Whether you’re a senior who has decided to age in place or a family member looking out for their elderly parents, this checklist can help to make your home as safe as possible for years to come.
The next step now is to make sure that you will continue to be safe in your current home. As you move through your golden years, home safety becomes more and more important with each passing year.
Some necessary changes may be needed in order to help you stay in your own place.
The following checklist will help you understand some of the steps you should take when aging in place.
What is an aging-in-place checklist?
An aging-in-place checklist is a comprehensive guide that helps ensure the home environment is secure, comfortable, and adaptable to the changing needs of seniors. This includes modifications like installing grab bars, improving lighting, and arranging for home care services if needed.
With careful planning, you can make simple home modifications that will help you to age in your own home safely and comfortably.
Your Go-To Home Safety Checklist For Seniors Aging In Place
Making the conscious decision to age in place is a great way to maintain your independence and comfort at home. Of course, it’s a good idea to do it the right way, and that’s where this checklist can help.
Safety concerns are paramount when it comes to senior citizens aging in place, and this checklist will help you identify potential hazards and create safe spaces for yourself.
So, let’s get to it.
Just so you know, some of the recommendations are repeated such as lighting, flooring, fire safety, etc. This is to help to remind you as you go through the list, room by room.
If you have any concerns about this list or feel that you need someone with special training (i.e. home safety specialist or Occupational Therapist), contact your physician for help.
Here’s a checklist of what should be in place to ensure both safety and convenience:
General Home Safety
- Fire and Carbon Monoxide Protection: Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor. Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor for added safety. Remove any combustible materials from the home.
- Doors and Windows: Ensure all doors and windows are easy to open. This is crucial for quick and safe evacuation in case of emergencies.
- Alarm System: Install an alarm system to ensure the safety and security of your home.
- Emergency Contact Information: Keep emergency numbers and important information in an easily accessible location.
- Automatic Night Lights: Install an automatic night light in hallways and stairways to prevent accidents during the night.
- Illumination Everywhere: All areas of the home, including outdoors, must have adequate lighting. This means a lot of lighting. More details on this below.
- Clutter-Free Living: Declutter every room, closet, drawer, etc. The goal is to avoid a tripping hazard and maintain a clear space to avoid tripping hazards.
- Assistive Technology: Using the great assistive technology that is available to us today throughout the home can make life easier and safe for older adults.
- Regular Home Maintenance: In addition to regular cleaning, ensure that all appliances, furniture and other items are in proper working order. Have gutters and outdoor patios kept in good shape as well.
- Home Fire Escape Plan: Develop an emergency escape plan with two ways out of each room. Practice the plan regularly with everyone living in the home.
- Entrance and Hallways: Install bright lights at all entrances, both inside and outside. Ensure hallways are well-lit to prevent tripping hazards.
- Staircases: Illuminate staircases with overhead lighting or install lights on the side of the stairs for better visibility.
- Living Room: Use a combination of overhead, task, and accent lighting to create a warm and inviting space. Consider touch lamps for easy use.
- Kitchen: Install under-cabinet lighting to illuminate countertops. Ensure the stove and sink areas are well-lit.
- Bathroom: Use bright, non-glare lights in the bathroom. Consider installing lights around the mirror and a waterproof light in the shower area.
- Bedroom: Install a light switch near the bed or use a bedside lamp. Consider motion sensor lights under the bed for safe navigation during the night.
- Closets: Install automatic lights in closets for easy visibility.
- Outdoor Areas: Use motion sensor lights in outdoor areas like the garden, driveway, and walkways.
- Emergency Lighting: Have a system of emergency lighting that automatically turns on during a power outage.
- Non Slip Flooring: Make sure all floors in your home are non-slip. This is especially important for bathrooms and kitchens, where there’s a higher likelihood of slipping on wet floors.
- Rugs & Carpets: Remove any area rugs or carpets that can cause tripping hazards.
- Handrails: Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairway. They should extend beyond the first and last steps.
- Lighting: Ensure the stairway is well-lit. Consider installing lights with switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Non-Slip Surface: Apply non-slip adhesive strips to each step. If the stairs are carpeted, ensure the carpet is securely fastened and not worn or torn.
- Contrasting Colors: Use contrasting colors on the edge of steps to make them more visible.
- Clear Path: Keep the stairway clear of clutter and obstacles at all times.
