Our homes meet some of our most important needs. They provide comfort, security, privacy and an opportunity for each of us to craft a space with our own signature and feel. But as we age, many of our needs change and our homes need to change with us, for the sake of our health, safety and well-being.
Our strength, balance, vision, hearing, sense of smell and cognitive functioning often decline. As a result, we become especially vulnerable to accidents and injuries in our own homes.
A few simple and affordable home modifications can help ensure a safer, accident-free and fall-free home.
Use the checklist below as you walk through your home. Make a check mark next to the modifications that already exist and work on filling out the balance of the list.
Download printable checklist here.
___ Well lit sink and counter tops.
___ Gas stoves and ovens, have pilots and an automatic cut-off in the event of flame failure.
___ No curtains near the stove.
___ Properly cleaned oven exhaust hood filters.
___ The kitchen exhaust system discharges outside, not the attic
___ Accessible kitchen cabinets, consider adjustable pull down shelving.
___ Light switches are easy to use rocker switches and are placed near the door frames.
___ Stove and oven controls are easy to use and have pop-in feature to prevent accidental use.
___ Stove and oven controls are placed away from stove-top flame.
___ Automatic stove shut-off's are installed if forgetfulness is an issue
___ A single-lever faucet is used in the kitchen sink.
___ Floor is slip proof, even in the event of spills.
___ Counter tops and flooring uses a non-glare surface.
___ Oven mitts and pan holders are kept near the stove and oven.
___ Unplug kitchen appliances such as toaster and blender, when not in use.
___ Knives are kept in a butcher block.
___ Commonly used items are kept within easy reach, avoiding need for stools and/or tiptoes
___ A stool or stepladder is available if needed, instead of using a chair.
Stairway & Hall
___ Stairway steps are level
___ Loose steps are repaired.
___ Steps have non-skid strips. Avoid carpeting if possible.
___ Hallways have motion sensored or automatic night lights.
___ Handrails are installed on both sides of the stairway.
___ Stairways and hallways are well lit.
___ Light switches are located at the top and bottom of stairways and beginning and end of hallways.
___ Step edges are clearly visible, use luminescent tape if helpful.
___ Stairways and hallways are clear of tripping hazards.
___ Doors swing away from stair steps.
___ Electrical cords are placed along walls or under furniture, and do not present a tripping hazard.
___ Chairs are sturdy and in good condition.
___ Chairs and sofas are easy to sit down on and get out of.
___ Furniture is spaced to allow for easy walking, with no obstacles.
___ Furniture does not tilt, which can cause falls if leaned upon.
___ Shelving and cabinets are secure and will not fall over if leaned upon.
___ Living room is well lit, with light switch by entrance way.
___ Non-skid flooring, mat or strips in the bathtub or shower.
___ Use glass or plexi-glass shower doors, not shower curtains. Adds support in case of loss of balance.
___ Grab bars are installed on the walls inside and by the entrance to the bathtub or the shower.
___ Grab bars are installed by the toilet.
___ Consider elevated toilet sit.
___ Consider toilet-bidets. Increases hygiene and shown to significantly reduce UTI's.
___ Install fold-down seat in shower.
___ Install no-step or curbless shower.
___ Towel bars double as grab bars, in the event they are mistakenly leaned upon for balance.
___ A single-lever faucet is used, or motion sensored faucets are installed.
___ Bathroom flooring is non-skid.
___ Bathroom has even lighting without glare. The light switch is near the door.
___ The outlets are ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) that protect against electric shock.
___ Flashlight is kept on night table.
___ Motion sensored night-light or voice activate smart lighting.
___ Walking path around your bed is wide and uncluttered.
___ Dressers, cabinets and shelving are secure and will not fall when leaned upon.
___ Carpeting is low pile or berber or other non-slip flooring.
___ Bedroom is on first floor, if possible.
___ Walkways are level, with no cracks or tripping hazards.
___ Steps are secure, and easy to see.
___ Handrails are on both sides of steps.
___ Chair or stool next to front door, where bags or purse can be placed.
___ Doorways, door lock, steps, porches, and walkways are well lit.
___ No trees,shrubs or obstructions for burglars to conceal themselves behind.
___ Yard is well maintained. Less likely to attract burglars.
___ Garage is well ventilated.
___ List of emergency contacts and phone numbers next to each telephone.
___ Telephones in each room, reachable in case of an emergency. Or wear a medical alert for seniors.
___ Easy to use door handles and locks, especially in the event of a smoke or fire.
___ Lever door handles with end-return, instead of knobs.
___ Level or no door thresholds.
___ Casement or awning windows, with crank
___ Hot water tank is set to a maximum 110°F to prevent scalding.
___ Area, scatter and oriental rugs are secured to the floor and the edges are not curling up.
___ All electrical equipment bears the Underwriters laboratories (UL) label.
___ Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are installed to prevent electrical overload shock.
___ Electrical wiring is up to code (call utility or electrician).
___ Extension cords and outlets are not overloaded.
___ Electrical cords are not hanging, in walking paths or underneath carpets.
___ Smoke alarms are installed and batteries changed annually.
___ Carbon dioxide detectors are installed in bedrooms and living areas.
___ Space heaters placed 3 feet away from other objects like furniture, drapes or curtains.
___ Fire extinguisher by the kitchen and any other wood stoves or fireplaces.
You need to feel secure in your own home. Seniors are especially vulnerable to violations of their security, because they often have strangers entering their homes, like caregivers, nurses, deliverymen, and tradespeople. Make sure to have a simple deadbolt lock on all your entrance ways. Install a peephole so you can see who's at your door before opening it. You may want to add a video doorbell, so strangers know they're on camera. Lastly, consider installing an alarm system and a "nanny-cam" inside your home to deter visitors from theft, abuse or neglect.
Home Modifications & Financing
We recommend you consider a contractor who specializes in home modifications for seniors that has a CERTIFIED GRADUATE BUILDER designation. You may also want to consider hiring a CERTIFIED AGING IN PLACE SPECIALIST. You can find professionals with the designation in your area through the National Home Builders Association website.
There are a few resources you can look into to help you fund your project: