Design Your Custom Home with Senior Adult Safety in Mind

A scary day with Mom

Your mom comes to your home to visit. She’s an active 67-year old lady with lots of spunk and a sparkle in her eyes.

You don’t think of her as being “elderly.” After all, she has tons of energy to help with the kids, bake, walk, and do lots of volunteer work. She visits often and stays in your guest room, sharing a bathroom with your kids.

Then it happens.

As she tries to get out of the bathtub one evening, she doesn’t quite lift her foot high enough to clear the edge of the tub. She can’t catch herself in time and she falls awkwardly and breaks her leg, simultaneously hitting her forehead on the counter as she falls.

The rest of the night is a blur.

The ambulance. The eternal wait in the waiting room at the ER. The surgery. Days in the ICU. A week spent recovering in the hospital. The worry about a bleed on her brain or a stroke. The 6 weeks of rehab. The $120,000 price tag.

Sure she has Medicare, but she didn’t buy Medicare supplemental insurance. And Medicare alone doesn’t pay for everything.

Nothing can make up for the pain, suffering, stress, and lost time. Not to mention the extra weight on your shoulders as you try to take care of her, your kids, your house, her house (that’s 2 hours away), her bills, her medications, and her two dogs.


Falls are bad news for senior adults

Falls are the leading cause of death for senior adults age 65 and over. They are also the leading cause of significant injury. This is something we can’t afford to ignore.

According to the National Council on Aging:

  • One out of every four Americans 65 and older falls each year. –

The CDC shares this sobering statistic:

  • Thirty million older adults fall each year—resulting in about 30,000 deaths.

The average cost for a fall is $30,000.

Good news—falls are often preventable

That’s why we are passionate about building homes that help prevent falls for seniors.

Design your dream home with safety and fall-prevention strategies

When you think about your dream home, do you also think about making sure you put measures in place to protect your loved ones—and yourself— from injuries?

One of the most amazing benefits of building a custom home is that you get to design it with your family’s needs and priorities in mind. For today and the future. Custom home design is about beauty, personality, and functionality. It can also be about safety for everyone in the home.

More than ever, people are interested in building a home where they can “age in place” or where families can experience multi-generational living so the family can live together and help each other.

Universal design is a great place to start as you think about making your new custom home as accessible and easy to navigate as possible for your parents, your in-laws, and maybe, even, for your spouse or yourself one day.

Here are some great safety recommendations to consider in the design phase of your new custom home—before you even start the building process.

Jc Gellidon 9eb Bptxglm Unsplash Copy

22 custom home design safety tips:

  1. Minimize steps in the home on the main floor and getting to the main floor from outside, if possible.
  2. Have at least one master suite on the main floor of the house (or one sizable guest bedroom and adjacent bathroom).
  3. An alternative to a master suite downstairs could be an office with a closet (that could be easily converted to a bedroom if needed) and an adjoining bathroom with an accessible shower.
  4. Have a roll-in shower with no step-up in the downstairs bathroom, or at least a walk-in shower with a minimal curb.
  5. Choose an extra-large shower with a built-in shower bench for seating.
  6. Choose at least one handheld shower head for the shower, or have two showerheads with one being stationary and the other for a handheld shower.
  7. Design all staircases so that there are sturdy handrails on each side all the way along the stairs.
  8. Have cubbies or built-in storage areas in the foyer and mudroom to collect shoes, bags, umbrellas, and backpacks to reduce trip hazards and avoid clutter.
  9. Plan to have well-lit stairs (with lighting under each stair or lighting along the baseboards of the stairway) and floor-lighting along bedroom hallways.
  10. Choose non-skid surfaces in showers and tubs.
  11. Plan to have 36 inch wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
  12. Design bathrooms with safety grab bars near the toilet and in showers and tubs.
  13. Design living spaces to have plenty of outlets, some even on the floor near furniture, so that no one will need to run extension cords across the floor.
  14. Plan to add rubber stair treads on wooden stairs.
  15. Avoid carpeting (which can increase the risk of falling) and choose hard floor surfaces with the lowest possible thresholds in doorways to prevent tripping.
  16. Design for plenty of lighting along the sidewalk, driveway, and patio.
  17. Plan for plenty of storage so that there is a place for everything and no need for stacks of papers, books, or clutter around high-traffic areas or steps.
  18. Make sure there are plenty of cabinets that are within reach that don’t require a step stool for access.
  19. Design at least one entrance of the home to accommodate a wheelchair.
  20. Design plenty of lighting inside the home so that there are no dark steps, hallways, or areas where it could be difficult to see.
  21. Maximize natural lighting to help with good visibility.
  22. Design a multi-generation home so that elderly loved ones don’t have to live alone. They are safer when someone is there to check on them and love on them.

All of these suggestions can help prevent slips, trips, and falls for your loved ones and yourself in the future.

Greater safety preparation has its benefits

  • Longer life and more time with your loved ones.
  • Better quality of life.
  • Greater independence for a longer time.
  • A much shorter stay needed in an assisted living facility.
  • Lower medical costs.

Designing a custom home with safety in mind is important in any scenario

A family with multiple generations

Your parents, your in-laws or your adult children can live with you whether you want to live in the same home or separate living quarters on the same property.

A younger family with children

You may want to utilize universal design early on so that anyone who may have accessibility issues in the future will have no problems living in the home. If you need to have your parents move in one day, you’ll be ready. And you’ll be prepared to live in the home yourself for as long as possible.

A family with someone with an existing disability

You already know you need a specially designed home.

Singles or couples without children

You want to “age in place” gracefully and let this dream home be your home for a lifetime.

An adult helping your elderly parents design a new custom home.

You want to be sure the house will meet their needs and help protect them from dangerous and costly falls.



Designing a Multi-generational Custom Home

7 Benefits of Building a Multi-generational Custom Home

Building a Custom Home Where You Can “Age in Place”

Is a Cluttered Home Harming Your Family’s Health?

What Are the Steps to Building a Home?


Fall Fact Sheet—by

Preventing Falls in Older Adults—by

New Thinking on Avoiding Deadly Falls—by

Preventing Falls Caregiver Checklist—by

Check for Safety – by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Postural Hypotension—by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (to help prevent fall injuries for those who feel dizzy when standing up quickly)