Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone
For many families, the first step into senior care involves making modifications to the current home to adapt it to the needs and limitations of the seniors who live there. Remember when you kid-proofed your house? The thinking is similar, “What needs to be done to limit risk without limiting independence?”
The driving force behind most of the ideas for adapting a house to suit the needs and limitations of a senior resident is preventing falls. Throw rugs, exposed cords, and any obstacle that encourages a climb. A tub, a staircase, a small step are all common hazards that send more Americans to the Emergency Room than you can imagine.
Further, buildings and houses are typically designed with able-bodied people in mind. The older the structure, the less likely it is to provide safe senior living options for people aging at home. They ‘don’t make ‘em like they used to’ because they used to make them without concern for maneuvering a walker or a wheelchair around the house.
From doorways and foyers to the kitchen and bedroom, and everything in between, being mindful of comfort, access, and safety is important.
“Senior-proofing” a house
As with kid-proofing a home, there are endless modifications large and small that foster a senior’s independence while at the same time mitigating the risk presented by.
Entrance: Answering the door can be challenging for people living with disabilities or who are simply less mobile than in the past. A video doorbell paired with a smartphone app allows people to see who is at the door and communicate with them from inside the house, and even be admitted if they are an expected, welcome guest.
Foyer: A sturdy bench or chair to sit on when putting on or removing boots or shoes can offer an option that is both convenient and safe. Make it a multi-use piece of furniture, such as a bench with a seat that lifts to reveal mitten and slipper storage.
Kitchen: Drawer-style cabinets on the lower half of the room are easier to see and reach into. There are also refrigerators that come in a drawer designed for increased usability at the right height (even for those in a wheelchair).
Lighting: A well-lit living space is important for many reasons. If you don’t like the look of ceiling lights or if they aren’t practical, you can still secure dangerous cords from table and floor lamps along baseboards. For aging hands, turning lights on and off can be a challenge. Touch-control or pull-chain lamps are much easier than tiny switches, and you can purchase devices that turn on lamps and other small electric appliances like fans with a clap of the hands.
Stairs: Keeping the stairs safe for aging residents requires a slip-resistant surface. This can be done with rubber stair treads or a low-pile, tight-weave carpet with a thin pad. A staircase can be tricky for those who are vision impaired, but painting or carpeting stair risers in a different color can help.
Bathroom: One of the best safety tips for seniors living alone relates to safe bathrooms. When installing a shower, consider a wide, doorless, no-step entry. These barrier-free showers can have grab bars installed, benches for seated showering, and shelving for products accessible from a seated or standing position.
Electric panel: For an older adult aging at home, the need to reset a circuit may arise when no one else is around. Be sure that the panel is easily accessible, preferably on the main floor or in the garage, and that each switch is labeled clearly in large, dark type.
Garage or utility closet: Secure tools, brooms, mops, rakes, and other items to a rack or hanger instead of leaning them into a corner or against a wall where they can slip down and create a tripping hazard. Install easy to open storage drawers, making it easy to keep clutter at bay.
Outdoors: Solar-charged pathway lights automatically illuminate a walkway to guide residents to the front door after dark. Electric lights work well, too, and can be motion-sensitive or set up with automatic timers.
AARP has put together a pretty comprehensive guide to home modifications that includes these and many more.
The AARP Home Modification Checklist Overview
The guide emphasizes the importance of being proactive—not waiting until modifications are needed but including future planning in any renovation or overhaul of your space. With specific guidance for making every space in the home fit your needs now and in the future, the AARP Home Fit Guide is a useful resource for everyone.
When planning for the future, use the resources at your disposal, whether it is the AARP home modification checklist or the resources that fill the rolodex of a local senior advisor. For guidance, advice, and support as you consider options for an aging parent, contact Oasis Senior Advisors for a free consultation. Use our online form or call 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901.