Maintaining independence is important to all adults, but as people age, living alone can become dangerous. In this guide, we cover everything from fall prevention and home security to avoiding phone and email scams and more so older adults can lead safer, healthier lives.
Medical Alert Devices
The big picture for senior home safety begins with medical alert devices. These life-saving wearables keep seniors in constant communication with emergency response services as well as loved ones. If a senior falls, has a heart attack, or senses something is wrong, they can push a button to call for help. Take a look at other top senior safety devices to equip yourself or family members with the best technology out there.
Older people might have in-home caretakers, maintenance staff, or other hired help who come and go. That’s where indoor cameras come in handy. Indoor cameras keep a watchful eye on the home to protect against theft, abuse, and other crimes. If you’re interested in an indoor camera, read more about top brands and styles.
Home Security Systems
Home security systems protect people from break-ins, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, and more. Home automation technology also allows the children of aging parents to keep an eye on them from afar. Explore the top home security systems to see how this technology keeps people safe.
Room-by-Room Guide to a Safer Home
The garage is a great place to store just about anything from tools and yard equipment to your car and outdoor toys. But it can also be a dangerous place as it provides criminals with easy access to your home and is full of sharp objects and harmful chemicals.
Garage Door Locks
Garage doors are easy access points for thieves. In fact, a burglar can break into a home through a garage in just a few minutes. Keep intruders out with these preventative tips or shop for a better garage door to enhance security.
Car Security Devices
Criminals often target older adults. Protect yourself or seniors you know with steering wheel locks and car alarms to deter thieves, and follow these tips about car safety to safeguard cars when they’re parked in public places.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Carbon monoxide is deadly; it has no scent or color and accumulates when you burn coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. If you leave a car running in the garage without ventilation, you can die, but a carbon monoxide alarm will warn you before it’s too late.
Driving Safety Tips
Driving is an important part of independence, but driving ability is a vital conversation to have with your senior family members as they age. Senior driving safety expert Tyler Waugh from Rear View Safety explains, “Everyone ages differently, so while there is no definitive cutoff as to when a person should stop driving, studies show that older adults are more likely to get into accidents than younger drivers. While fatal crashes increase sharply around age seventy, this is due to increased susceptibility to injuries among older drivers. Physical, cognitive, and visual abilities decline as we age. While health issues don’t automatically mean that driving should be stopped, it is an important factor in determining when it is time to find another mode of transportation.”
Since everyone ages at different rates, here are some tips to determine if seniors you know should stop driving. This is a sensitive topic that you should approach with compassion. To learn how to have this important talk, read advice from experts.
The laundry room is one of the most commonly used rooms in the house. And it’s also one of the rooms with the highest potential danger because it contains harmful chemicals. Be sure to clean your laundry room periodically and ensure that everything’s working properly.
Gas dryers have gas hookups, which can cause leaks and explosions if they aren’t properly connected. Several times throughout the year, check the lines to ensure they’re properly sealed.
In 2010, the National Fire Protection Association reported that washers and dryers caused more than 16,000 fires and almost $240 million in property damage.1 Of those fires, 92% were caused by dryers.2 That’s because when people forget to clean dryer lint out of the trap and exhaust pipes, it heats up and ignites. Seniors should clean lint from their dryers once a month or ask a friend or family member to do it for them.
The basement is one of the most versatile spaces in your home. It can be used for storage, extended living space, or as a recreational family room. Basements can get cluttered and become unsafe, so add these items to combat this hazard.
Stairs may become a challenge later in life depending on a senior’s mobility level. If getting around becomes a problem, consider installing a stair lift. While expensive, these systems prevent falls and injuries and can help seniors stay in their homes longer.
Storage shelving is a great way to stay organized, but don’t go over the weight limit or you could cause an avalanche. Also, don’t ever climb on shelving to reach something, because this could cause a collapse or fall and lead to serious injury.
Seniors are more vulnerable to scams and identity theft than any other age group. The Financial Fraud Research Center reports that fraud costs people $40–50 billion each year.3 And according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, Americans who are more than sixty-five-years-old are most likely to be victims and incur financial loss.4
This is why home computers, phones, and mail are areas of concern for older adults—that’s how criminals take advantage of them. Take a look at the top ten scams seniors face or read our primer below so you can equip yourself with knowledge and educate your loved ones.
Seniors are all too often victims of phishing scams. Jake Schroeder, cybersecurity expert at Medical Guardian, explains, “Many of our senior loved ones didn’t have the benefit of growing up with computers and may not be fully aware of the dangers present in the online world. When you receive a suspicious email or pop-up, it’s always best to stop and take a minute to consider the content. Malicious hackers can take control of your computer when you simply click on a malicious link or open an attachment, so if you receive a suspicious email that you weren’t expecting, it’s best to just delete it.”
Installing malware-fighting software on all home computers also prevents viruses and decreases chances of being hacked.
