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Home Safety for Seniors—What You Should Know

Keep your loved ones safe with help of these home safety tips for seniors. We detail ways to make a home safer and more secure.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/12/2024

Some people may enjoy the social benefits that come with a senior living facility—and these residences are designed with elderly residents in mind. Other seniors, however, may prefer to remain in their current home as long as possible, often referred to as “aging in place.”

If you know someone who wants to age in place, their home may need some adjustments to allow them to remain safely independent. In this article, we’ll cover some issues that pertain to safety for seniors and outline ways to increase the safety and security of their home.

Common Senior Safety Issues at Home

Decreased mobility and declining health often the inevitable effects of the aging process, and the factors listed below should be kept in mind when considering how to modify a home for yourself or a loved one.

Mobility and Accessibility

Perhaps no issue is more important than ensuring that elderly residents can access anything in the home that they’ll need. For example, a person with limited mobility may not be able to navigate stairs safely and could require ramps or lifts.

Imagine a few scenarios and questions such as those below. Thinking through the needs of daily life becomes very important when preparing a home.

  • What if your loved one drops their phone or another important object behind or beneath the couch?
  • Will necessary mobility equipment (walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) fit through doorways?
  • Can your loved one reach food, medicine, or other items on higher shelves?
  • Are important systems and appliances, such as the air conditioning and water heater, in good working condition?


Anyone of any age can trip and fall, yet falls can be life-or-death for some senior citizens. A study in The Journal of Trauma showed that a minor ground-level fall was three times more likely to result in death for adults aged 70 and over than for the general population. Additionally, chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, can make falls more dangerous for older adults and any injuries could take longer to heal or have lasting consequences.

While the majority of falls don’t result in serious injury, some senior citizens come to fear falling so much that they refuse to participate in activities they once enjoyed. This can be debilitating, and decrease both quality of life and exercise levels. So, it’s important to create a home environment that’s as safe as possible.

While you can never completely eliminate fall risks, doing as much as you can to reduce falls has both physical and mental benefits.

Natural Disasters and Fire Safety

Events such as natural disasters and fires—which could be catastrophic for anyone—can be particularly dangerous for seniors with limited mobility. They may not be able to escape a dangerous situation as quickly as others. It’s important to have all of the appropriate alarms and emergency plans in place prior to these events. Communication is also vital for those who don’t drive and may not be able to evacuate on their own.


Fortunately, Americans who are 65 and older are the least likely of all age groups to be the victims of either violent crimes or property crimes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Despite this fact, elderly adults may still worry about being unable to protect themselves and their homes from would-be criminals. Peace of mind is highly important to a senior’s quality of life, so making every effort to guard the home is worth the time and effort.

How To Make a Home Safe for Elderly Residents

The changes you need to make to a home or apartment will depend on your particular situation, but here are some general recommendations for improving a home’s safety for seniors. If you need help with any of these changes, AARP can help you find a local agency that will perform a safety evaluation on your home.

Remove Hazards

Before you start adding anything to the home, look around for items that may need to be removed or stabilized. For example, unsecured throw rugs, furniture in poor repair, extension or electric cords, and loose railings can all increase the chances of a fall.

Some items may need to be removed entirely, including clutter on the floors and stairs, as well as pet toys. If there’s a pet in the home, consider creating a specific and secure area for the animal, particularly at times when elderly residents may be moving around.

Additionally, you can put non-slip wax on wood or tile floors and non-skid treads on any uncarpeted stairs. Chairs or other furniture with wheels can usually be altered to remove the wheels. Replace throw rugs and regular bath mats with versions that have rubberized or adhesive backings.

All of these changes can go a long way toward minimizing slip-and-fall accidents.

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While there are some modifications you can make yourself, you may need help with others. For example, if elderly residents need walkers or wheelchairs to move around the house, you may need to widen doorways or add ramps.

Examine all of the thresholds and entryways into and within your home, including the front door. Consider whether they be safely crossed in a wheelchair or by someone who can’t lift their feet very high. If not, you may need to bring in a contractor to make some structural changes.

Install Safety and Accessibility Equipment

After removing obvious hazards, install or purchase equipment that makes it safe to use the rooms and appliances in the home.

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Bathroom safety is paramount, since wet tile and floors present a serious danger of slipping. Buy textured non-slip strips for bathtubs and showers and add grips or grab bars by showers and toilets for extra stability. Consider replacing a regular toilet with a model that has a high profile and a raised seat. For the shower, add a waterproof seat or chair and consider installing a removable handheld showerhead to reduce the risk of falls.

Likewise, you can make the rest of the house more accessible by replacing door knobs with lever handles that are easier to turn and pull. Install nightlights in key places, especially between bedrooms and bathrooms, and evaluate your home’s lighting system as a whole to see where you can improve visibility. Add lamps and replace light bulbs as necessary.

For more complex modifications, consider reaching out to a professional. Many companies make showers and bathtubs that allow users to open a door and step in rather than having to lift one’s feet over the edge of a tub. If light switches and electrical outlets are unreachable by those in wheelchairs, it is highly recommended to hire an electrician for some rewiring. If stairs are an unavoidable part of the house, install a motorized system called a stairlift that allows users to sit and ride between floors.

Invest In a Medical Alert System

For elderly adults living alone, a medical alert system is a must. There are basic models that involve pushing a button and smartphone-based systems for an easily accessible operation. What the different systems have in common is the ability to make contacting emergency services quick and easy no matter where your loved one is.

It is imperative the system’s user is comfortable with the technology. At a minimum, consider buying a wearable button that they can press to dial 911 and/or alert family members or neighbors.

Install a Home Security System

In recent years, many home security companies have begun to sell systems that you can install yourself. These systems range from simple alarms with professional monitoring to full smart home systems that link your lights and thermostat to your phone.


What the Professionals Suggest

“Making the appropriate accommodations and safety improvements are essential for helping seniors remain independent. These measures will help with physical limitations, however, seniors experiencing cognitive impairments may be safer in an assisted living community with daily support such as medication management and personal care.”

– Brenda West, Director of Operations for Elderwood Assisted Living

Emergency Hotlines for Senior Safety

In the event of an emergency, it’s important to have emergency contact information easily accessible to you and your loved ones. Here are a few hotlines you should have displayed within the home and listed in phone contacts:

  • Life-threatening emergencies: 911
  • Local police department
  • Local hospital
  • Family doctor
  • Poison control: 1-800-222-1222
  • State elder abuse hotline

Other Senior Safety Tips and Tricks

Safety for seniors isn’t just about modifying the home—it involves modifying some of your behavior as well. Here are some ways you can help keep safe as you or a loved one ages in place:

Regularly test smoke detectors and change their batteries twice a year (or as recommended).
Avoid wearing loose sleeves while cooking, which can be a fire hazard.
Don’t leave lit candles unattended, particularly while sleeping.
Wear non-slip footwear while inside.
Purchase portable assistive devices, such as grabbers and step stools.
Know exactly what you’ll do in case of an emergency. Conduct fire drills or other safety drills a few times per year.
Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy.
If possible, sleep on the ground floor of the home for an easy exit in case of an emergency.
Consider using services that offer daily check-ins on seniors such as Iamfine.

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We back up our home security recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. Our research includes analyzing product specifications, reviewing service and plan information, speaking with customer service representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score the provider against our review standards for system options, special features, installation options, connectivity and smart-home automation features, pricing, contract terms, warranty, usability, availability of a trial period, and trustworthiness to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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