It’s no secret that many things change as you age but your level of comfort in your living space shouldn’t. Many seniors find aging in place and independent living to be more desirable than assisted living. In fact, nearly 90% of adults over the age of 65 want to age in place. Despite senior preferences to age in place or live independently, home safety for seniors is often overlooked, increasing the risk of falls or other accidents.
A study by Age Safe America found that falls account for 25% of hospitalizations and 40% of nursing home admissions for seniors. As a landlord, it’s important to accommodate your senior tenants by providing a senior-friendly rental that’s equipped with the proper modifications to ensure a safe and fall-proof living space.
Whether you’re a landlord with senior tenants or an older adult who’s living independently, check out this room-by-room guide full of safety tips to make your home as safe as possible.
The living room is where many people spend a majority of their time in a home, as it’s a great place to relax or entertain company. With that being said, it’s important to properly equip the living room with the necessary furnishings and modifications for seniors to enjoy it with peace of mind, whether you are a landlord or tenant. Use these tips to keep your living room hazard-free.
Remove Trip Hazards
Since falling is the leading cause of injury for seniors, it’s crucial to remove anything that could cause a trip. To reduce the risk of a fall and encourage home safety for seniors, incorporate the following:
- Keep walkways clear: Remove clutter such as newspapers, shoes, extension cords, or piled-up clothing from the floor.
- Install proper flooring: Flooring materials such as carpet, cork, and rubber are cushiony and provide some protection against falls, while linoleum and vinyl are great for wheelchair or walker mobility.
- Remove throw rugs: A throw rug may lack proper rubberized backing to grip the floor or could curl up at the edges which increases the risk of a fall.
- Create an open environment: This makes it easier for wheelchair or walker users to get around and ensures that tight corners aren’t hazardous.
Provide Proper Seating
Furnishing a rental with the proper seating helps keep older adults comfortable and secure. Having the right types of couches and chairs will make it easier to not only get up and down but they’ll also support joint and hip health. When furnishing, try finding seating that includes the following:
- Adjustable for proper height: Make sure that your feet can reach the floor and your hips aren’t below your knees by adjusting the legs of couches or chairs and adding extra cushions as necessary.
- Guaranteed stability: Couches and chairs shouldn’t sway or be wobbly as this could increase the risk of a fall.
- High arms: Chairs with high arms including flat, easy-to-grasp ends offer stable assistance when getting up from a chair.
- Lightweight: Lightweight furniture is easier to maneuver which is important for those who like to entertain or change things up often.
Install Adequate Lighting
As we age, one of the first things to go is our vision. Older people need adequate lighting at home so that they can maneuver without any accidents. Below are a few lighting tips for senior safety — both landlords and tenants can keep these in mind:
- Choose bright, shielded lamps: Older adults are more sensitive to glare, so as important as it is to have bright light for visibility, it should also be shielded with a lampshade.
- Don’t forget hallways: Make sure you install bright lights to help with mobility and prevent falls.
- Try a matte finish wall paint: Go the minimalist route with a light-colored matte finish wall paint. This will help reduce glare while increasing ambient light levels in a room, which helps with visibility.
- Consider remote lighting: Installing remote-controlled lighting is easy and convenient for those who have mobility issues and may have trouble reaching a light switch.
The kitchen is the heart of the home, so it’s only fitting that it receives the necessary modifications to make the room safer for seniors. Keep these tips in mind as you make renovations to your kitchen.
Take Fire and Emergency Precautions
With decreased mobility and hearing loss, it can be harder to respond quickly in emergencies. For example, older adults face the greatest relative risk of dying in a fire. People ages 65+ are twice as likely to be injured or killed by fires than the rest of the population. However, this can be mostly prevented by taking a few extra steps:
- Provide fire extinguishers: A fire extinguisher should be stored in an easy-to-reach spot in case of a fire. If the rental has multiple floors, provide one for each floor as an extra precaution.
- Have an automatic shut-off range: This will ensure that a stovetop will automatically shut off in case someone accidentally leaves it running unattended.
- Regularly check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: These alarms are always necessary but it’s important to check them regularly to make sure they work properly.
- Keep flammable items away from the stove: Items such as curtains, paper towels, or dish rags should be kept as far away as possible from a range or stove.
Provide Easy Storage
Commonly used kitchen utensils and gadgets shouldn’t be stored in hard-to-reach places. You don’t want an elderly adult to have to strain themselves to reach a glass from the cupboard, as this could lead to injury. Organize the kitchen for easy access to these items by doing the following:
- Store kitchenware like pots and pans on lower shelves: Some kitchenware may be too hard to safely bring down if stored on high shelves or cabinets. It’s a good idea to keep kitchenware in easily accessible places.
