In a 2010 AARP study, nearly three quarters of the people surveyed said they wanted to remain in their own homes as long as they can.

As we age we become more fragile and living in our homes become more challenging... and risky.  Health issues and side effects from medications increases the chance of injury.  Falling risks also increase, the leading cause of death for those over 65.

However, 48% of home accidents experienced by seniors are avoidable.

Adult children need to be aware that their senior family members (SFM) needs and abilities are ever changing.  And they can happen fast.  Keeping up with modifications could mean the difference of a SFM living in their own home or in a care facility. 

It's very important that adult children take at least one day a year to perform a thorough safety inspection of their SFM's home.  About two-thirds of adult children say their SFM has at least 1 safety hazard in their home.  However, about 70% of seniors say their homes need no modifications and are safe.  Father knows best?  See the problem here?

Only 18% of senior homes have safety modifications/fixes made by either the SFM or their children.

The most common safety hazards are:

1) Tripping hazards

2) Bathrooms without assisting equipment

3) Storage too high or too low

4) Poor lighting


Here's just a few thing things you can do to make your SFM's home safer:

Clear fire escape routes.  Have an escape plan.

Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they work.

Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Remove unused furniture and clutter.  Furniture that may be leaned on needs to be stable.  If not, remove it.

Clear paths in the home for movement, and once cleared, don't rearrange furniture.

Cushion sharp corners on furniture, walls and cabinets.

Remove throw rugs.

Repair loose carpet and tiles.

Use non-skid wax on floors.

Place colored tape or removable decals on glass doors and windows to mark them from accidentally walking in to them.

Increase wattage (only to manufacturers recommended maximum) on bulbs in bathrooms, bedrooms, stairwells, halls and outside.  No-glare bulbs (indirect light) are best.

Use automatic night lights in well traveled areas.

Install grab rails in bathrooms and tubs.

Convert faucets handles to lever-style ones.

Replace wall mounted shower heads with a hand held shower head and hose.

Use non-skid mats in and out of the tub/shower.

Use a toilet seat that is a different color than the toilet bowl.

Consider using monitors and intercoms inside and out.

Remove raised thresholds, fast closing doors.

Replace round door knobs with lever-style knobs.

Make sure electric and telephone cords are out of the way and secured.

Make chair seats 20" high.  Arm rests should be sturdy enough to support weight.

Have friends, neighbors and family clear snow, ice and leaves outside.

For wheel chair and walker use:

Consider automatic door openers.

Allow 18-24" clearance from the door on the landings.

A minimum of 32" is needed for wheelchairs to access doorways.  Widening a door can be done by removing trim or with offset/swing-clear hinges.

If access to a second floor is needed, install a chair stair elevator.


Most changes can be simple, inexpensive and done by the SFM or adult child.  Others may cost a bit more.  A licensed professional should be hired to perform major changes for safety and liability reasons.  There are government and non-profit groups that are available to help seniors with modifications.  Some are free or at a lower cost.  A lot of repairmen and contractors offer a senior discount.  Churches may also have people who can assist you.

See these links on obtaining government grants.


Here are some other helpful links, some of which added information to this blog.

Stay safe!


Tom Townsend, Broker, SRES

Denise Townsend Group

Keller Williams Sunset Corridor

1915 NW Amberglen Pkwy #250

Beaverton OR 97006