Senior Safety

A 2024 Guide to Senior Safety

Jeff Hoyt Jeff Hoyt Editor in Chief is compensated when you click on the provider links listed on this page. This compensation does not impact our ratings or reviews. Read our Editorial Guidelines here to learn more about our review process and to learn more about how we are compensated.

Older adults often have special needs and concerns to cope with, particularly those who want to age in place. Whether an aging loved one lives with your family or in their own home, it’s important to have certain safety features in place to protect them physically and financially. Here is a short guide to essential senior safety products and services to give the entire family greater peace of mind.

Medical Alert Systems

These potentially life-saving tools are as easy to activate as pressing a button, or making a vocal request, and most of the best medical alert systems can automatically detect when a user has fallen if they are wearing a connected device. Often called personal emergency response systems, they typically feature panic buttons on walls, wearable devices, and home speaker connectivity that allows users to communicate with dispatchers.

Medical alert systems are typically connected to a 24/7 monitoring company that provides immediate responses when emergency or medical personnel are required. They are ideal for older adults who have mobility issues, suffer from a chronic health condition, or are home alone frequently. Below you can find reviews of the top-rated medical alert systems:

Home Security Systems

Seniors choosing to remain in their own homes can easily become targets for thieves and other miscreants. Home security systems for seniors can help derail any efforts concerning home invasions and they can enjoy a greater sense of safety along with 24/7 monitoring contracts. Of particular value are home security systems that also offer options such as medical alert devices in conjunction with a contract.

Pro Tip:

Pro Tip: Home security systems are just one tool to protect you from becoming a victim of a crime. Head to our guide on crime prevention tips for seniors to learn more about staying safe at home and on the go.

It’s important to find a security package compatible with your needs for landline or cellular connections or both. You’ll also need to decide how technologically advanced you want the system to be and how easy it will be to operate. Individuals looking for state-of-the-art security will want to include options such as video cameras, motion detectors, intrusion alerts, and perhaps even consider incorporating some home automation features into the system.

Identity Theft Protection

Older adults are a primary target for identity thieves and scammers for several reasons. For starters, some seniors aren’t as tech-savvy as younger generations, making them vulnerable to online predators in particular. However, seniors also tend to be more trusting which also makes them more likely to fall for door-to-door and phone scams — these include credit card fraud, robotic voice recording callers, prize schemes, health care scams, charity scams, and other scenarios. It is amazing how little personal information it takes to open credit accounts, obtain payday loans, and commit other acts of fraud.

Did You Know?

Did You Know? Older adults are popular targets for several types of scams. Visit our guide on common scams that target seniors so you can learn how to protect yourself.

Fortunately, there are many reputable identity theft protection companies that help seniors and their families enjoy greater peace of mind. Identity theft protection services can keep tabs on everything from financial accounts and credit scores to social media hacks and even the dark web—all for a small monthly monitoring fee. This helps stop ID invasions and helps victims take fast action to reduce any damage done. In fact, most of these companies offer guaranteed protection and are backed with insurance coverage if slip-ups occur.

Walk-In Tubs and Showers

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, and seniors can minimize the risks of falling by investing in a walk-in tub or shower setup. Walk-in tubs differ from traditional ones in that they feature a large safety door that allows one to step into the tub without lifting their legs very high, which reduces falling risks. The best walk-in tubs are typically equipped with a molded seating bench and handrails inside the unit, and some models feature adjustable bubble jets. Curb-less showers are essentially set very low to the ground and are ideal for those who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility and those who prefer showering over baths. Walk-in tubs can be somewhat pricey, while curbless showers are generally more affordable. The following are some of the most popular walk-in tub brands:

Shower Chairs or Transfer Benches

Remaining balanced in the shower is essential. That’s why shower or transfer benches are essential components for senior safety in the home. Shower benches allow one to sit comfortably while bathing, and they are designed for ease of use and stability.

Many come with height adjustment features and foldable armrests or those that can be adjusted via suction cups to accommodate multiple users. It’s important to keep a few factors in mind when considering transfer benches for showers. Weight capacity for standard chairs often caps out at 250 pounds. Also, it’s essential to buy a chair or bench with measurements that will fit within the shower area.

High Seated Commodes

Also known as ‘Comfort Height’ toilets, these commodes are typically three to five inches higher than standard models. These can be installed as a DIY project or one can call a plumbing professional. However, raising the toilet height can be as simple as investing in a thicker toilet seat. Either method used, elevating the commodes’ height will make it easier for seniors to get on and off the seat safely.

Safety Grab Bars

Grab bars within the bathroom and strategically placed safety rails throughout the home can make a huge difference. They boost the safety and comfort of a senior choosing to age in place. Grab bars around the toilet area provide additional leverage and can assist in getting up and down from the seat. They can be invaluable for those with mobility concerns. There are two main categories of such bars: those that attach to the toilet via a free-standing frame and individual bars attached to walls surrounding the toilet.

