Feeling safe at home: A guide for senior living

It’s no surprise that many seniors prefer to live at home, rather than in aged care or a retirement village. Staying close to friends, family and community can help older Australians feel a sense of autonomy.

It’s natural to worry about an older relative on their own, but taking a few simple steps can offer you — and them — some peace of mind.

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Safety hazards in the home for the elderly

Most domestic accidents happen in the kitchen or bathroom, so it makes sense to pay extra attention to those areas of the home.

In the bathroom

Hazards in the bathroom for the elderly include:

  • slippery tiles,
  • bathtub slips,
  • a loose toilet seat, and
  • faulty or misused electrical appliances.

In the kitchen

The kitchen is full of potential hazards. Some of the most common are:

  • sharp utensils,
  • overloaded circuits,
  • carbon monoxide leaks,
  • flammable materials near stovetops,
  • hot surfaces and cookware,
  • unattended flames, and
  • heavy pots and pans.

Have a plan in place

Having an action plan means your loved one will know what to do and who to call if anything goes wrong. For example, putting a list of medications and emergency contacts on the fridge can help friends, family and emergency services to act quickly.

Is the home properly insured?

Has your older family member considered home and contents insurance to help prepare for the unexpected — say, water damage from a burst pipe? GIO Home and Contents Insurance can help cover your loved one’s belongings and the home that houses them.* So, they can stress less, and focus more on enjoying their later years at home.

Get a Home and Contents Insurance quote 

Reduce trip and fall hazards

Elderly loved ones often say precautions like these aren’t necessary, but it may still be good to stay on the cautious side.

The following can help reduce trip and fall hazards:

  • Adding non-slip strips to staircases. These can also help older people see steps clearly.
  • Adding non-slip mats or stickers to slippery or high-risk rooms, like the bathroom.
  • Making sure there’s good lighting.
  • Wearing non-slip shoes or grip socks.
  • Clearing clutter, including electrical cords.
  • Removing loose rugs.
  • Maintaining walkways, including outdoor ones.

Fire safety measures

Common causes of a fire are related to:

  • cooking,
  • heating,
  • dryers,
  • electrical circuits or appliances,
  • candles, and
  • cigarettes.

Make sure your loved one takes extra care in the kitchen as many domestic fires start here. Remind them to never leave stovetop flames unattended, even if they’re just leaving the room to finish some quick chores. Make sure flammable items are stored safely away from stovetops or hot surfaces.

Don’t let your guard down in winter

Contrary to popular belief, home fires often occur in winter. This is because we light more candles and use open fires or heaters. Make sure all items, including curtains, are at least one metre away from heating systems. And of course, never leave a candle unattended. 

Read more tips on how to avoid a fire at home.

Make upgrades to the home for better mobility

As seniors get older, their mobility may diminish. Getting out of the shower and walking up the stairs may not be as easy as it used to be. Making adjustments could help them to feel more independent. These could include:

  • installing hand rails in the bathroom,
  • replacing stairs with ramps,
  • moving the bedroom downstairs if possible,
  • taping all exposed cords to surfaces to avoid tripping, and
  • placing non-slip mats near the sinks in the kitchen and bathroom.

If you do decide to make some upgrades, you should consider reviewing your building sum insured. Your sum insured is the most we will pay for loss or damage for any one incident. You wouldn’t want the risk of being underinsured if anything happens.

Take extra precautions with security

As a senior, you want to know that your house is safe and secure. So, it’s important to get some things in order. This may include the following:

  • A security system with cameras and an alarm.
  • Motion sensors that turn on when movement is detected at night.
  • A safe spot to place family heirlooms and other valuables.
  • A peep hole for the front door.
  • Secure locks on doors and windows.
  • An easily accessible emergency button.

Make neighbours aware

You may not be able to check in all the time, but it may help to have someone close by to keep an eye out. If comfortable, you and your loved one may consider reaching out to their neighbours to let them know they’re living alone. Your loved one could also make their neighbours aware of emergency contacts and any other conditions. Doing so could give you, and your loved one, that little extra peace of mind.


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* Subject to the exclusions, conditions and limits of your policy.

Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. The Target Market Determination is also available. Any advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. The information is intended to be of general nature only.

Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.