Ensuring Home Safety for Seniors

Discover essential tips and modifications to create a safe environment for senior loved ones at home. Learn how to prioritize their safety.

Aging in Place
October 3, 2023
Ensuring Home Safety for Seniors

With more and more Americans opting to age at home, and a growing percentage of older adults making up the U.S. population, home safety for seniors is a booming market.1,2 There’s been a continuous development of technological tools and gadgets designed to keep seniors safe and connect them to outside services.

The amount of choice you have when it comes to preparing for elderly parents moving in or updating your parents’ home with these types of products can make it hard to gauge exactly what you require versus overspending on bells and whistles. 

So, let’s start with the basics to ensure home safety for seniors. 

The Importance of Taking Home Safety Measures for Elderly Adults

We can’t drape family members in bubble wrap or prize physical safety above every other measure of quality of life. While it’s near the top of the list, creating a safe environment is about minimizing risks rather than providing absolute guarantees. 

One of the ways to best understand this is by looking at the statistics on falls—in particular, preventable falls. In the senior population3

  • 60% of falls occur inside the home
  • Most falls occur in the living room and bedroom—only 13% in the bathroom
  • Falling once doubles your chances of a repeat incident

Of the CDC’s top seven fall hazards for seniors, six are health-related. But one factor—home hazards—can be entirely eliminated with proper aging-in-place and fall prevention modifications.4

Another way to ensure safety is by updating your home to include elements similar to an assisted living facility. Consider: 

  • Universal design that allows for wheelchair use throughout the property
  • Methods such as call buttons or a medical alert system to summon help
  • Fast access to emergency services
  • Installing grab bars and railings to reduce fall risk 
  • Family caregiver involvement, such as medication management

Identifying Common Safety Hazards

Most home safety measures for elderly are fairly common across homes of all sizes, styles, and locations. Some of these may not be issues in a ground-up smart-home or universal design-build, but otherwise, look out for: 

  • Non-level surfaces, such as stairs, steps, and room thresholds
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Arrangements that require reaching too high or low to complete a task or retrieve items
  • Medication delays, misses, and overdoses
  • Fire hazards related to forgetfulness or lack of sensation
  • Illness related to inadequate food safety attention

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Home Modifications for Senior Safety

The structure, fittings, and objects around you—plus how you navigate and use them—are all variable. For this reason, some home modification changes cost much more than others. Like any renovation, there really isn’t a ceiling on how much you could spend. 

To give you a better idea of the cost of caring for elderly parents, Americans spend an average of $9,500 to outfit a home for aging in place. However, you can accomplish a lot with some of the low- and no-cost home safety tips discussed below.5

Behavior Modifications

Not every home modification for aging has to be a high-ticket item. There are many low-cost modifications you can consider, but let’s start with simply encouraging changes to senior practices and habits that will boost home safety. These can include:

  • Communicating about what causes discomfort, anxiety, or pain around the house
  • Wearing supportive shoes, fitted slippers, or appliqued socks with nonslip soles
  • Avoiding wearing long sleeves or loose clothing while cooking
  • Using prescribed or recommended mobility devices consistently
  • Learning device controls and keeping instructions for use nearby as a reminder
  • Asking for and accepting help

Single-Level Living

If you’re starting with a split-entry home, stairs are definitely your first structural challenge. A top priority for home safety for seniors is eliminating the need to climb stairs or encounter steps, both inside and outside of the house. This can be done with: 

  • A switch to ground-floor-only living
  • Ramps
  • Chair lifts to install along staircases
  • Elevators

If you’re not ready to commit to “flat-earth living” in your home yet, then consider: 

  • Adding banisters to both sides of any staircases 
  • Installing support bars or posts to help with rail-less steps
  • Minimizing staircase use by moving key rooms, furnishings, or practices


Take a practice run through the house using a walker or wheelchair to help identify walkway issues. You may need to: 

  • Rearrange and remove some furniture, especially ottomans 
  • Remove decorative objects and clutter on floor and table surfaces
  • Ensure coats, boots, and hats have a safe place to be stored away
  • Widen doorways or hallways
  • Install a roll-in shower space or bathtub cutout
  • Widen outside walkways


Starting from the ground up, evaluate all under-foot surfaces. You want to eliminate slick and slippery areas, anything that can move or catch on a shuffling foot, and uneven transitions between rooms or flooring types. Fixes may include: 

  • Applying an anti-slip coating to tile or laminate flooring
  • Adding nonslip decals, mats, or resurfacing to tub and shower floors
  • Removing or taping down area rugs
  • Removing door sills and ensuring seamless room and flooring transitions

Supporting Movement

The simplest movements and transitions become more challenging over time. Even if they’re not current problem areas, consider the following elements as you would a staircase handrail in your twenties—you don’t always use or need it, but it’s critical to have in place for when you do:

  • Shower and bathtub support rails and grab bars
  • Comfort-height toilets and toilet handrails
  • Lift chairs with electronics to help a sitter rise to standing
  • Bed risers and rails, plus a firm mattress
  • Designated, convenient spots to place canes and other mobility devices 

Supporting Access

Just as hobbies like embroidery or woodworking may fall prey to arthritic hands and waning strength, navigating a home can pose challenges related to grasping, fine motor movement, and grip or weight-supporting muscles. 