Within the shower or tub stall, it’s recommended to have one long horizontal grab bar along the longest wall and vertical grab bars installed on other walls for rectangular shower/tub combinations. However, for cubicle or custom-designed walk-in showers, horizontal bars should be placed on all sides of the surround for maximum security. Regardless of design, do install a vertical handle near the showerhead, and even consider horizontal grab bars for extra safety in case a fall occurs, as this can help them get back on their feet much easier.

Safety Handrails in the Home

Seniors desiring to remain in their homes safely as long as possible will want to consider installing handrails in certain potential ‘danger zones’ throughout the home.

For starters, you can install handrails along the sides of a stairwell leading up to a door. Of course, installing handrails along both sidewalls of indoor stairs is also highly recommended. Long hallways are another place to consider installing handrails. Putting handrails here will prevent wall damage and falls while traversing the home.

Stair Lift Devices for the Home

Difficulty navigating a multi-storied home is a major reason why many aging individuals feel pressured to leave their homes and downsize to a flat or even a senior living facility. This can be a particular concern for those who rely on the use of wheelchairs. However, stair lifts offer a reliable solution and greater comfort for seniors with mobility issues. These devices simply require you to push a button to be elevated to the next floor level. There are options for wheelchair accessibility or those with a built-in seat. Stair climbers are a top choice for wheelchair use. Most models of stairlift devices can work with curved, angled, or straight stairs. These devices can also be purchased for outdoor use to improve access to the home itself.

Adjustable Beds and Bed Railings

While they still function similarly to the models you see in hospital and clinical settings, adjustable beds have come a long way and are now common in home bedrooms. They are particularly popular with seniors because adjustable beds allow various areas of the unit to be raised and lowered. The ability to elevate the head, knees, and feet can provide relief for many common ailments including:

  • Alleviating back and body pains
  • Improving digestion
  • Reducing acid reflux and heartburn
  • Alleviating snoring, and sleep apnea
  • Enhancing circulation
  • Easing swelling
  • Relieving symptoms of arthritis and other degenerative conditions

Additionally, adjustable beds and frames are ideal for those with mobility issues. These beds can make it easier to get in and out of bed safely, especially with the incorporation of handrails. Again, these are similar to bed rails attached to hospital beds and come in an array of lengths and sizes. Most will retract or fold down to give one more space when rails aren’t needed.

Hearing Aids

The dangers of not being able to hear can be life-threatening. For example, a senior with severe hearing loss may not be able to hear smoke detectors or alarms for fire or burglary going off, leaving them vulnerable to numerous risks. Hearing aids can help resolve hearing loss to some extent. Furthermore, seniors with hearing loss can suffer from withdrawal and depression due to embarrassment and discomfort caused by the lack of being able to hear and communicate with others. An added benefit of hearing aids is that seniors with hearing problems that go ignored have greater chances of developing dementia at a much faster rate than adults with adequate hearing. Below are our reviews for some of the highest-rated hearing aids:

Mobility Devices for Seniors

Mobility devices range from walking canes and walkers to sophisticated wheelchairs and electric scooters. Walkers and canes are ideal for those who are recovering from an injury or simply need a bit of additional stability when moving around to prevent falls.

These implements also help alleviate pressure on the hips and knees, making them exceptional mobility devices for arthritis or degenerative joint disease sufferers. The top option for seniors needing walkers is three-wheeled walkers known as rollators. These easily fold in half and typically are equipped with a basket and a hand brake for convenience. Four-wheeled walkers have similar features but also have a built-in seat.

Electric scooters and wheelchairs can meet the needs of older adults who have limited upper body strength that is required to use walkers, canes, or traditional wheelchairs and are a necessity for those who cannot walk. The primary difference between scooters and electric wheelchairs involves maneuverability. Wheelchairs often are easy to move about in amid the home due to their smaller size and turning radius requirements. However, for those with serious mobility issues, having both an electric wheelchair for use at home and a scooter for outings or moving around outside may be recommended. Most insurance policies will cover a certain amount of the cost for these devices when prescribed by a physician.

Wheelchair Accessible Ramps

Ramps leading to home entryways are a good idea regardless of the resident’s age, as an injury can happen at any time to anyone. Furthermore, wheelchair ramps are a valuable asset for wheelchair and scooter users who want to enjoy more freedom in their lives. As an additional consideration, ramps are invaluable during medical emergencies. They allow personnel to enter and exit the home quickly with rescue and transport equipment.

Written By:
Jeff Hoyt
Editor in Chief
Read About Our Panel of Experts
As Editor-in-Chief of the personal finance site, Jeff produced hundreds of articles on the subject of retirement, including preventing identity theft, minimizing taxes, investing successfully, preparing for retirement medical costs, protecting your credit score, and making your money last… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt