Home Safety Improvements for Aging In Place

by Lee Doppelt
Safety Improvements for Your Home photo
Some simple, affordable home safety improvements can help you age in place, or at least stay in your home as long as possible. Use these tips and peruse each room of your home for safety hazards.
You’re comfortably living in the home you love, the place where you raised your family, and you’d like to stay there. You see older friends downsizing and moving to smaller places. But, you believe that there may be some simple and affordable home improvements to accommodate aging safely in your current home.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one quarter of all American adults over sixty-five years old fall each year leading to hip fractures and head injuries as well as other problems. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the elderly. And many of these falls occur at home.

What are some proactive tasks you can do to increase your odds of being safe in your own home as you age?

Your home’s smallest room can cause the biggest safety hazards.

You may spend less time in the bathroom than in any other room in the house, yet the risk for falling in the bathroom is notable. Grab bars in the tub and shower area are a must and are cheaper than you may expect, ranging in price from $25 to $30, depending on length and style. Install them yourself or call in a handyman. Proper installation is important.

A hand-held shower hose makes sitting showers safe than standing ones; buy one for $20 to $40, and in minutes, it can be installed to your existing shower head and ready to use. For under $50, you can purchase a tub chair or bench at most home improvement centers or the local pharmacy. A removable bath tub safety rail can be added for under $35. Any discount store sells inexpensive bathmats to increase safety when standing in the tub or shower.

A raised toilet seat can be helpful as you age. If you are in the market for a new toilet, for about $500 for labor and materials including the toilet, get the new water-saving taller commode models. Or, if your current toilet is fine, for less than $50 depending on what extra features you desire, you can buy a raised toilet seat to put atop your current seat.

So, adding all those safety features should cost you a few couple hundred dollars. But your modifications for a safer bathroom will be in vain, if you have a throw rug in the bathroom. This little “magic carpet” could easily give you a ride right to the hospital emergency room from a dangerous bathroom slip. Get rid of this and any other throw rugs in the house!

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Lights, heights, and clutter need to be considered when making your home safer.

Are lights in your entranceways, stairways, and rooms bright enough to see what you’re doing? Simply using brighter bulbs, some night lights, or more lamps may be adequate. If not, consult an electrician to install some additional overhead lights in strategic locations. And speaking of electricians, if your house is overrun with extension cords, which are both causes for falls as well as fire hazards, you may consider having some additional outlets added. This job can easily and inexpensively be done; hourly rates for electricians vary depending on where you live and who you hire.

A major cause for falls in the kitchen is from reaching for items on high shelves in cupboards. The solution is obvious. Reorganize your cabinets to store things you use the most on the lower shelves. And make sure the phone on the kitchen (and in other rooms) is in easy reach.

Are your washer and dryer located in the basement? Is the stairway to the basement well lit? Does it have railings on both sides of the stairs? Could the washer and dryer be moved to a more accessible stop on the main floors? There are all things to consider when attempting to create a fall-proof home.

Declutter your home. You may not be a pack rat, but like many people, you may set items on the stairs to take up or down on your next trip. Stop doing that. It would be too easy to fall as a result.

Pay attention to floor surfaces and footwear.

If you have wood floors, be sure that they are mopped with a cleaner that does not leave them slippery. Additionally, be careful wearing bedroom slippers. Typically the soles of these are inferior in terms of safety from falls. Perhaps they are called “slippers” for a good reason!

Peruse each room, hallway, stairway, and entrance area of your home including the basement and garage and create a “to-do” list of things that will add to the safety of your home. Simple and affordable modifications to your current home can allow you to stay in your family homestead for many years.

Reviewed January 2021

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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