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7 Germiest Places in Seniors' Homes, According to New Study

The areas harboring the most bacteria may surprise you. 

Germs are lingering in every room in your house. However, a new study has found that older people tend to harbor a shocking amount of bacteria in their homes – even on their nightstands. "The most staggering revelation from our recent study is the shocking prevalence of bacteria within senior living spaces. We found the average senior's home harbors 24,000 times more bacteria than a standard toilet seat," James Campigotto, part of the creative team at Carewell who conducted the research, tells Best Life. As part of the study, the company gathered bacteria samples, using three swabs for every surface. To determine the overall bacterial load, they calculated the average number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per swab for each surface type. Here are the 7 germiest places in senior's homes, according to Carewell. 

Shower Handles

Person Fixing Shower Pipes

According to the study, shower handles host 32.5 million CFUs, tying them for first place in terms of the dirtiest surfaces. To put it in perspective, this is 22 times more bacteria than a pet bowl.

Bathroom Sinks

Looking into a bathroom at the vanity, which has a wallpapered wall, round white mirror, and sconce above it.

Bathroom sinks tied for first place, also harboring 32.5 million CFUs. 

House Phones


House phones – yes, landlines – are apparently one of the germiest items in senior homes. They have an average of 5.1 million CFUs.

Kitchen Counter

Granite countertop in kitchen

Kitchen counters also tend to by germy in the homes of older people with 4.1 million CFUs. They have over 7 times the bacteria of a coffee maker reservoir.

Bedside Tables

blue and white porcelain lamp
Shutterstock/Pakpoom Phummee

A surprising germ-infested surface in the homes of seniors is their bedside tables with 280,000 CFUS. "Specific areas within these homes, such as the bedside table, were discovered to contain over 500 times the bacteria typically found on a toilet seat," says James Campigotto.

Light Switches

Close up of a person's hand on a light switch that matches the green color of the walls
boonchoke / Shutterstock

Light switches, which frequently get touched by fingers, harbor an average of 54,000 CFUs. 

Incrreased Awareness

A smiling senior woman wearing a cozy sweater and holding a cup of tea on her couch.
Viktoriia Hnatiuk / Shutterstock

Carewell hopes their research will raise increased awareness and resources to support caregivers in ensuring healthier living environments for our aging population. "We also learned that the most challenging aspects of caring for an older adult are cleaning after vomiting or incontinence, assisting with toilet hygiene needs and coping with the toll it takes on caregivers to take care of someone with a degenerative condition or cognitive decline," they say. "Knowing this, loved ones should be more vigilant about caregivers' needs to help prevent burnout so they are able to give their patients exactly what they need. It's crucial to initiate conversations and actions that address these hygiene disparities and advocate for better practices to safeguard the well-being of our seniors."

Aging comes with certain difficulties; unfortunately, keeping up with home and hygiene is one of them. In this study, Carewell swabbed and tested surfaces in the homes of seniors to uncover some alarming discoveries. Over 230 caregivers were also surveyed to gain insights into how they fight off germs in the homes of those they care for.

Key Findings (Here's a link to the full report):

  • "Seniors' homes have 24,000x more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
  • Shower handles and bathroom sinks (32.5 million CFUs) are the dirtiest surfaces, which have 22x more bacteria than a pet bowl.
  • Bedside tables have over 500x the bacteria of a toilet seat.
  • Kitchen counters (4.1 million CFUs) have over 7x the bacteria of a coffee maker reservoir."
Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more