- Consider pull-down shelves: These shelving inserts pull down to help you bring hard-to-reach shelves to your level. These are great for storing items in high places so seniors won’t have to strain to get to dishes or food items.
- Store heavy or bulky items on the counter: Items like cast iron skillets, food processors, or mixers should be stored at waist level to avoid heavy lifting.
- Install a lazy susan: These spinning shelves not only save space but they also make it easier to access specific items without digging through lower shelves.
Make It Easy to Cleaning and Organize
The kitchen tends to need the most regular cleaning, due to accumulated dishes in the sink and messes from meal time. However, it’s important to ensure the kitchen is easy to clean and organized often to prevent any accidents:
- Ensure there’s enough space: You’ll want to make sure it’s easy to maneuver around the kitchen, so have a floor plan with an open layout to avoid any tight corners.
- Have a proper cleaning regimen: Keeping your kitchen clean and fresh helps with cross-contamination and other hazards that can make you sick.
- Encourage refrigeration and labeling your leftovers: Remember to store your leftovers in the refrigerator once they’ve cooled down and label them with the date it was cooked. Don’t eat anything more than a day or two old.
- Always check expiration dates: Before consuming anything, always check the expected expiration — and if you wear glasses, make sure to have them handy when working with food.
Bedrooms should not only be cozy and comfortable but also safe and secure. This space should be designed for security and ease of use so that tired seniors can enjoy their space with no complications. For starters, bedrooms should ideally be on the ground floor in case of emergencies. Use these other helpful tips to make sure the bedroom is equipped with senior-friendly accommodations.
Have a Safe Bed
We spend a third of our lives sleeping, so having a safe and comfortable bed to sleep in is only ideal. As we age, we need more than just plush mattresses and cozy bedding. Proper bed modifications to help get in and out of bed are necessary for aging adults so incorporate the following adjustments below:
- Install bed rails: These prevent falls in the middle of the night and can offer support when getting out of bed each morning.
- Adjust bed frames for proper height: When sitting on the edge of the bed, feet should be able to touch the floor and knees should be parallel or below your hips. Adjust the bed frame as necessary.
- Pick the right mattress: Likewise, a mattress should be the proper height to prevent any trouble getting up or lying down.
- Provide extra blankets: It’s common for older adults to get cold, so make sure you have extra blankets layered on the bed so you can adjust the amount needed depending on the temperature.
Add Accessible Lighting
Since the bedroom is a place for rest, having enough accessible lighting is a must-have so you don’t have to maneuver through the dark. Not only do you want lamps next to the bed but you’ll also need light throughout the room just in case you have to get up in the middle of the night. To make sure you have plenty of accessible lighting, consider the following:
- Install a nightlight: A nightlight can stay on at all times which is perfect for those late night trips to the bathroom.
- Try remotes or clap lights: Lighting that is remote or clap-controlled is great for avoiding searching through the dark for a light switch, especially for those with low mobility.
- Add string or track lighting: If you take frequent trips to the bathroom or kitchen at night, add low wattage track lights along baseboards to make a light-up path to your destination.
- Regularly check batteries and bulbs: Make sure you regularly check your bulbs so you can avoid one of them going out in the middle of the night.
Ensure a Safe Closet
As a senior, it’s only natural to have accumulated a number of belongings and keepsakes. Closets sometimes become over-crowded with items and clutter which could be dangerous. To ensure you have a safe closet, try the following:
- Have enough storage space: Providing extra storage space with closets or furniture helps with overcrowding.
- Install extra shelving: Provide extra shelving in easily accessible areas of a closet to avoid heavy or bulky items getting stacked too high.
- Install bright lights: Closets can be dark and small so make sure you install bright lights for better visibility.
- Consider pull-down closet rods: Pull-down rods are great for reaching clothing that may be too high to reach without strain.
The bathroom is where a senior is most vulnerable to falls, since it’s easy for there to be an accidental slip. Use these helpful tips to make sure your bathroom is modified to encourage home safety for seniors.
Install Proper Shower/Bath Equipment
The shower is one of the first places to modify in a bathroom for an older adult. There are plenty of water-heating and safety modifications to consider so keep the following in mind for a fall-proof shower or bathtub:
- Add a non-slip mat or coating to the shower: This will ensure better traction at the bottom of a shower or tub which can help prevent falls.
- Have easy temperature controls: Make shower controls easily identifiable between hot and cold. You can also install a scald-free showerhead that prevents the water from burning sensitive skin.
- Install a handheld showerhead on a sliding rail: This makes it easier for older adults that have to shower while sitting down.
- Make it cornerless: Sharp corners on bathtubs or glass shower doors can cause bruises or injury, so consider installing showers or tubs that are cornerless.
