Home Modifications for Safer Aging in Place

aging in place Orange CountySome simple home modifications can make for safer and more comfortable living at home.

Entries and Doorways

  • There should be at least one no-step entry to the house with a cover
  • Outdoor walkway should be well lit
  • Install a sensor light focusing on the front-door lock
  • Use non-slip flooring in foyer
  • Make sure there is a surface outside to place packages on when opening the door
  • There needs to be 32 inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Use a levered door hardware versus a knob


  • Make sure there are plenty of windows for natural light, which should be kept clean and with curtains pulled back during daylight hours
  • Include lowered windows or taller windows with lower sill height
  • Use easy to operate window hardware


  • Use lever or pedal-controlled handles
  • Install thermostatic or anti-scald controls


  • Slope should be no greater than 1 inch rise for each 12 inches in length, with adequate handrails
  • Provide a 5-foot landing at the entrance
  • Include 2-inch curbs for safety


  • Use a front loading laundry machine on the first floor of the home
  • Install an electric cook top with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and a downdraft feature to pull heat away from the user, as well as a light to indicate when the surface is hot
  • Make sure they utilize easy to read controls
  • Use a microwave oven at counter height or in the wall
  • Use a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer

Counters and Cabinets

  • Make sure there is wall support and provision for adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets
  • Install open under-counter seated work areas
  • Use accented stripes on edge of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace
  • Use pull-down shelving
  • Use glass-front cabinet doors and/or open shelving for easy access to frequently used items
  • Include loop handles for easy grip and pull
  • Include a base cabinet with roll out trays and lazy Susans


  • Use grab bars in the shower and/or tub
  • If a stand-up shower is used, it should be curbless and a minimum of 36 inches wide
  • If a bathtub is used, obtain a transfer bench, install a bath lift or purchase a walk-in tub
  • Use a fold down seat in the shower
  • Install adjustable/handheld showerheads, 6-foot hose
  • Make sure there is a light in the shower stall
  • The toilet should be 2½ inches higher than a standard toilet (17 to 19 inches) or height-adjustable
  • Design of the toilet paper holder should allow rolls to be changed with one hand
  • Use slip-resistant flooring in bathroom, tub and shower

Stairways, Lifts and Elevators

  • Make sure there are adequate handrails on both sides of stairway, 1¼-inch diameter
  • Increase stair visibility through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, color contrast between treads and risers on stairs and use of lighting
  • Multi-story homes may have a pre-framed shaft (i.e., stacked closets) for a future elevator, or stairway must be a minimum of 4’ wide to allow for a lift

Closets and Shelving

  • Install adjustable closet rods and shelves
  • Use easy-to-reach lighting in closets
  • Include easy-open doors that do not obstruct access
  • Make sure closets are uncluttered, organized and easily accessible, with items off the floor, including shoes
  • Shelves should be no more than 18 inches deep
  • Lower drawers should be deep and upper drawers should be shallow

Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security

  • Ensure light switches are by each entrance to hallways and rooms
  • Use 2-bulb light receptacles in vital places (exits, etc.)
  • Add more incandescent lights to the home
  • Add nightlights in areas one might walk at nighttime (i.e., bedroom, hallway and bathroom)
  • Light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls should be placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor
  • Use easy-to-see pre-programmed thermostats
  • Clear access space in front of switches and controls
  • Use rocker or touch light switches
  • Include an audible and visual strobe light system to indicate when doorbell, telephone or smoke or CO2 detectors have been activated
  • Install a high-tech security/intercom system, with heating, air conditioning and lighting, from any TV
  • Use a flashing porch light or 911 switch
  • Make sure the home is wired for security


  • Use smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior
  • If carpeted, use low (< ½ inch pile) density, with firm pad
  • Use color/texture contrast to indicate surface level changes

When care is needed, CareWorks Health Services can help, not only with a qualified caregiver, but by coordinating community services so living at home longer is possible. We can also provide a free in-home safety assessment and make recommendations for comfortably aging in place. Contact us to learn more about our Orange County home care service.

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