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How to Age-Proof a Home for an Elderly Relative

Senior Citizens Have Special Safety Needs that are Easily Addressed

© 2013 by Claire Bradshaw; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission,

A chairlift moves wheelchair users up or downstairs

Aging brings on many new challenges, and the greatest need for seniors is to be in an environment that makes safety a priority.

Many consider moving to an assisted living facility for this reason, but others prefer to remain in their own homes (also called aging in place, and make structural or organizational changes that help prevent accidents from happening.

Although some of these home adaptations can be quite expensive, many are reasonably priced, and others cost very little, especially when compared to the cost of assisted living.

Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act

If the senior has a disability such as being wheelchair-bound, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act must be considered.

As they put it, “On March 15, 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards will be required for new construction and alterations”.

The following are really good DIY ideas for age-proofing a relative’s home:

Inside the Home

Over half of the falls that seniors experience are in one of the rooms of their own home. This is an area that needs close examination in order to eliminate the risks posed by ordinary objects and habits.

The following suggestions make good sense and are actually safety features that would be helpful for people of all ages, but they are especially useful for seniors:

  • Any uncarpeted stairs and steps should have a strip of reflective, non-skid tape.

  • Small throw rugs should be removed or completely secured to the floor.

  • High-quality lighting should be installed to remove shadows in all areas, including closets. Night lights placed strategically around the home may also help.

  • Bathroom and bedroom switches should be illuminated, and all switches should be changed to the rocker type.

  • Safety handrails should be installed to assist the senior getting in and out of the shower and next to the toilet. Safety handrails running down any lengthy hallways and next to the bed are also a great idea because balance becomes an issue as people age.

  • Replace cabinet handles or pulls with new ones in the C or D shape for easy gripping.

  • Organize items that will be needed the most frequently on lower shelves in the kitchen and bathroom.

Outside the House

While most people focus on the inside of the house when age-proofing a home, seniors who are still mobile may need some adjustments made on the outside as well.

Close to a fourth of all fall injuries occur outside so the following tips may be helpful:

  • Repair any damages to sidewalks and porches, especially raised edges or holes that could cause a senior to stumble.

  • Put motion sensor lights around the home to make paths easy to see.

  • Install ramps to replace steps so that seniors do not have to worry about picking up their feet.

  • Install a special no-trip threshold on entry doorways.

  • Remove any shrubbery that blocks clear access and tree roots that could be stumbling factors.

Experts also suggest that seniors have a safety chain on the outer doorways and a peephole in each door at their eye level so that they can identify a visitor before opening the door.

If a worker has been hired to make these changes, it might also be a good idea to widen doorways within the home in case future health issues result in the need for a wheelchair or walker.

By closely inspecting a home to identify potential safety issues and then taking appropriate action to fix up the home to improve access and visibility, it’s possible to help elderly relatives to remain living in their own homes as they age.

About the Author:

Guest author Claire Bradshaw writes on behalf of, which provides advice on stairlift grants for elderly people wanting to improve access in their homes.

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