Modifications that can help with accessibility despite these challenges include: 

  • Installing levers instead of doorknobs
  • Adding automatic flush feature to toilets
  • Replacing drawer and cabinet knobs with large handles
  • Providing under-counter and handheld jar, can, and bottle openers
  • Keeping frequent-use kitchen appliances on countertop slider trays
  • Lowering and installing pull-down kitchen cabinets
  • Increasing countertop heights used for standing tasks
  • Installing shallow sinks
  • Ensuring space for shower chairs and adding handheld showerheads

Boosting Visibility

When it comes to older vision, clarity and brightness can both suffer over time, so adequate lighting is essential. You can help reduce falls and frustration with: 

  • Additional light installations, both overhead and task
  • Brighter lightbulbs
  • Large-print clocks, appliances, and calendars
  • Light-sensing nightlights in bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways
  • Voice- or movement-activated lighting
  • High-contrast design to highlight changes in surfaces, levels, or objects

Avoiding Burns and Fire

Heat- and fire-related hazards are important to watch out for regardless of the age of a home’s occupants, but they’re particularly critical if memory or sensation issues are involved. Consider6

  • Limiting water heater temperature to 120° to avoid scalding
  • Investing in smoke alarms that include strobe lights or bed/pillow shakers
  • Installing a smooth, induction stovetop with light-up heating elements 
  • Installing motion-sensing stove shut-off devices
  • Purchasing an in-hood extinguisher to contain stovetop fires
  • Using high-heat limiting burner covers

Technology Solutions for Safety

Medical alert systems such as wearable devices have been around for decades, but today, there are more options than ever for utilizing smart devices and connecting technology to help older adults age at home safely. 

These include: 

  • Voice-activated virtual assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Nest
  • Wearable devices
  • Smarthome monitors that detect falls, breaking glass, etc., and send external alerts to emergency numbers
  • Smart appliances that monitor food safety and inventory
  • Apps and devices that provide medication monitoring and reminders
  • Audio and video systems that allow external monitoring and communication
  • Home security apps and devices that connect to family, caregivers, and 911

Engage Professional Help to Plan a Safer Home

It can be difficult to assess a familiar environment for safety—we all become used to the quirks, clutter, and workarounds we live with. Although you can certainly perform a room-by-room analysis with a checklist in hand, don’t hesitate to engage professionals if you need to. There are many options to make caring for aging parents easier, such as: 

  • Your Area Agencies on Aging7
  • A gerontologist for general advice and referrals for in-home evaluations
  • An occupational therapist with an Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) certification
  • Your county Veterans’ Benefits services if your loved one qualifies

Evaluate and Adjust

Not every modification is going to work for every home or person. Do your research, discuss, and work together to give new practices and devices a fair trial run. Add a note to the calendar to check in on how the latest change is working and decide whether more instructions, practice, or adaptations are needed. 

How a Sale-Leaseback Can Help 

Aging at home is a goal for many seniors, but it requires planning, changes to a home environment, and learning how to navigate these changes. Fortunately, Truehold can help.

Truehold's sale-leaseback combines a streamlined property sale with a lease and a guarantee that you can remain as long as you’d like as a renter in your home. And this can help in a few key ways. First, it frees up your home equity to help fund safety modifications, in-home assistance, and accessible retirement assets. 

Second, with Truehold as a partner, you’ll no longer be responsible for property insurance, or the cost and effort of essential maintenance and repairs. 

If you’re ready to find out more, visit us online or call (314) 353-9757. You’ll be contacted by a Truehold Advisor who can review the process and answer your questions to see if Truehold's Sale-Leaseback will benefit your financial picture and home safety goals.


1 AARP. Where We Live, Where We Age: Trends in Home and Community Preferences: 2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus. https://www.aarp.org/pri/topics/livable-communities/housing/2021-home-community-preferences/

2 Statistica. Share of old age population (65 years and older) in the total U.S. population from 1950 to 2050. https://www.statista.com/statistics/457822/share-of-old-age-population-in-the-total-us-population/

3 Lively. Falls in the elderly: statistics. https://www.lively.com/health-and-aging/elderly-falls-statistics/

4 CDC. Older Adult Fall Prevention: Facts About Falls. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html

5 Fixr. How much does it cost a remodel to adapt a home for aging in place? https://www.fixr.com/costs/aging-in-place-remodeling

6 PubMed National Library of Medicine. Still too hot: examination of water temperature and water heater characteristics 24 years after manufacturers adopt voluntary temperature setting. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23514986/

7 Eldercare Locator. The Aging Network. https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/About/Aging_Network/Index.aspx

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