air Purifiers Offer Clean Air

If you think the air quality in your room or entire home is sub-par, then investing in an air purifier can help you clean air that’s already inside your home. An air purifier is designed to remove harmful dust and debris from the air inside your home. There are several types of air purifiers, the first being ones that use a mechanical filter to sift out any debris or dust in the air. There are also those that use electrostatic methods to trap air particles, which then fall to the surfaces around them and can be easily dusted off, or vacuumed up from the floor.

Ultraviolet (UV) air purifiers are most commonly used in hospitals and are designed to eliminate harmful bacteria and other pathogens from the air. There are also ozone air purifiers, which don’t remove particulate from the air but do reduce odors. However, ozone purifiers have been found to inflame the respiratory system and negatively affect those with asthma, and so are not recommended for any health care situation.

Humidifiers For Those Aging in Place

Although they don’t necessarily offer a “clean air” solution, humidifiers can be a great benefit to those who spend a lot of time inside, especially if the air is dry in their home. Adding moisture to the air can help combat dry skin, respiratory problems, and even keep the furniture in your home from cracking during dryer months. It will also help you sleep better at night and makes the air feel warmer.

Like air purifiers, there are also several types of humidifiers that each have their own benefits. Both ultrasonic and impeller humidifiers release mist into the air, while steam vaporizers heat water electronically to create a warm mist which is then released into the air. There are also evaporative humidifiers, which use fans to evaporate water in the air. Humidifiers can be a great way to increase the air quality in your home, however they do require regular maintenance to avoid mold buildup and other harmful airborne bacteria. For a few tips on how to clean your humidifier go here.

Regular HVAC System Maintenance

Over time, dust and debris can build up in the vents and filters of your HVAC system, which can greatly reduce the air quality in your home. This will also make your HVAC system much less efficient. Performing seasonal maintenance on your heating and AC unit will help ensure that you’re breathing clean air all year round.

If you or your family member aging in place is particularly affected by the air quality in your home, it may be wise to consider investing in a ductless air system. Ductless air systems can improve indoor air quality because they regularly filter out dust, allergens, pollen, and other harmful airborne bacteria. They also require much less maintenance than traditional HVAC systems, so they’re perfect if you’ve got limited mobility or have chosen to age in place.

Importance of HVAC maintenance while aging in place

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Factors That Affect Clean Air

Ventilation of Indoor/Outdoor Air

Most indoor air systems use a combination of indoor and outdoor air, which is then circulated throughout the home. It’s important that you can control this ratio in your home, as too much outdoor air will have an impact on the clean air in your home. To make sure that your indoor air ventilation is suitable for your home, make sure that all of your door and window fixtures are properly sealed, and monitor the air flow with your HVAC system. Ensuring that your home is ventilated properly, by allowing an even mixture of indoor and outdoor air to be circulated throughout your home, is another reason why it’s important to perform regular maintenance on your AC unit.

Pollutants Cut Down on Clean Air

This seems like a rather obvious one, but keeping harmful cleaning solutions or chemicals close by can be detrimental to the health of those aging in place, especially people with respiratory conditions or asthma. It’s important that caretakers, or homeowners make sure that all these types of chemicals are stored in a secure place well away from any living spaces. It also might be prudent to invest in an electronic air monitoring system that will alert caregivers and residents of any harmful pollutants present in the air.

Reducing Harmful Mold

Although we touched on this a little bit when we talked about the importance of keeping your humidifier clean, mold can be extremely harmful to your health. Mold breeds in areas with excess moisture (kitchens, bathrooms, basements), so it’s important that you monitor problem areas in your home and call an expert at the first sign of mold. Having mold present in the air can cause harmful health problems, including various respiratory diseases, serious illness, and in some cases even allergic reactions. If you do find mold, cleaning the area with bleach can help prevent it from spreading, although it’s always best to call a professional for any serious mold problems.

Dust in the Air

If you’re a homeowner or caregiver, you’ve got to be diligent if you want to keep clean air in the home, and this means you’ve got to dust frequently. Dust is created by a variety of things, including hair, skin cells, animal dander, and it can settle on the surfaces in your home in no time at all. Keeping your senior’s living space free from dust buildup is extremely important, and so is limiting the things that lead to dust buildup in the home, such as pets or smoking. Obviously it’s impossible to completely get rid of dust, because our bodies create it on a daily basis, but being proactive and dusting/cleaning all surfaces throughout the home regularly will greatly increase the amount of clean air.

Having clean air in the home is one of the most important aspects of aging in place; it helps ensure you breathe comfortably, keeps you healthy, and can even cut down on energy costs. These are just a few suggestions, but if you’re looking for a more extensive list on indoor air contaminants and how to improve the quality of air in your home you can visit the Center for Disease Control’s website to learn more.

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