Safety Tips for Seniors

With growing older comes a multitude of new complexities that can mean more risks for the elderly and more work for those who care for them. More resources in securing care for the elderly have become available throughout the years as seniors continue to account for a larger percentage of the US population.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, 25 percent of the U.S. population will be 60 and over by the year 2040. Perhaps because of this statistic, a growing number of services and technologies have enabled seniors to live independently. Although more services have become available, it’s important that all people, both young and old, know about basic home safety for seniors.

Outside of the Home

  • Ensure that handrails are present and stabilized along all staircases leading up to entrances. Loose handrails should be repaired immediately after any uncovered malfunctions.
  • A professional plowing service or person taking care of the elderly should keep driveways, walkways, and porches clear of ice and snow.
  • Ensure that there is enough light around the house at night. Of course, lights should be kept within community/local government law.

In the Kitchen

  • Floors should be kept as clean as possible at all times.
  • Make sure that all electrical cords are securely tacked down or covered. Don’t let any cords dangle off of counters or anywhere else.
  • Secure any flammable and/or poisonous chemicals in a safe location. Seniors who suffer from various forms of dementia may misuse such chemicals.
  • Caregivers should check the contents of the refrigerator and food cabinet to ensure the freshness of various foods.
  • Consider the necessity of a garbage disposal. If an elderly person has a history of forgetfulness, it might be best to disable disposal all together.
  • Non-slip socks or heavy-traction shoes should be worn in the kitchen at all times to minimize the risk of falling.
  • A fire extinguisher should be in the kitchen area. Make sure that seniors know how to operate the extinguisher.
  • Medications taken in the kitchen should be done so with plenty of light in an effort to avoid any mishaps. The same rules apply anywhere an elder individual happens to take their medication.

General Interior

  • Ensure that floors throughout the home are flat, free of loose boards, and are slip-resistant.
  • Readily available light switches are within reach in all hallways and rooms.
  • If there aren’t light switches at both the top and bottom of a staircase, you’ll want to consider getting both installed.
  • Light bulb wattage throughout the home should not exceed 60 watts. Although higher in price, energy-efficient bulbs will last longer.
  • Consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where dampness occurs (e.g., bathroom, garage, basement). GFCI outlets will shut off a circuit when a current is flowing through an inadvertent path. Due to their enhanced safety, more local governments are making GFCIs a required feature in new homes.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a must. Consider looking into home automation technology that monitors one’s home against risks such as fire, carbon monoxide and burglary.
  • All smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be regularly tested as per the manufacturer guidelines.
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Do not light any fires until this has been done. Unclean chimneys may be clogged, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. Creosote, a highly flammable byproduct, can also build up overtime.
  • If you have family over with smaller kids, make sure that you’re keeping any harmful chemicals,matches, lighters, and prescription bottles out of reach.

In the Bathroom

  • It is generally recommended that water heaters should be set to no hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent burns.
  • As with appliances throughout the whole home, hairdryers, electric shavers, and all other electrical appliances should be unplugged when not in use.
  • Install handles for the shower/bathtub.
  • Make sure that all floor mats are non-skid, especially if there is one for stepping into/out of the shower.
  • If an senior has a hard time standing for a prolonged period, consider installing a “transfer” seat or bench in the bathroom.
  • Have at least one nightlight installed.

Personal Safety

  • If you are able to, consider a daily walk or other light cardiovascular exercise to maintain healthy blood pressure and other bodily functions. Many studies have shown that regular exercise, even light-effort, can also boost cognitive function by maintaining healthy nerve connections.
  • A security whistle or bracelet can come in handy at times when you feel unsafe or need help. Monitored medical alert systems are available, and will alert your local authorities whenever an emergency situation has arisen.
  • If you are unsure of how to operate machinery or any device, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a neighbor, family member or friend.
  • Provide your latest contact information to your surrounding neighbors, and make sure that you have at least three emergency contacts readily on hand in the event of a critical situation.
  • Keep a readily viewable calendar on your refrigerator that reminds you of which prescriptions to take on each day.

Growing older may come with more challenges, but luckily, there are still plenty of ways to maintain independence. It’s never too late to take control of your life, and fortunately, there are plenty of ways for seniors to maintain the life they want to live, safely.

While this list of items might sound overwhelming, it’s important to just think of it as creating the kind of environment you would want to have any of your loved ones living in. As long as there are no obstacles to your safety, and you can stick to a routine for your health, you’ll have reason to feel good about where and how you live.

Additional Resources for Senior Safety