- Stair Lift: A stair lift can help for those with physical challenges concerning mobility. Or look into the Assistep product if it’s available in your area.
- In-Home Elevator: If budget allows and if climbing stairs becomes too difficult, consider installing an in-home elevator for easy access between floors.
- Emergency Services Access: Ensure the stairway is wide enough to accommodate emergency personnel and equipment if needed.
Living Room Safety
- Furniture Arrangement: Arrange furniture to create clear wide paths. This helps in easy navigation around the house.
- Slip-Proof Rugs: Secure or remove throw rugs to prevent slips and falls.
- Easy-to-Reach Light Switches: Ensure light switches are easily accessible from all areas of the home.
- Grab Bars: Installation of grab bars may be needed throughout the room.
- Comfortable Furniture Height: All seating should be at an appropriate height for the homeowners to ensure comfort and ease of use.
- Supportive Seating: Armrests are recommended on all seats for additional support and comfort.
- Remote Controls: Have remote controls for lights, television, etc. for easy operation.
- Cell Phone Apps: Use cell phone apps to control thermostats, security alarms, etc. for a seamless, smart living experience.
- Voice-Activated Smart Plugs: Consider voice-controlled smart plugs for lights, television, and more for hands-free operation.
- Easy Access Storage: Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach locations to make daily tasks easier.
- Under Cabinet Lights: Under cabinet lights are recommended for better visibility while working on the countertop.
- Fire Extinguisher: Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for immediate access in case of a fire.
- Safe Appliances: Use safe and easy-to-use appliances to ensure a hassle-free cooking experience.
- Cabinet Organizers: Consider installing pull-out shelves and lazy susans in cabinets for easy access to stored items.
- Counters: Adjust the height of countertops and cabinets if necessary. Consider installing pull-out shelves and lazy susans in cabinets. Keep counters clear of clutter to create a safe and efficient cooking space.
- Kitchen Stool: A kitchen stool may be recommended depending on the needs of the homeowners for comfortable meal preparation.
Laundry Room Safety
- Accessible Washer and Dryer: Consider front-loading washer and dryer models that are easier to load and unload. If possible, place them at a comfortable height to avoid bending or reaching.
- Adequate Illumination: Ensure the laundry room is well-lit to make sorting and folding laundry easier.
- Slip-Resistant Surface: Install slip-resistant flooring to prevent accidents, especially since laundry rooms can often become damp.
- Easy-to-Reach Shelves and Cabinets: Store laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and other supplies in easy-to-reach locations. Consider pull-out shelves for easy access.
- Comfortable Stool or Chair: Have a comfortable stool or chair for tasks like folding laundry or waiting for the cycle to finish.
- Fire Extinguisher: Install a fire extinguisher in the laundry room for safety.
- Easy-to-Use Appliance Controls: Ensure washer and dryer controls are easy to read and operate.
- Proper Airflow: Ensure the laundry room is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of heat and humidity.
- Handrails and Lighting: Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairway leading to the basement. Ensure the stairs are well-lit to prevent accidents. Steps to the basement should be wide enough and deep enough for the homeowner.
- Slip-Resistant Surface: Consider slip-resistant flooring to prevent falls, especially if the basement can become damp.
- Adequate Illumination: Ensure the basement is well-lit. Consider installing extra lighting in areas that are used frequently.
- Easy-to-Reach Shelves and Cabinets: Store items in easy-to-reach locations. Avoid storing items on high shelves that require a ladder to reach.
- Accessible Egress: Ensure there’s an easily accessible emergency exit in case of emergencies.
- Proper Airflow: Ensure the basement is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew.
- Fire Extinguisher and Smoke Detectors: Install a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors in the basement for safety.
- Comfortable Chairs: If the basement is used as a living space, ensure seating is comfortable and at an appropriate height.
- Raised Toilet Seat and Grab Bars: Consider installing a raised toilet seat for easier sitting and standing. Install grab bars near the toilet for added support.
- Non-Slip Mats and Grab Bars: Use non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub to prevent falls. Install grab bars for support while getting in and out of the bath or shower.
- Walk-In Shower or Walk-in Tub: Consider a walk-in shower or tub for easier access. A shower seat can also be beneficial.
- Handheld Shower Head: This can be extremely useful to use and to help clean the shower stall.
