How to feel safe and stay independent in your own home as an older person

There’s no place like home – it’s where we should all feel the safest and most secure. But as we get older, we may start to feel a little less safe at home, whether that’s due to mobility issues, illness or feeling more susceptible to crime and scammers.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to help put your mind at ease and feel empowered in your home.

Preventing falls

We often start to feel a bit less steady on our feet as we get older. This can mean we’re more prone to falling. Fortunately, there are lots of simple things that you can do to prevent falls.

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Minimise trip hazards
A good place to start is to clear away any excess clutter so that you can move around your house with ease. You may also want to think about rearranging your furniture so that there’s room to walk between places.

Stairs tend to become harder to navigate as we get older, so make sure they’re well lit and have suitable handrails and bannisters. You can also use non-slip tape to mark the edges of any steps, but do make sure it’s stuck down properly so it doesn’t become a hazard in itself.

Wrap up any wires or cords, or tape them to the wall out of the way and replace any worn-out carpets or rugs to help minimise trip hazards around the home.

Finally, a good pair of shoes can make all the difference. Worn-out or badly fitting shoes and slippers can increase the likelihood of a fall. It’s important to look after your feet as problems such as foot pain can affect your balance and increase the risk of a fall.

Light up your house
It may seem obvious, but ensuring that the light bulbs around your house are as bright as possible will help to minimise potential trips. Make sure your stairs are well lit – two-way light switches fitted at both the top and bottom of the stairs mean you can turn lights on from wherever you are. You could also think about nightlights or having a lamp or torch by the bed in case you need to get up in the night.

Consider using a personal alarm
If you don’t feel entirely confident at home, a personal alarm could help. If you fall, a personal alarm lets you contact a 24-hour response centre at the touch of a button. Some alarms also include GPS tracking for extra peace of mind. Many councils run personal alarm schemes. You can go online or contact your local council to find out what’s available in your area.

Ask for help with home renovations and repairs
Simple home renovations can help to provide comfort and confidence in the home. If you contact your local council for a care needs assessment, an assessor will help you to work out what equipment or adaptations might be right for you. For example, you may want to think about getting a handrail installed in the bathroom if you’re finding it difficult to get in or out of the bath safely. Plus, any equipment or small adaptations that help meet your assessed needs are free.


Useful resources:

  • Read Age UK’s guides on Staying Steady or Adapting Your Home
  • Check to see if your local Age UK offers a handyperson scheme to assist with small repairs around the home
  • If you’re in Wales, contact your local Age Cymru or Care & Repair Cymru to find out if there’s a handyperson scheme in your area
  • Northern Ireland residents can check with Age NI for local availability of handyperson schemes
  • Check if you qualify for the Disabled Facilities Grant by contacting the Occupational Therapy Department at your local Health and Social Care Trust
  • Foundations, the national body for Home Improvement Agencies (HIA), can help connect you to an agency offering repairs or adaptations in your area
  • Living Made Easy offers more information on equipment and adaptations that could help you at home

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Elderly woman walking outside with a protective mask over her nose and mouth

To feel safe in our homes, we need to feel secure and protected.

Securing your home

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To feel safe in our homes, we need to feel secure and protected. Luckily, there are many simple – and often inexpensive – precautions that you can take to increase safety and reduce the risk of intruders or break-ins.

Strengthen your home security
To keep your doors and windows as secure as possible, make sure they all have locks that can only be unlocked with a key, even from the inside. You can add additional locks such as a hinge bolt or automatic rim latch (sometimes called a night latch) to add extra protection. It’s also worth considering having a door chain and/or a peephole fitted so you can see who’s outside without having to fully open your door.

Improving home security also applies to garages and sheds. Often, these extensions to our homes contain expensive items like bikes or power tools, which burglars can steal or use to break into your home. Fit garage and shed doors with good locks and replace any doors that aren’t solidly built. It’s also worth fitting a strong, lockable gate to any passageways at the side and back of your home – but do discuss this with neighbours first if you share the passageway!

Outdoor, motion-detecting lights can act as a good deterrent to any burglars, as can visible burglar alarms. There are lots of alarm types with different features and costs, so get a few quotes and specialist advice from alarm companies before you have one installed.

Finally, avoid leaving your door or window keys in an obvious or easily accessible place such as under doormats, in plant pots, or by the front door or windows. While these keys do need to be accessible in case of an emergency, you don’t want to make it easy for burglars to access them. If you’re heading out, ensure all doors and windows are locked, and consider leaving a light on if you’re out for the evening so that it looks as if someone is home.

