Section 4: The Safe Living Guide - A Guide to Home Safety for Seniors – Keeping your home safe

Injuries can result from seemingly innocent things around your home—many of which are easily fixed or adapted after you do some detective work to track them down. The following checklists will help you inspect your home for evidence of trouble that may be waiting to happen. Every NO answer is a clue that your home may not be as safe as it could be and that you should be making the needed changes as soon as you can. Your safety depends on it!



  • Do all your entrances have an outdoor light? Yes_ No_

  • Do your outdoor stairs, pathways or decks have railings and provide good traction (i.e. textured surfaces) Yes_ No_

  • Are the front steps and walkways around your house in good repair and free of clutter, snow or leaves? Yes_ No_

  • Do the doorways to your balcony or deck have a low sill or threshold? Yes_ No_

  • Can you reach your mailbox safely and easily? Yes_ No_

  • Is the number of your house clearly visible from the street and well lit at night? Yes_ No_

TIP: If you live in a rural area and don't have a visible house number, make sure your name is on your mailbox and keep a clear description of directions to your home (main roads, landmarks, etc.) by each phone in your house.


  • Are all rooms and hallways in your home well lit? Yes_ No_

  • Are all throw rugs and scatter mats secured in place to keep them from slipping? Yes_ No_

  • Have you removed scatter mats from the top of the stairs and high traffic areas? Yes_ No_

  • Are your high traffic areas clear of obstacles? Yes_ No_

  • Do you always watch that your pets are not underfoot? Yes_ No_

  • If you use floor wax, do you use the non-skid kind? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a first aid kit and know where it is? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a list of emergency numbers near all phones? Yes_ No_

TIP: Install a seat at the entrance of your home to remove or put on your shoes and boots.

woman slipping on a throw rug
Avoid throw rugs and scatter mats. They're dangerous!


  • Are your stairways well lit and do you have light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs? Yes_ No_

  • Are your stairs in good repair and free of clutter? Yes_ No_

  • Do the steps of your stairs have a non-skid surface? Yes_ No_

  • Are there solid handrails on both sides of the stairway? Yes_ No_

  • Do you remove your reading glasses when using the stairs? Yes_ No_

TIPS: To help avoid taking a misstep, you can paint wooden or concrete steps with a strip of contrasting colour on the edge of each step or on the top and bottom steps.

Don't rush going up or down stairs. Rushing is a major cause of falls.

broken stairs
Are your stairs in good repair?

Fire and Hazardous Materials

  • Do you have a smoke detector on every floor of your home? Yes_ No_

  • Do you test your smoke detector every six months? Yes_ No_

  • Have you developed an escape route in case of fire and a fire safety plan? Yes_ No_

  • Are you registered on your apartment building's fire safety plan? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home? Yes_ No_

  • Are flammable and hazardous materials clearly labelled and properly stored? Yes_ No_

  • If you use a space heater, is it placed well away from flammable substances and materials? Yes_ No_

  • Do you use appropriate power bars to prevent overloading electrical outlets? Yes_ No_

  • If you live in an older home, have you or an electrician inspected your wiring, fuse box, electrical cords and appliances for safety? Yes_ No_

TIP: To remember to test your smoke detector twice a year, make a habit of testing it when you turn your clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall.


  • Do you test the water temperature before you get into the bathtub or shower? Yes_ No_

  • Is your hot water temperature set to the recommended 49°C (120°F) ? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have non-slip surfaces in the tub or shower? Yes_ No_

  • Do bath mats next to the tub or shower have rubberized backing or are they secured in place to keep them from slipping? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a night light in the bathroom? Yes_ No_

  • Does your bathroom door lock have an emergency release? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have grab bars that have been properly placed and well anchored to the wall in the bathtub or shower? Yes_ No_

  • If you have any trouble getting on and off the toilet, do you have a raised toilet seat and a grab bar that is well anchored? Yes_ No_

  • If it's difficult for you to take a shower standing up, have you considered a bath seat? Yes_ No_

TIP: Some tile and bath cleaning products actually increase slipperiness. Be careful when using such products.

raised toilet seat
Do you need a raised toilet seat?


