According to a recent AARP housing survey, 83% of older Americans want
to stay in their current homes for the rest of their lives. They find
their homes comfortable and convenient and feel secure and independent
However, as people age, the design of their homes plays an increasingly
important role in how they manage their daily activities. Homes that were
perfectly convenient at age 55 can cause problems in later years, as diminishing
physical abilities make daily routines more difficult without some design
Take a good look at your home
Simple alterations can prevent one-third of all home accidents. These
changes not only increase your safety, but enhance your comfort and increase
the likelihood of your remaining independent in your home and community.
So it is important to look at your home with a critical eye. Use the
checklist that follows to identify problem areas in every part of your
house. On a separate sheet of paper, not any ideas you have for improvement
(see sample below). Look at the list of modifications on the inside panel
of this brochure for additional ideas.
Room / area of the house
Ideas for improvement
Are faucets easy to use?
Replace with lever handles
Then make a list of your daily activities and what you like to do most.
Your home should not be a roadblock to your goals. Review your checklist,
compare it with your goals, and draw up a plan for modifying your home
that will make your everyday living easier, safer, and more fulfilling.
Look at your home as if for the first time...
Answer the following questions for each room / area of the house. Write
down any problems you find and your ideas for improvement.
Are windows / doors easy to open / close?
Are locks sturdy / easy to operate?
Are doors wide enough for a walker / wheelchair?
Are door thresholds raised too high?
Is there space to maneuver while opening / closing doors?
Does the front door have a view panel?
If so, is it at a proper height for you?
Is the surface safe? Non-slip?
Are there scatter rugs or door mats that may be dangerous?
If so, are they obvious or marked in some way?
Steps / stairways / walkways
Are they in good repair? smooth / safe surfaces?
Are there hand rails on both sides of stairway?
Is there grasping space for both knuckles and fingers on railings?
Are the stair treads deep enough for your whole foot?
Are there any hazardous open risers on stairs?
Would a ramp be feasible in any of these areas if it became necessary?
Appliances / kitchen / bath
Is arrangement convenient and safe?
Can oven / refrigerator be opened easily?
Are stove controls easy to use?
Are they clearly marked?
Is counter height / depth good for you?
Can you sit while working?
Are door cabinet knobs easy to use?
Are faucets easy to use?
Do you have convenience items such as a garbage disposal?
A trash compactor?
A hand-held shower head?
Can you get in and out of tub / shower with ease?
Do you have bath / shower seat?
Are there grab bars where needed?
Is hot water heater regulated to prevent scalding / burning?
Is storage located conveniently
Is storage adequate and usable?
Can you easily reach closet items?
Have you maximized your storage space with innovative products?
Electrical outlets / switches / alarms
Are outlets / switches easy to turn on / off?
Are outlets properly grounded to prevent electrical shock?
Are extension cords in good condition?
Are they needed?
Do you have smoke detectors in all necessary areas?
Do you have an alarm system?
Is the telephone readily available for emergencies?
Is the telephone equipped for hearing enhancement if necessary?
Can you hear the doorbell in every part of the house?
Lighting / ventilation
Is lighting sufficient for purpose of area?
Is lighting bright enough for safety?
Do you have night lights where needed?
Is area well-ventilated?
Driveway / garage
Is parking space available?
Is it convenient to entrance way?
Does garage door have an automatic opener?
FYI: Ideas for improvement that can enhance your comfort, safety,
Lever door handles and faucet handles that operate easily with a
Adjustable closet rods
A night light in bedroom
No scatter rugs
Handrails on both sides of staircases and outside steps
Brighter staircase lighting
Large rocker light switches that turn on /off with a push
Electric outlets 27 inches above floor
Peephole or view panel in front door
Walk-in shower with grab bars and portable or adjustable shower
Hand-held adjustable shower head
Non-skid surface for bath tub and shower floor
Grab bars by the toilet and tub
Tilting or full length mirror in bathroom
Bathroom telephone that is reachable if you should fall
Adjustable countertops or lower counter for work space in kitchen
Rounded kitchen counter tops
Sliding shelves in cupboards, lazy susan in corner cabinet
First floor bedroom and bath allow living entirely on one level
Home Safety For Seniors
Consider a medical alert or a buddy system.
Keep a fire extinguisher and smoke detector on every
Use extreme caution when smoking. Never smoke when
alone or in bed.
Always get up slowly after sitting or lying down.
Take your time, and make sure you have your balance.
Wear proper fitting shoes with low heels.
Use a correctly measured walking aid.
Remove scatter rugs. Tack down all others.
Remove electrical or telephone cords from traffic
Avoid using slippery wax on floors.
Wipe up spills promptly.
Avoid standing on ladders or chairs.
