Home safety is critical to a healthy and secure retirement. As you age, taking the proper steps to keep your home safe and accessible becomes imperative. These measures include installing home security systems and making modifications such as securing floors, adding rails to stairs and bathrooms and increasing lighting. Implementing these changes can help you age in place safely.
Why is Home Safety Important?
Home safety measures prevent all sorts of accidents and injuries while also keeping your home livable as you age.
There are many parts of the home that operate well when you’re younger but can pose safety and fall risks in retirement. According to the CDC, more than 32,000 seniors die from falls each year, with 3 million hospitalized due to fall-related injuries.
Taking the necessary safety steps to age-proof your home can help prevent many of the scenarios that lead to falls and injuries.
And an added advantage of taking home safety seriously is that it can make your current home a viable place to live for years to come.
Many older adults want to stay in their homes as long as possible or avoid moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility altogether. Being proactive and making the necessary home safety changes can help to make that happen.
Should You Implement Home Security?
When looking for ways to make their home safer, seniors should consider implementing a home security system.
These systems offer a wide variety of services and can help to keep you much safer from a robbery or any other form of home invasion.
Some basic security systems simply set off an alarm to scare burglars away if they open an entry point while the system is armed. More complex systems detect break-ins on all of your doors and windows and can be wired to contact the police if the alarm goes off.
If you’re interested in a home security system, research which type may make the most sense for your home and which fits best into the budget you want to set for home security. Some companies require multi-year contracts to install a system.
Some systems also include a camera set up around the outside of your house that you can access and monitor at any time.
How Can You Make Bedrooms Safer?
There are several easy steps that you can take to make your bedroom safer. As far as home modifications go, it’s actually one of the easiest rooms to safety-proof.
A huge but simple part of making your bedroom safer is to ensure that you have easily accessible lighting. You shouldn’t have to get out of bed and navigate a dark room for a switch to get light. It’s important to have a light source like a lamp that you can easily reach from your bed.
You should also install a nightlight, preferably somewhere along the path from your bed to the bathroom. Getting up and moving around in the dark is something we take for granted when we’re younger, but can be a serious fall risk when you’re older. You can prevent a lot of that risk by making sure you can see where you’re going.
To prevent falls, remove any fall hazards from your bedroom. Keep nothing unsecured on the floor and remove area rugs from anywhere near your bed. You don’t want to slip and fall when getting in or out of bed.
You can also shop for a new bed frame if your current setup is too low to the ground or too high off of the floor. Finding one that is easier to get into can make a big difference for mobility.
How Can You Make Bathrooms Safer?
The bathroom is a critical part of the home to take safety measures as it is the place in the home where most falls occur. Between showers, sinks and toilets, there are plenty of slippery areas that might lead to an injury or fall.
Some of your most extensive home safety changes may take place in the bathroom.
- Install a higher toilet
- Add grab bars near the toilet and shower
- Add non-slip pads to the shower or tub
- Get a shower chair or handheld shower nozzle
One of your first steps may be to install a higher toilet, which is easier for most seniors with limited mobility to use. You can also install a grab bar near the toilet to help if you feel unstable or weak.
Another more serious modification is altering your shower to make it a walk-in. Having to step over a tub every day to bathe can be a serious safety hazard as you age. Even if you already have a walk-in shower, modifying it so that there is no ledge or drop-off can be helpful to prevent tripping.
Adding a shower chair and handheld nozzle to your setup will also make it easier to bathe yourself with less risk of injury. Adding non-slip mats to the floor of your shower or tub can be helpful as well.
Ensure that the handles on your sink are easy to use and don’t require painful or tough wrist movements; if not, installing a better option is an easy way to make your bathroom more suitable for your needs as you age.
How Can You Make the Kitchen Safer?
How you use your kitchen may change as you age. While you may be comfortable making use of many top shelves or cabinets now, doing so when you’re older becomes a safety hazard.
Store any kitchen equipment that you are regularly using in an easily accessible spot, preferably at the counter level. Standing on a stool or struggling to reach for an object might lead to a fall or injury.
Like other parts of the home, ensure your kitchen is well lit. You should be mindful when cooking as well — avoid potential fire hazards and invest in pots, pans and other tools that are easy to grasp.
Practicing regular kitchen safety remains important as well. Be sure to check whether you’ve accidentally left the oven or stove on and always actively monitor whatever you are cooking.
How Can You Make Stairs Safer?
Stairs are unsurprisingly a major risk for falls and injury, as they can become increasingly difficult for seniors to navigate. Even if your bedroom is upstairs and you currently have no issues using your stairs, you should strongly consider moving your sleeping area downstairs before the walk becomes more difficult.
The key to many of these home safety changes is to be proactive and not wait for a problem to develop. Moving your bedroom downstairs can prevent a lot of issues and struggles in the future.
Be sure to check that your stairs are firm and secure. Get rid of any loose carpet or flooring that could become a tripping hazard. Having strong and sturdy rails that you can grasp when taking the stairs is also important.
Depending on your mobility, consider installing a chair lift. It’s a fairly major modification and can be pricey, but it offers you effortless access to your upstairs area.
Making your stair area well lit is important as well. Having light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs means you never have to worry about taking them in darkness. According to the CDC, painting the floor at the top of the stairs in a contrasting color from the stairs themselves can further reduce injury risks by ensuring that you can easily see where the stairs end.
How Can You Make Floors Safer?
Floors are an important area to keep clear throughout the home. As you age, you’ll want to be sure that you are heavily limiting tripping hazards.
This can be as simple as not storing any objects on the floor or in places that you may accidentally trip over them, but includes some aesthetic modifications as well.
It’s likely time to say goodbye to area rugs. They look nice but can serve as a major source of falls for seniors. You want the entire floor of your house to be even and firm, free of anything that can slip out from underneath you.
Make sure that your carpet or floor is secured to the ground and that there are no lumps or loose patches. Non-skid mats or other options can also help to make your floors less hazardous.
Also, consider the type of floor you have. A sleek wood floor or another slippery surface may be expensive to replace, but can certainly cause safety concerns when you are older.
4 Cited Research Articles
- National Council on Aging. (2021, July 13). 6 Falls Prevention Steps to Help Your Older Loved Ones. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/article/6-falls-prevention-steps-to-help-your-older-loved-ones
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 16). Keep on Your Feet – Preventing Older Adult Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html
- National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Aging in Place: Tips on Making Home Safe and Accessible. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/aging-place-tips-making-home-safe-and-accessible
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Check for Safety. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/pubs/english/booklet_eng_desktop-a.pdf