Making the home environment safer

According to RoSPA*, over half of accidents amongst over 65s are attributed to falls, which cause the most trips to A and E. So make sure you ‘accident-proof’ the home as much as possible – just a few tweaks and additions can improve safety and security and help keep you healthy and happy for longer.

Personal alarms 

A personal alarm is a small button that you can wear at all times, either as a pendant around the neck or a fob for the pocket. Pressing the button can connect you or your relative to care teams who can send help or contact a family member to check in. Should the wearer have a fall or accident, it’s an immediate way for them to get help quickly. They will often have an ongoing cost, to cover the support team, but can be worth it to help maintain independence and security.
A person over 65 pressing an alarm button

Fall prevention at home 

Falls are one of the most common accidents for older people. Here are some of our top fall prevention safety tips:

Don’t slip in slippers

Avoid walking around the house barefoot or just in socks, particularly if there are slippery floor surfaces. A pair of slippers can be comfy, but also risky if they’re the wrong type. A pair with non-slip soles, a firm base, cushioning and plenty of support for the feet is best. Slippers with ankle support are ideal for fall prevention. For indoor shoe wearers, avoid any kind of heel, aim for laced or Velcro fastenings and ensure they fit the foot snugly without being too tight.

Stay stable

For short distances within the home, it may be tempting to not use a cane or walker. However, if a mobility aid is necessary or recommended by a doctor, then make sure it is used at all times, even in the home. This added stability could help prevent major falls or slips.

Clear the clutter

Remove anything that could be a trip hazard.. Avoid leaving bags on the floor and make sure all stairs and walkways are clear of clutter or decorative items that could cause a fall.

Older person holding a walking stick

Maximise your home safety

Here are our top examples of easy changes to make your home safer.

Install rails and bannisters

The largest numbers of accidents in the home are from falls on the stairs:

  • Consider having rails fitted on both sides – these are ideal for maximum support.
  • Handrails are excellent to fit around steps, providing additional security.
  • Install grab bars or rails wherever you, or your relative, are most likely to sit or stand regularly (so in bathrooms, the living room, near the bed and in the kitchen).

Secure rugs and mats

  • Ensure all rugs are non-slip whenever possible and secure existing rugs with underlay.
  • Place double-sided tape under the edges to prevent too much movement.
  • Ensure bathmats are non-slip, as loose mats can be some of the riskiest slip points in the home.

Adequate lighting

  • Avoid mood lighting in dark areas, such as in hallways and living rooms.
  • Make sure there are light switches at the top and bottom of stairways and both ends of hallways to avoid the temptation to walk through in the dark.
  • Consider purchasing simple, inexpensive, plug-in night lights for hallways which aren’t well lit – these can be set to automatically turn on when the area is dim, so the pathway to the bathroom is well lit when needed.

Smoke and carbon monoxide

Carbon Monoxide can come from fuel-burning appliances in the home, such as boilers, wood stoves or gas cooking stoves. It’s almost undetectable, but can be just as deadly as smoke if inhaled.

  • Fit a carbon monoxide monitor near the boiler so there will be an immediate alarm in the case of any problems. Find out more about causes, symptoms and prevention on our carbon monoxide hub.
  • Smoke alarms should be fitted and tested regularly as this will give you valuable extra time to exit the home, which is even more vital if you have mobility issues.

Older lady using a thermostat

Setting the right temperature

  • If you are over 65, you should keep your home heated to at least 18C (65F) to avoid illnesses brought on by cold weather and temperatures, with 21C (70F) being considered the ideal level. (As recommended by the NHS.)
  • Consider applying for a grant: If you’re over 65, or caring for a someone who is having problems with their heating bills, there are a range of excellent grants available for older people and those on benefits – we have lots of information on the different options in our energy grants guide.
  • Be aware of overheating as well – some medications such as heart and blood pressure pills and illnesses such as poor circulation or heart disease can prevent the body from efficiently cooling down; so, try not to allow the home to heat up too much. In warmer weather, keep a fan nearby to help keep the home temperate.

Keep necessary items in convenient locations

  • Keep regularly used items in the most convenient and easy-to-reach areas of the home. This can apply to anything from pans in the kitchen to remote controls in the living room or phone chargers in the bedroom.
  • Make sure you or your relatives have a sturdy set of steps with a rail to minimise the risk of falls for reaching higher storage.

Bathroom safety tips

  • Bathrooms, particularly when steamy from the shower or bath, can be slippery underfoot, so ensure there’s a non-slip mat in the bathtub or shower, as well as a non-slip bathmat beside the tub.
  • Grab bars in the shower and near the toilet can help provide additional support, and you could even consider adding a shower stool or bath seat – these can range in styles from simple slip-proof chairs that sit in the shower, to mechanised seats which can help lower the bather into the tub.

Fire prevention

  • Avoid smoking in bed at all costs and always ensure cigarettes or cigars are stubbed out properly before being left unattended.
  • Make sure a smoke alarm is fitted on every floor and that they are tested monthly, with the battery changed annually.
  • Plan and discuss your fire escape route, so there’s no chance of being caught off-guard in case of an emergency.

Increase your home security

Worried about intruders and callers? Here are some tips to make your home safer:

Door and windows

  • Keep checking doors and windows are locked as often as possible, even if you or your relative is at home.
  • Keep a chain latch on the door, but make sure it’s only used it to screen visitors – leaving it on all day could prevent carers or family members from entering.

Unexpected visitors

  • Turn away unwanted callers or ask them to return at another time when you have someone with you – don’t be embarrassed or feel pressured.

  • Make sure you can easily contact the police in case of emergencies and a friend or relative too.
  • Here at npower, we’ll always book an appointment and will show you an ID card, which you can verify over the phone.

Outdoor lighting

  • Get outdoor lighting installed which can deter intruders and it can also help prevent trips or falls.
  • Be aware that a motion sensor light will help alert to anyone outside the house, but can also be triggered by night time animals like foxes or badgers, so make sure the light doesn’t shine too brightly into the home and disturb sleep.
*The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is a British charity that aims to save lives and prevent life-changing injuries which occur as a result of accidents.