  • Are your pots and pans, canned goods and staple foods stored in an easy–to–reach location—between knee and shoulder heights? Yes_ No_

  • Are heavy items stored in the lower cupboards and light items in the higher cupboards? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a stable step stool (with a safety rail) for reaching high places? Yes_ No_

  • Are the "off" and "on" positions on the stove dials clearly marked? Yes_ No_

  • Are your oven mitts within easy reach when you are cooking? Yes_ No_

  • Do you make sure never to cook while wearing loose-fitting clothing or sleepwear? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, mounted on the wall away from the stove? Yes_ No_

  • Do you regularly check that your fire extinguisher is in good operating order? Yes_ No_

TIP: Use heat-resistant oven mitts rather than potholders; they provide a better grip on hot containers and give you better protection against splatters and steam. If you do experience a burn, immerse in cool water (not ice or butter!).

a chef using oven mitts
Are your oven mitts in a handy location?


  • Is there a light switch near the entrance to your bedroom? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a lamp or a light switch near your bed? Yes_ No_

  • Do you keep night lights or other sources of light on in case you get up in the middle of the night? Yes_ No_

  • Is there a clear path from your bed to the bathroom? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a phone and a list of emergency phone numbers near your bed? Yes_ No_

TIPS: Make sure your bed is not too high or low, so that it is easy to get in and out of it.
You can purchase short bed rails to steady yourself when getting out of bed.

A man falling over objects in his path
Is there a clear path from your bed to the bathroom?


  • Are your workroom and laundry room well lit? Yes_ No_

  • Do you have a telephone in the basement and a list of emergency phone numbers? Yes_ No_

  • Do you keep floors and benches clean to reduce fire and tripping hazards? Yes_ No_

  • Are all your tools and service equipment in good condition? Are the safety locks on? Yes_ No_

  • Is your work area well ventilated, summer and winter? Yes_ No_

  • Are heavy items on lower shelves or in bottom cupboards? Yes_ No_

  • Do you use a ladder or a stable step stool (with a safety rail) for reaching high places? Yes_ No_

  • Are all chemicals, such as bleach, cleaners and paint thinners, clearly identified? Yes_ No_

  • Are flammable materials stored as indicated by the directions on the label and away from sources of heat and flame? Yes_ No_

  • If you have a gas barbecue, is your propane tank stored outside of the house? Yes_ No_

TIP: When you use a ladder, never stand or sit on the top three rungs. Maintain your balance by keeping your body centred between the rails, not reaching to the sides and not pushing or pulling on anything.


(a must, for doting grandparents)

  • Have you removed items from your lower surfaces to prevent breakage, injury and spills? Yes_ No_

  • Child-resistant caps are not childproof. Are all medications and pill boxes stored out of the reach of children? Yes_ No_

  • Are household products and chemicals, such as cleaning products, paint, paint thinners and alcohol, stored and locked in a cupboard that is out of the reach of children? Yes_ No_

  • Are cosmetic products, such as nail polish remover, creams, mouthwash and perfumes, out of the reach of children? Yes_ No_

  • Have you stored small objects out of the sight and reach of younger children to prevent choking? Yes_ No_

  • Have you installed safety catches on your cupboards and medicine cabinet doors? Yes_ No_

  • Have you stored lighters, matches and candles out of the sight and reach of children? Yes_ No_

  • Is there a safety latch on your stove and dishwasher? Yes_ No_

  • Are extension, telephone and venetian blind cords out of children's way? Yes_ No_

  • Are your garage and workshop locked with deadbolts installed high on the doors? Yes_ No_

TIP: If you have a pool, or if there's one in the building where you live, exercise extreme vigilance. Make sure the pool is absolutely off-limits to children by installing safety devices on house doors leading to the pool and a very high latch on the pool fence gates. Never leave any child without supervision.

Eileen's Story

When Eileen Shannon was taking care of her ailing mother-in-law, she decided to get grab bars installed in the bathroom. She also got a bath seat. She was pretty familiar with safety devices and she knew her mother-in-law needed the support in the bathroom. Now, several years later, Eileen is surprised to find herself using those same grab bars. Although Eileen is fairly healthy, she did have two unexpected bouts of illness. "I thought, I'm 69, I won't need those things. But when you get ill, and you come back from the hospital and you're weak, you're mighty glad to have that bar on the bathtub wall."

Eileen's house has other safety features that she installed and finds handy, such as improved lighting, night lights, and lever taps that are easy to turn. As she lives in a large house and her home is the place where everyone gathers for family get-togethers, she has also childproofed the rooms. When she looks ahead to the future, she sees herself remaining in this house safely for a long time to come.

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