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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Security Systems and Tips Category

Improvement Project:

How to make a house safer for the elderly.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):


Making your house safe, especially for your elders, should be a very high priority on your list of things to do.  There are obvious and then the subtle dangers of any house setting that should be addressed out of concern for your elders' safety.

With the above in mind, here are just a few things that you should consider doing:

  • Bedside musts.  An elderly individual should at least have a telephone and lamp on a


    nightstand in easy reach in the event of a need to use either one; the phone should have big, easy-to-read dial numbers with a speed dial feature of all emergency numbers (police, fire, poison control, family physician, etc.); the lamp should easily be able to be turned on, either by the turning of a knob, the touch of a remote control, or a single clap of the hands. Lamp products like The Clapper are great products for this purpose.  You may also want to consider purchasing a portable device that your elderly loved one can have, which they can use with the push of a button on the device to send for help in the event of an emergency; a product like this is the Lifeline Medical Alert system.  If you or others live with an elderly loved one, you may find it convenient to install an house intercom system in the house, with each room bearing an intercom so that the elderly one can stay in almost constant communication without the hassle of having to always walk around to talk in person; a plug-in intercom may, in fact, be installed right next to the elderly person's bedside.

  • Burn prevention.  There are many steps you can take to prevent your elder from burning themselves. Help prevent an accidental burn by buying a stove with its controls on the very front as opposed to being on the top or very end/back of the stove.  Doing so will eliminate the need to reach for the controls over hot burners or heated pots and pans.  Seek businesses that sell a line of elder-considerate appliances, etc.

  • Cabinetry organization.  Try to keep all kitchen utensils, tools, foods, and other everyday items within your elder's easy reach, and not high above on enclosed cabinetry shelves.

  • Garage doors that are more sensitive.  The garage door that automatically opens and closes with the push of a button should also have the relatively new technology that senses any sort of obstruction in its path and immediately reverses its movement as a safety measure in the event of such a detected obstruction or otherwise object in the way.

  • Handrail addition.  Making sure that your stairway has two handrails as opposed to just one dramatically helps curbs the chances of your elder's losing their balance and subsequently falling, as getting up and down the stairway becomes much easier.  Be sure the additional handrail is of the appropriate length, and is correctly attached to sturdy framing at the appropriate height.

  • Hearing impaired devices.  You should consider purchasing and installing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that are specifically designed for the hearing impaired, as such devices alert the hearing impaired of either a fire or carbon monoxide through the flashing of strobe lights in addition to the sound of the usual alarm.  There are also phones that turn the lights off and on in a house to alert the hearing impaired of a telephone call.

  • Lights, and more of them.  The elderly often have a diminished sense of sight, so you should consider adding more light, and having each light fixture installed with a light bulb that has a higher watt output; make sure your electrical fixtures, of course, can handle increased light watt output, so check with your architect and local housing authority.  While you are at that, you should consider installing interior motion-sensing lights so that your elder can walk with ease, knowing that lights should turn on while just moving about.

  • Showers that support the elderly.  An ideal shower for the elderly is one that is designed with comfortable support in mind.  This means having a shower outfitted with grab bars securely attached to sturdy studs behind the finish paneling of the shower; a built-in seat made a part of the shower for additional support; and non-slippery floors in the shower, itself.  If you must, you can buy a shower chair and non-skid floor mats specially made for the shower separately.  A shower like this is truly a senior shower, and many companies specialize in the manufacturing of such showers.  In particular, seek safety tubs and walk-in tubs.

  • Staircases/stairways should be skid-proof.  To help prevent accidental falls on the stairway, buy and install non-skid adhesive stair strips on your stairway. 

  • Switch from gas to electric.  The elderly often have a diminished sense of smell, so their ability to detect a gas leak is not as good as those of who are younger.  In this sense, it may be wise to have the power utilities of your elderly loved one to all be switched to electricity as opposed to just gas or a mixture of gas and electricity.

  • Switches, outlets and doorknobs.  If your elderly loved one must move around at night, it may be wise to have certain things glow in the dark for the easy location of such, and this includes light switches, outlets and doorknobs.  You can search for glow-in-the-dark light switches, glow-in-the-dark doorknobs, and glow-in-the-dark outlets at home improvement centers and online.

  • Toilets that support the elderly.  An ideal toilet for the elderly, like an ideal shower, is one that is designed with comfortable support in mind.  This means having a toilet outfitted with grab bars securely attached to the toilet so as to provide support on both sides of the toilet to get up from and sit down on it.

These are just some safety measures you can take in the interests of keeping your elderly loved one safe at home.  Contact your local AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), local fire department, among other entities, for more information.  You may even want to contact your local Red Cross chapter and see if they offer any sort of elderly safety courses, such as those in which they teach you first aid for the elderly.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


ADT Monitored- Free Home Security System! 


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