- Lever-Style Handles: Replace twist knobs with lever-style handles on faucets for easier use. I recommend one handle vs. two.
- Adequate Illumination: Ensure the bathroom is well-lit. Consider installing lights around the mirror and a waterproof light in the shower area.
- Slip-Resistant Surface: Install slip-resistant flooring to prevent falls, especially since bathrooms can often become wet.
- Door Threshold: Replace a high doorway threshold with a flat one.
- Easy-to-Reach Shelves and Cabinets: Store toiletries and other supplies in easy-to-reach locations. Avoid storing items on high shelves that require reaching or bending.
- Wearable Alert System: Consider a wearable alert system for the senior to use in case of emergencies in the bathroom.
- Proper Airflow: Ensure the bathroom is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew.
- Appropriate Bed Height and Rails: Ensure the bed is at an appropriate height for easy access. Consider bed rails for added safety and support.
- Adequate Illumination and Night Lights: Ensure the bedroom is well-lit. Install a light switch near the bed or use a bedside lamp. Consider motion sensor lights under the bed for safe navigation during the night.
- Slip-Resistant Flooring: Consider slip-resistant flooring or securely fastened carpets to prevent falls.
- Secure and Accessible Furniture: Secure furniture to the wall to prevent tipping. Ensure frequently used items are within easy reach from the bed.
- Phone and Alert System: Keep a phone or an emergency alert system near the bed for easy access in case of emergencies. Add the security alarm’s panic button on the dresser or the bed frame.
- Easy-to-Use Storage: Consider adjustable rods and shelves in the closet for easy access to clothing. Install automatic lights in closets for easy visibility.
- Easy-to-Use Thermostat: Ensure the thermostat is easily accessible from the bedroom to control the room’s temperature.
- Easy-to-Open Windows: Ensure windows are easy to open for fresh air and emergency exits.
- Walkways and Driveways: Ensure all walkways and driveways are slip-resistant and free of cracks or uneven surfaces. Install adequate lighting for safe navigation during the night.
- Entrances: Consider a step-free entrance to the home if possible. Ensure entrances are well-lit and consider installing a bench for resting near the entrance.
- Handrails: Install sturdy handrails on both sides of any outdoor stairs or steep paths.
- Easy-to-Handle Garden Tools:Use lightweight, easy-to-handle tools for yard work and gardening. Consider raised garden beds for easier access.
- Landscaping: Consider low-maintenance landscaping.
- Seating: Provide comfortable seating areas with shade for rest and relaxation.
- Clear Pathways: Ensure all pathways are clear and wide enough for emergency personnel to access if needed.
- Outdoor Lighting and Locks: Install motion sensor lights in outdoor areas for security. Ensure all outdoor locks are easy to use. An outdoor camera and/or video doorbell is highly recommended.
- Easy-to-Use Outdoor Equipment: Ensure equipment for outdoor tasks, like lawnmowers or snow blowers, are safe and easy to use.
Home Modifications For Aging In Place
- Lever Handles: Install lever handles on doors and faucets for easier operation.
- Stair Lifts and Ramps: Consider a stair lift or ramp for multi-level homes to ensure all areas of the home are accessible.
- Convenient Electrical Outlets and Light Switches: Install higher electrical outlets and lower light switches for easy access.
- Doorway Widening: Widen doorways to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs for seamless navigation.
- First-Floor Bedroom and Bathroom: Consider a first-floor bedroom and bathroom to avoid the need for frequent stair use. This of course would be a major renovation but may be necessary.
- Non-Slip Flooring and Rugs: All flooring should be non-slip and void of rugs. If rugs are necessary, consider vinyl rugs or ensure that your rugs are secured to the floor.
- Home Security Systems: It’s not just for senior-friendly homes! In my opinion, for your home safety, it’s important to have a home security system. Alexa devices are also recommended for added convenience and safety.
- Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS): These devices allow seniors to call for help in case of an emergency, such as a fall. They typically come in the form of a wearable pendant or bracelet with a button to press in case of emergency.
- Computer Software: Often overlooked is the importance of protecting sensitive information stored on a computer. Anti virus and malware software should be installed.
- Automatic Pill Dispensers: These devices can help seniors manage their medication, ensuring they take the correct dosage at the right times. Some models also come with alarms to remind seniors when it’s time to take their medication.
