Home Safety Tips For Elderly People Aging In Place

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: November 23, 2021
Last updated: March 30, 2023

Many seniors wish to live out their lives in their own homes rather than in care facilities. While this is feasible, it requires certain safety measures to be set in place to ensure they can live independently. We talked to the experts, and here are their top safety tips for making the home secure from potential hazards for the elderly and creating ease in their lives.

1. Widen Doors For Easier Accessibility

For people using any kind of mobility aid, narrow doorways are one of the hardest parts of a home to traverse. Therefore one of the simplest ways to make a home more accessible for a resident with mobility difficulties is to widen doorways throughout the building. As standard, internal doors are about 30 inches wide. For a wheelchair to easily pass through a doorway, it needs to be a minimum of 40 inches wide and ideally over 45 inches wide. 

Widening a doorway is not easy to DIY, and it typically costs $500-$800 per doorway for a professional to do it. Raised thresholds should also be flattened to make doors easier to pass through by people with mobility issues, and this can be done alongside widening the doorway.

Volodymyr Barabakh, Co-founder & Project Director Fortress Home

2. Purchase a Walk-In Bathtub

First, I'd recommend purchasing a walk-in bathtub. These units make good hygiene more accessible and safe for the elderly. There are many shapes and sizes to accommodate nearly every bathroom. And, many plumbing companies will locate, pick up, and install the bathtubs for you, making it as easy as possible. 

Secondly, I'd recommend installing a bidet. Bidets make for gentle yet effective cleaning of the skin and require very little effort. For some seniors, twisting and turning to reach with toilet paper is a painful challenge. With bidets, you often only need to dry the area.

Jake Romano, Project Manager John The Plumber

3. Remove Any Potential Threats

Falls are the primary cause of harm among the elderly. One of the most essential things to do to decrease fall risk and improve home safety for seniors is to make the home fall-safe. Make emergency contact easily accessible. 

As people age, their memory tends to reduce, making it hard for them to even recognize an emergency number; therefore, having it on speed dial or saving it in bold letters may make their work easier when an emergency arises. 

Make sure the restroom is secure. The bathroom is often the most dangerous place in a senior's house. Falls and scorching are common occurrences here. Ensure you address the following concerns to protect your loved one's safety:

  • Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
  • To avoid unintentional burns, keep the water heater's thermostat set no higher than 120°F.
  • To avoid sliding, use rubber mats in the bathtub.

Dr. Shauna Hatcher is an expert staff writer working for NWPH

4. Decrease the Risk of Falling

According to the CDC, more than one out four older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Sustaining a fall can result in bone fractures and subsequent surgery, as well as prolonged immobility post-surgery, which can lead to pneumonia. The first defense as a caregiver is to create a space that decreases the risk of falling. Below are ways caregivers can identify possible environmental barriers in the home:

  • Fix carpet edges and rugs to the floor
  • Remove all slippery rugs and mats
  • Position furniture three feet apart to allow easy passage of a walker or cane.
  • Encourage use of non-skid tread socks
  • Install grab bars near the shower and toilet
  • Consider durable medical equipment (i.e., shower chair or raised toilet seat)
  • Use night lights throughout the home to improve visibility
  • Invest in hardback chairs with armrests to assist in standing

Beyond environmental factors, there are also intrinsic influences that may contribute to one's fall risk. These are a few questions caregivers can reflect upon to see if physical therapy would be helpful to reduce their risk:

  • Does my loved one need balance training?
  • Would they benefit from strengthening to assist with mobility?
  • Have they been bedridden and require conditioning to improve their overall fitness?
  • Which medications could contribute to falling?

Dana Andreoli, Director External Communications & PR Athletico Physical Therapy

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5. Stair Lifts

Over half of our target customers have lived in their homes for more than 20 years, and 90% prefer to stay at home—a place where they feel comfortable and where they can thrive. Stairs present barriers that limit access and shrink living space, making the homeowners feel isolated. Installing a stairlift provides self-esteem, security, and peace of mind.

Walk-in Tubs/Showers: According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of falls in the home happen in the bathroom. One way to help prevent falls is to easily swap a traditional bathtub for a walk-in tub or low threshold shower. They not only provide freedom to individuals with limited mobility, but installations typically fit into the space that a traditional bathtub occupies.

6. Grab Bars

If someone is looking for a smaller change to their homes, grab bars can provide stability where consumers need them the most. And adding safety doesn’t mean sacrificing style—grab bars come in a variety of finishes and colors to customize to a space.

Amy Moneypenny, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Leaf Home; a leading provider of home solutions

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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