Have sturdy rails for all stairs inside and outside
Use only non-glare 100 watt bulbs (or greater wattage).
Make sure that all stair cases have good lighting
with switches at top and bottom.
Staircase steps should have a non-slip surface.
Leave a light on in your bathroom at night.
Use recommended bath aids, securely installed
on the walls of the bath/shower stall and on the sides of the
Skid-proof the tub and make sure the bath mat
has a non-slip bottom.
To avoid scalds, turn water heater to 120 degrees
Fahrenheit or below.
Mark cold and hot faucets clearly.
Use door locks that can be opened from both sides.
If possible, bathe when help is available.
Keep floors clean and uncluttered.
Illuminate work areas.
Mark "on" and "off' positions on appliances clearly
and with bright color.
Store sharp knives in a rack.
Use a kettle with an automatic shut off.
Store heavier objects at waist level. " Store
hazardous items separate from food.
Avoid wearing long, lose clothing when cooking
over the stove.
Review your medicines frequently with your doctor
or pharmacist and when you take new medication.
Make sure your medicines are clearly labeled.
Read medicine labels in good light to ensure you
have the right medicine and always take the correct dose.
Dispose of any old or used medicines.
Never borrow prescription drugs from others.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you
mix alcohol and your drugs.
Have medication dispensed in a bubble pack or
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before mixing
non-prescription drugs and prescription drugs.
A Checklist for Preventing Falls in Your Home Put a check by each item as you modify your house for
Use carpet with short dense pile.
Apply double-sided carpet tape to rugs that can
Arrange furniture so you can walk easily around
Make sure electrical and extension cords are not
in your walking path.
Make sure you can turn on lights without having
to walk through dark areas. Use nightlights, especially in the
Keep exits and hallways clear.
Use stable chairs with armrests to help you getup.
Provide bright, evenly distributed light.
Use window shades that reduce glare.
Make sure you can easily reach a light switch
when you come into a room, and install nightlights.
Have more than one phone in the house.
Put handrails on both sides on the steps.
Make sure steps are even.
Use non-skid contrasting tape, rubber stair treads,
or coated skid resistant surface treatment on non-carpeted stairs.
Apply tape to dry, clean surfaces at one-inch intervals. Use three
long strips of tape on each step.
Check carpeting to make sure it is firmly attached
Make repairs to worn or loose carpet promptly.
Select a carpet pattern that doesn't hide the
edge of steps, making you think steps have ended when they haven't.
Don't place throw or scatter rugs at the top or
bottom of stairways. All rugs should be secured firmly to the
Use good lighting (at least60 watt bulbs) in the
stairway. Install on/off switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
Never leave books, purses, packages, or other
objects on stairs.
Watch out for a single step. People often trip
when there is only one step.
Be especially careful when you:
-- can't reach the handrails, or they're placed too low;
-- can't grasp the railings;
-- see obstacles on steps, non-uniform steps, or inadequately
-- see wax, poor surface maintenance, camouflaged tread surfaces,
thick or poorly secured covering mats; or
-- see distractions around you.
Avoid hurrying or not paying attention when you
are on the stairs.
Be especially careful when you carry large loads
or wear shoes that are easy to slip in.
Use sturdy stepstools - preferably with handrails.
Throw out any stepstools that have broken parts.
Clean spills immediately to avoid slipping.
Use rubber bathmats or strips in bathtubs and
Install at least two grab bars in the bath.
Clean up water from the floor.
Use raised toilet seats and/or handrails, securely
fastened, if you are at all unsteady.
Install handrails along any flight of outdoor
Spread sand on icy walkways.
When using a ladder, follow these rules:
-- Keep the base of the ladder firm, all
ladder feet on level ground, and the ladder angled against
the wall properly.
-- Face the ladder when climbing, and
hold on to ladder rungs firmly. If reaching, keep your
hips and body weight centered between the rails.
-- Keep a stepladder fully open, and
make sure both spreaders are firmly locked.
-- Never climb
a closed stepladder; it may
slip out from under you.
-- Don't stand
or sit on a stepladder's top
or pail shelf.
climb on the back side of
a singled-sided stepladder.
It is not designed to carry
a person's weight.
-- Use a
ladder that is the right length
for the task you are doing.
climb beyond the second step
from the top of a stepladder,
and the fourth rung from the
top of an extension ladder.
or slippery surfaces in garages
immediately, before walking
on them -- especially oil
or grease on cement floors.
Preventing falls in the home is important. Reduce the risks through our checklist, and enjoy a safer home longer!
Other available materials:
The Do Able Renewable Home
The Perfect Fit
For a free copy, write to: AARP Fulfillment
601 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20049
A project of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification, in affiliation with the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, funded by the Archstone Foundation. Located at the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center, Los Angeles, California 90089-0191 (213) 740-1364.