- Voice-Activated Assistants: Devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home can not only help homeowners to use smart home technology but can also help them with staying connected with family and friends. For some, it can provide much needed social support.
- Mobility Aids: This can include a wide range of devices, such as walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and stairlifts, to help seniors move around more easily and safely.
- Telehealth Devices: These devices allow seniors to monitor their health at home and communicate with healthcare providers remotely. This can include blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, and other health monitoring devices that can connect to a smartphone or computer.
- Smart Home Technology: This can include a wide range of devices, such as smart lights that can be controlled remotely or set to turn on and off at certain times, smart thermostats that can adjust the temperature based on the time of day, and smart security systems that can monitor the home for any unusual activity.
- Video Doorbells: Devices like the Ring Video Doorbell allow seniors to see who’s at the door without having to get up. They can also communicate with visitors through the device.
You can download a complete Aging in Place checklist from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in PDF format.
I can also recommend AARP’s Homefit Guide! It’s a free publication packed with lots of useful information and available in multiple languages.
Money Matters: Financial Aspects Of Aging In Place
The common thought is that aging in place will be less expensive than moving or downsizing. But that is not necessarily the case.
Here are some things to consider and do that can help you avoid sticker shock!
- Research the average costs of home modifications you’re considering
- Compare the cost of aging in place with other options, like assisted living or nursing homes
- Consider the ongoing costs of maintaining your home, including utilities, taxes, and potential future repairs
Planning and Budgeting
- Create a budget for your home modifications.
- Prioritize modifications based on your current and anticipated future needs.
- Plan for ongoing costs, such as increased utility bills if you’re home more often.
Exploring Funding Options
- Check if your insurance or Medicare Advantage Plan covers any home modifications.
- Research local, state, and federal programs that offer financial aid for home modifications.
- Look into non-profit organizations that offer assistance for seniors aging in place.
- Consider a home improvement loan or a reverse mortgage, if appropriate.
- Consult with a tax advisor to see if any home modifications are tax deductible.
- Consider energy-efficient modifications that could lower your utility bills.
- Look into discounts or grants available for seniors in your area.
- Consult with a certified aging-in-place specialist to get an accurate estimate of costs.
- Speak with a financial advisor to understand the long-term financial implications of aging in place.
Resources For Aging-In-Place
I would recommend to build a list of local handymen who can help you with some of the needed renovations and maintenance of your home. Some may even offer aging in place services for certain age groups.
- Administration for Community Living (ACL): Offers information and services to help seniors live independently in their communities.
- Eldercare Locator: A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects you to services for older adults and their families.
- Medicare: Provides information about the parts of Medicare that cover home modifications.
- Social Security Administration: Offers information about benefits that can be used for home modifications.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Provides resources and information about home repairs, modifications, and retrofitting.
- AARP: Offers a wealth of resources on home design for aging in place, as well as information on health, money, and social engagement for seniors.
- National Council on Aging (NCOA): Provides a wide range of resources to help seniors remain independent and connected to their communities.
- Rebuilding Together: A national nonprofit that provides free home repairs and modifications to low-income homeowners.
- Meals on Wheels: Delivers meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals.
- National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB): Offers a directory of Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) who can help with home modifications.
- American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA): Provides resources on home modifications and can help you find an occupational therapist who specializes in home assessments.
- American Society of Interior Designers (ASID): Offers a directory of interior designers with experience in designing homes for aging in place.
- SeniorLiving.org: Provides comprehensive resources and tools to help seniors and their families navigate the options for senior living and care.
- AgingInPlace.org: An online resource hub dedicated to promoting senior independence, choice, dignity, and quality of life.
- AgeInPlace.com: Provides information and resources to help you plan for aging in place, including home modifications, technology, health and wellness, and financial planning.
- Area Agencies on Aging (AAA): Local agencies that provide a range of services to help seniors live independently, including home modification programs, meal delivery, transportation, and caregiver support.
- Local Home Improvement Stores: Many offer workshops on DIY home modifications and can provide advice on products and materials.
- Local Community Centers and Senior Centers: Often offer classes, activities, and resources for seniors, and may have information on local services and contractors who specialize in home modifications.
Remember, aging in place involves a community of support. From government programs to professional associations and local community resources, there are numerous avenues available to help you or your loved one successfully age in place.