Additional Home Safety & Resources
A number of items should be considered when remodeling a home. For best results, families should focus proposed modifications on the functional problems of the person living in the home. If eyesight is failing, look for home changes that help vision. If arthritis impairs mobility, focus on modifications that support safe movement.
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- Adapt the lower floor of the home for possible one-level living.
- Arrange or remove furniture to allow for clear, wide passageways.
- Place electrical and phone cords out of the way and along the wall.
- Arrange for the shower to have a low threshold for easier entry/exit.
- Add grab bars at the back and sides of the shower, tub and toilet.
- Be sure the shower and bathtub contain permanent or removable seating; bath benches can help with balance or transfer problems.
- Allow for turnaround and transfer space for a walker or wheelchair (36 inches x 36 inches).
- Convert to comfort-height toilets that are 2 to 3 inches higher than traditional models.
- Use anchored, decorative grab bars as towel bars.
- Add a nonskid mat or nonslip strips in the shower and/or bathtub.
- Choose out-swing, in-swing or pocket doors depending on mobility and access issues.
- Reinforce bathroom walls with blocking (i.e., a wood stud or other solid surface) so grab bars can be installed throughout the room.
- Be sure floor rugs are rubber-backed or secured with double-sided rug tape or rubber carpet mesh.
- Outfit the shower with a handheld or adjustable showerhead.
- Place bathroom cabinets and shelves within easy reach.
- Place the bed in a way that allows easy access to the bathroom.
- Secure large area rugs to the floor with double-sided tape or nonslip mats.
Closets and Cabinets
- Store medications, food, clothing and all frequently used items within easy reach; try to avoid using a stool or ladder to retrieve items.
- Use adjustable rods and shelves in closets and cabinets; consider pullout or pull-down shelves and automatic-close drawers.
- Be sure at least one entry is without steps
- Support walker/wheelchair access with doorways that are 36 inches wide with offset door hinges.
- Use door handles instead of knobs.
- Test to be sure patio doors and screens easily lock.
- Keep exterior pathways free of holes, loose bricks, uneven pavement, leaves or other tripping/ slipping hazards.
- Clear entrances of clutter.
- Be sure doorway thresholds are designed to be non-trip.
- Secure handrails on both sides of all entrance/exit steps.
- Illuminate all exterior pathways, porches and doorways with exterior lighting.
- Add sensors to outdoor light fixtures to automatically turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn and/or turn on when motion is detected.
- Place a bench near the entrance door for placing packages on while locking/unlocking the door and for sitting on when tired.
- Plan for contrast colors between floors and walls.
- Use only nonskid, matte-finish flooring.
- Polish floors with non-glare and non-slippery wax.
- Ensure low-pile carpeting is recessed and set level with the surrounding hard flooring.
- Use textured flooring materials to increase traction; carpeting should be low-pile or low-nap for easier walking or rolling over.
- Secure area rugs with a nonslip mat underneath or recess them to be level with surrounding materials.
- Avoid tiles or natural materials like marble that are slippery, especially when wet.
- Reduce noise with wood and cork flooring.
- Equip kitchen cabinets with pullout shelves and a Lazy Susan.
- Add easy-to-grasp cabinet knobs or pulls.
- Make appliances easier to reach; consider a raised dishwasher, a wall oven, refrigerator drawers, and washer and dryer pedestals.
- Replace kitchen cabinets with easier-access drawers and pullout shelves.
- Ensure a seated workspace in the kitchen (use a table, install a pullout work surface or remove lower cabinet doors and shelves).
- Use a step stool with nonslip surfaces and a firm grip handle.
- Increase incandescent general and specific-task lighting.
- Be sure there are adequate light levels throughout day and night hours.
- Place automatic, light-sensor night lights in the kitchen, bath and other rooms.
- LED lights provide excellent illumination without overtaxing the wiring circuits and are easily dimmable.
- Add additional lighting to staircases and in hallways, either by plugging automatic lightsensor night lights into wall outlets or installing overhead fixtures or wall sconces.
- Use touch-control lamps and devices that automatically turn lights on and off at set times.
- Replace traditional toggle light switches with easier-to-use rocker panel switches.
- Install light switches that glow in the dark.
- Add lighting to closets.
- Use full-spectrum bulbs that simulate daylight.
- Use halogen bulbs to reduce glare.
- Open window shades, blinds and curtains for natural light during the day.
Seating and Chairs
- Be sure seating is at least 18 inches off the floor.
- Assist with the ease of getting up by using only chairs with sturdy armrests, and ensuring the chair/sofa arms extend to the front of the seat.
Stairs and Steps
- Use nonslip adhesive strips on stairs.
- Be sure safe and secure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and placed at a user-appropriate height and properly secured to the walls.
- Ensure that stairway lights can be turned on and off at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Ensure exterior stair treads are in good condition and that there are no weak or missing steps, loose bricks, raised nailheads, open backs, etc.
- See that carpeted steps have a nonslip surface such as adhesive strips.
- Clear all stairs of clutter.
- Choose tightly woven, low-pile carpet with thin padding for steps; be sure patterned carpet is not too busy to affect vision.
Several resources are available for people interested in learning more about aging in place. As aging parents and other relatives grow older, it can be helpful to take the guesswork out of planning for a safe home environment.
- American Society on Aging
- Alliance for Aging Research
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- National Aging in Place Council
Other Guides by Right at Home
These free guides are designed to help keep seniors independent and aging in place.