The government never requests Social Security numbers, banking information, or credit card numbers through the mail. Seniors who receive mail asking for money or any of this information should throw it in the trash. Also, sign up for the National Do Not Mail List to declutter your mailbox and avoid getting junk mail.
It’s alarming when someone calls you claiming you owe them money. It’s also enticing to believe someone who says you won a free trip. Criminals know this and prey on the elderly as easy targets. Those eighty-five and older are at most risk, especially since around 20% have cognitive impairments of some kind.5
Seniors should learn the warning signs of fraudulent calls. Hang up if you feel uncomfortable or get a loved one involved if you’re unsure of the validity of a caller. Get caller ID to screen calls from unknown numbers and sign up with the National Do Not Call Registry to prevent telemarketers from calling in the first place.
The hallway is a critical space because it connects each room in your home, giving you easy access to different rooms. Adding railings to hallways helps older adults move around more quickly, and installing detectors can keep family members safe from environmental danger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 2.8 million adults over age sixty-five are admitted to the hospital for fall-related injuries every year.6 Once a senior falls, they’re more likely to do it again, so install rails in hallways to avoid broken bones or worse.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Install one on every floor in your home—including the basement and garage. If you need help finding the best carbon monoxide detectors, read our guide.
Research conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and National Fire Incident Reporting System revealed that people sixty-five and older are 2.5 times more likely to die in a fire than any other age group, and people over eighty-five are four times more likely than other demographics to die in fires.7 Since over 3,000 people died in structure fires in 20148—and about 60% of them don’t have working smoke alarms9—it’s vital for seniors to install smoke detectors.
Smoke detectors work most efficiently when placed in every hallway, outside each bedroom door, and on all floors in the home. There are dozens of models to choose from, but SafeWise researched the top smoke detectors to help our community find the best options.
Average Americans spend one-third of their day sleeping, so it’s important to keep the place where we do that—the bedroom—a safe environment.
Fire Escape Ladders
According to the US Census Bureau, mobility issues are the most common disability among people over age sixty-five. In fact, about ten million older people in the US struggle with mobility issues.10 Seniors who have a difficult time getting around should consider buying a fire escape ladder or permanent fire escape staircase. Making a fire escape plan also helps prepare for events like these and raise the odds for seniors to escape a fire safely.
Seniors can fall when getting in and out of bed. Instead of running the risk of fall-related injuries, install a bed rail for added stability and safety.
Seniors are easy targets for burglars. A home security system keeps burglars out in the first place, but a home safe prevents criminals from taking valuables if they do get into the house.
The bathroom is the most dangerous place in the home when it comes to falls, so follow the tips below to make this room safer for seniors.
Day-of-the-week pill containers benefit those who take medicine every day—especially seniors. Apps also help remind seniors to take their medication on time and let contacts check in on them virtually to make sure they’re maintaining their health.
According to the CDC, more than 230,000 people visited emergency rooms in 2008 due to injuries that happened in bathrooms—and 14% were admitted for prolonged hospital stays11The CDC also reports that bathroom injury risk increases with age12—and such injuries can cause broken hips, head trauma, and even death. Lay bathmats on bathroom floors to give more traction and prevent slipping.
Accessible Tubs and Showers
Outfitting tubs and showers with handrails and seats makes them safer and easier for older people to bathe. This equipment comes in a variety of designs to help seniors with all levels of mobility. Browse senior shower accessories like benches and stools to make the bathroom a safer place.
The kitchen is hazardous to people of all ages because of hot surfaces, sharp objects, and heavy appliances. Here are some ways to ensure senior safety in the kitchen.
About 50% of all house fires start in the kitchen, based on research by the National Fire Protection Association.13 Stop a small fire before it becomes a huge blaze by keeping a fire extinguisher on hand. Read about fire extinguishers in our buyers guide so you can bring the best one home.
Unless you’re really tall, you probably can’t reach every shelf in your kitchen. Prevent falls in the kitchen with these senior-specific step stools.
Once the inside of your home is optimized for senior safety, incorporate these outdoor tips for a seriously secure home and lifestyle.
Seniors with cognitive impairment may become lost and disoriented. GPS wearable devices made for older adults are the best way to prevent this from happening. If a senior is lost, you can log into the app to locate them and send help.
Home security cameras detect danger before it makes its way inside. Stop a home invasion by installing a home security camera outside your home or on the home of someone you care for.
Wheelchair ramps add accessibility to your home and are a safe way for people with disabilities to get around. Find information about wheelchair ramps for your home.
Smart doorbells are a perfect complement to smart locks because they let you see who’s at the door before you open it. Browse smart doorbells if you’re interested in this added security.
Smart locks operate through apps and can alert the homeowner and contacts if a door is left open—making them ideal for seniors. Shop smart locks to keep track of guests, monitor when people come and go, and prevent break-ins.