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As you age, these 8 home improvements will keep you safer

(Chris Philpot)
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Your home is probably the place where you feel the most secure.

A few smart steps can help you keep it that way by protecting you against potential hazards. What’s nice about home modifications is that the changes don’t have to be huge to make a huge impact, says Allysin E. Bridges-German, an occupational therapist with the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Bridges-German and Consumer Reports experts provide eight tips on small improvements that will keep you safer.

1. Smoke detectors

It’s ideal to place one inside each bedroom and near any other sleeping areas. Have at least one on each floor, finished attics and basements included. CR recommends detectors that pick up both flaming and smoldering fires.

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2. Carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and potentially deadly gas, so being able to detect it can be lifesaving. Install one on each level of your house and in the basement, especially if you have appliances or heating equipment that burn oil, propane, natural gas or wood. If you have an attached garage, position your first-floor detector near it but not inside it. You may also want to use wireless interconnected smoke, CO or combination alarms, which will sound throughout your house if one is triggered.

3. Fire extinguishers

Keep a portable, multipurpose fire extinguisher on each level of your house and in the garage. Store a smaller unit in your kitchen and car.

4. Railings

Wherever you have steps (stairways, entryways, basements) you need sturdy railings. Ideally, they should be on both sides of the steps.

5. Grab bars

They can cut the risk of bathroom falls. Install them where you enter the shower or tub and on a wall inside the stall. Skip grab bars that attach with suction. Instead, have wall-mounted bars put in by someone who can affix them to wall studs. It’s best to choose bars whose surfaces are slightly textured and thus more grippable.

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6. Lighting

Mount motion sensor lights in the hall so you don’t need to fumble for a switch at night. They’re a good choice for the outside of your house, as well. Using brighter bulbs can help light the way, too.

7. Remove floor hazards

You may want to pack away throw rugs, which can be tripping hazards. For hardwood steps, consider attaching a nonslip tread to each one to provide traction and help you see the edge.

For added protection in a bathroom, use nonslip treads or a mat with rubber suction inside your tub or shower stall.

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8. A medical alert device

If you fall and injure yourself and can’t reach a phone, a cellular smartwatch or medical alert (a device you wear as a watch or pendant that you activate by pressing a button) may be helpful for summoning emergency assistance.

 Copyright 2021, Consumer Reports Inc.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Read more at ConsumerReports.org.

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