This in-home safety breakdown is a great place to start when evaluating home access needs
by Kay E. Koch, OTR/L, ATP

In 2050, the population aged 65 and above is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the projected growth of the senior population will present challenges to policymakers and programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as affect families, businesses and health care providers.

Ask any senior facing the possibility of moving from their family homes, and they will likely tell you they prefer to age-in-place. That place has to be safe and functional. This means an increasing number of spouses, adult children and other family members will be called upon to care for their elderly relatives.

The following home safety checklist is in no way intended to replace, if needed, a thorough home assessment completed by an occupational or physical therapist or Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) or other aging-in-place professional.

Entrance to the home

  • Steps and walkways are in good repair, with no crumbling edges or broken boards
  • A place for a ramp if a wheelchair is used in the future
  • Secure railing that is easy to grasp with both hands
  • Lights that illuminate a wide area of yard and walkway
  • Peephole in the front door is low enough for all residents to use
  • Deadbolt lock that does not require a key to open from the inside (unless wandering is an issue)

Living Areas

  • Doorways wide enough to pass through when using a walker or wheelchair, or carrying a load
  • No electric or phone cords running under rugs or carpeting or across open areas
  • Sofas and chairs are high and firm enough for easy sitting and rising, without wheels
  • Light switches that can be turned on without walking across a dark room
  • Working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor
  • Carpets, rugs and mats lie flat; remove small throw rugs
  • Adequate lighting


  • Doorway wide enough for walker or wheelchair if needed
  • Toilet seat at appropriate height
  • Adequate lighting at night
  • Removal of area rugs
  • No-slip surfaces in tub or shower
  • Grab bar mounting areas are different from towel bars


  • Bed height appropriate for transfers
  • Easy access to phone
  • Light switch is accessible before entering room
  • Night light
  • Removal of throw rugs
  • Electrical cords do not run across the floor


  • Fire extinguisher
  • Floor is free of clutter and/or throw rugs
  • Most accessed storage space is located between eye and knee level
  • Adequate lighting/light switch at entrance to room