Staying safe at the door
An unexpected knock at the front door can be unsettling, especially if it is someone you don’t know. Sometimes, scammers pretend to be someone they’re not, such as a meter reader, police officer, council or benefits official, or a person needing help. Be sure not to introduce any unexpected callers into your home without seeing official identification first. If they are genuine, they’ll be happy to show you this and will even wait while you check they are who they claim to be.

Other unexpected callers can come in the form of doorstep traders. These salespeople can be quite pushy, and you may feel pressured into buying unnecessary and unwanted items or services. It can be difficult to get rid of some doorstep traders, but remember that you’re in control. Don’t sign or pay for anything until you’ve talked to someone else, and never let anyone persuade you to go to your bank and withdraw cash. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson to leave. If they refuse, call the police.

If you’re worried about a doorstep caller, you can call the police, your housing officer, the manager of your sheltered housing scheme, or someone you trust. If you’re ever unsure, don’t open the door.

Useful resources:

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Elderly couple looking at an iPad and smiling

Gas and electric problems can go unnoticed, but some straightforward checks will make your home safer and reduce the risk of an accident.

Fire, gas and electrical safety

Gas and electric problems can go unnoticed, but some straightforward checks will make your home safer and reduce the risk of an accident.


Fire safety
It’s vital to have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home. Alarms should bear the British Standard number BS 5446 and the Kitemark. Be sure to keep the alarms clean and to test them monthly.

You should change alarm batteries at least once a year. Alternatively, you can get a long-life alarm that lasts between seven and 10 years. There are also specialist smoke alarms available if you have hearing or sight difficulties; for example, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People has products for people who are hard of hearing. If you live in private rented accommodation, check with your landlord to make sure there are working fire alarms in your property.

Some fire and rescue services also offer a Home Fire Risk Check where they help you install smoke alarms, plan escape routes and assess other hazards. Contact your local fire service to find out more, or if in Northern Ireland, contact Age NI for a free referral for a Safety Check.

Electrical safety

Most homes have lots of things plugged in, but making sure everything’s being used safely can help prevent a fire.

Keep an eye out for any fraying or exposed wires and any damaged appliances and sockets. Don’t ignore warning signs such as burning smells, buzzing or crackling sounds, or fuses blowing.

Be careful not to overload sockets, too. If you don’t have enough sockets, you can use a bar adapter on a lead – but make sure you only put one plug directly in each socket for appliances that use a lot of power, such as a fridge or washing machine.

Avoid leaving heaters unattended and don’t use them while you’re sleeping. Be careful when using electric blankets – check whether yours can definitely be left on overnight and look for any danger signs, such as fraying fabric or scorch marks. Never switch it on if you, or it, are wet and don’t use it with a hot water bottle – however cold it might be!

Gas safety

It’s good to have an annual check to make sure your appliances are working safely, but do make sure checks and any repairs are carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

If you own your home and receive a means-tested benefit, such as Pension Credit, you may be entitled to a free annual gas safety check from your energy supplier. Contact your supplier directly to see if you’re eligible. If you rent, your landlord is legally required to arrange a safety check with a registered Gas Safe engineer at least once a year for any gas appliances they’ve provided. The landlord must then give you a copy of the inspection record within 28 days of the check and fix any problems reported by the engineer.

Heaters, boilers or other appliances that burn gas, coal, oil or wood can give off carbon monoxide if they aren’t working properly. Even low exposure to carbon monoxide can cause long-term health problems, while high exposure can cause poisoning.

Installing a simple audible carbon monoxide detector will help prevent poisoning – but make sure it bears the Kitemark and European Standard number BS EN 50291. If you live in private rented accommodation, your landlord must fit an alarm in each room containing a gas or solid fuel appliance (excluding appliances used for cooking purposes). Speak with them directly if you think you need one fitted or checked.

Finally, energy suppliers and distribution network operators have Priority Services Registers for people over state pension age and those who need some extra help, perhaps because they live with a long-term health condition or disability or are unable to communicate in English. Some people need support temporarily after an injury or illness, too.

Useful resources:

  • If at any point you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, open all doors and windows, turn off the gas supply and call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999
  • If you have a power cut, call 105 free of charge. In Northern Ireland, contact Northern Ireland Electricity on 03457 643 643
  • Contact the Gas Safe Register for more information on gas safety or to find a registered engineer
  • Read Age UK’s list of useful contacts

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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