Build in Grab Bars and Seating
Having items for extra support and stability in an older adult’s bathroom is always a plus. Towel racks aren’t designed to support a person’s weight, so it’s important to install grab bars and extra seating for those who need support or have a hard time standing for long periods of time. Incorporate the following in your bathroom:
- Install grab bars around the tub and toilet: Add vertical grab bars around the tub and an angled bar on the back wall of the tub for extra support.
- Put in a raised toilet seat: These help decrease the distance a senior has to sit when using the toilet and they are relatively easy to install.
- Consider a shower transfer bench: These sliding benches allow you to sit and slide in and out of the shower easily which is great for those who have decreased flexibility.
- Put a bench in standing showers: A standard shower bench is perfect for those who have a hard time standing for long periods.
Treat the Floors
In a bathroom, it’s expected for the floor to get wet. This becomes a huge slip hazard that should be addressed for senior tenants. To prevent falls, incorporate the following:
- Swap out tile: Tile is unforgiving when it comes to a fall, so consider flooring material such as cork which is softer, waterproof, and textured for a non-skid surface.
- Buy secure bath mats and rugs: Bath mats can help prevent wet spots on the floor but you need to make sure they have secure rubber backing so they won’t slip and cause an accident.
- Try slip-resistant flooring treatments: Consider hiring a professional to coat the unit’s bathroom floor with a slip-resistant treatment. This creates a translucent honeycomb-textured coating on any surface to increase grip.
- Consider a walk-in shower or tub: A tub you have to step into can be a hazard for seniors with limited mobility, so consider installing a walk-in shower or tub to avoid high steps.
Home Security Features
Not only are seniors at risk of falls but they’re also targets for potential abuse. It’s important to make sure your rental is not only fall-proof but secure as well. Ensure your tenants are safe from burglary or abuse by installing some of these home security features.
Keep Locks on Doors and Windows
You’ll want to regularly check locks on all doors and windows to prevent any break-ins to a rental unit. This is especially important for seniors who are more vulnerable to abuse or could be easily taken advantage of. Secure locks not only help with safety but they can also help regulate temperatures to help keep older adults more comfortable.
Install Security and Doorbell Cameras
Being able to monitor what’s going on around your property is important for not only you but your elderly tenants and their caregivers. A doorbell camera is a great option for seniors as it offers a way for them to monitor who is visiting their home without having to get up.
Set Up Various Alarms and Motion Detection
Setting up various alarms around a rental unit for seniors can help alert them of any potential dangers. Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide sensors, and burglary alarms are all great examples of alarms that should always be installed but especially for seniors. Motion detector lights are also great for warding off any potential burglars or intruders who may try to steal from or harm an older tenant.
Home Safety Technology for Seniors
There are many advanced safety features you can add to a rental unit that will not only entice more tenants but also increase your property’s value. Consider adding in some of these home safety technologies to your unit to aid in senior home safety and care.
- Health Monitoring: For seniors with caregivers, adding discreet health monitors will help keep track of important health indicators, like movement, vital signs, and activities. The systems will communicate with caregivers if anything goes wrong.
- Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Assistance: Automatic ceiling lifts and special bathroom fixtures allow aid with daily functions like using the bathroom without the need for a caregiver’s assistance.
- 24/7 Virtual Caregiver: A voice-activated virtual caregiver is available 24/7 to assist with daily schedules and medication reminders. If needed, the virtual caregiver can contact a real care provider.
How To Handle Senior Emergencies
As a landlord, it’s important to ensure that your rental is well secured and free from any hazards for elderly tenants who are at risk of falling. However, as safe and fall-proof as your rental may be, accidents can still happen.
If you’re on-site and your elderly tenant doesn’t have a caregiver, you may be the first point of contact. In this case, it’s important to first and foremost remain calm and do your best to assist your tenant however you can.
If your tenant is seriously injured (e.g., a broken bone, bleeding, etc.), call 911 and keep your tenant as comfortable as possible until help arrives. Even if they aren’t seriously injured and are able to get up, it’s important to immediately alert their doctor that they’ve had a fall.
Having emergency contact information is necessary, especially for tenants with a high fall risk. If you’re an independent senior living in a rental, make sure to provide your landlord with an emergency contact form so information is easily accessible in an emergency.
Once a senior has planted roots in a rental unit they love, the chances of them moving to another property in the near future are slim. By providing a rental unit that encourages home safety for seniors, you’ll not only entice more tenants to your property but you’ll also improve the longevity of them living there which is great for your long-term rental.
Whether you fall-proof your current rental or invest in an ADU like a granny pod, you’ll be providing more options for potential senior renters. Visit our rental application and tenant screening pages to learn how you can find the perfect tenant for your property.