To minimise the chance of a relative with mobility issues suffering an accident at home, start by ensuring the approach to their home is as safe as possible. 

On this page you can find suggestions of what to look out for when ensuring the approach to your relative's home is as safe as it can be.

1. Paths and driveways

2. External lighting

3. External steps

4. Mobility aids to help avoid falls

Automated lighting

There are a number of good options for automated lighting. Some lights detect changes in the daylight and will come on at dusk, or can be programmed to come on at specific times. Others are activated by movement, such as when a car or person approaches the driveway or front door.

Paths and driveways

  • Ensure that any paths and driveways are in a good condition and kept clear of obstacles, including leaves, weeds and over-hanging plants and trees. Look out for drainage covers that are not fitted properly, especially if they are not level with the surface.
  • Flat, even paving is the easiest surface to walk on. If the current path or driveway has gravel or loose chippings, consider replacing these with paving.
  • Grass areas can also be difficult to walk across – particularly in wet weather, or if using a walking aid (the legs of a walking frame could sink into soft ground, for example). You may want to consider replacing the relevant sections of grass with paving.
  • Check that paths are wide enough, taking into account any mobility aids such as a walking stick or walking frame that your relative uses. A guide to suitable path-widths can be found here.
  • If the path involves steps or a natural gradient, it might be possible to fit a hand rail along one side of the path.
  • If the path or driveway is long, consider placing a seat halfway along it to allow for a rest.
  • Contrasting colours help define the edge of a path, which is useful if your relative’s eyesight isn’t very good. If the path runs along one side of a garden or lawn, use plants or flowers to create a colourful and natural boundary.

External lighting

  • Install good lighting at the front and back of the property, and particularly over entrance doors. Also ensure that lights are used to illuminate any steps, slopes and areas that have obstacles or uneven surfaces.
  • Make sure that parking areas are clearly lit, including the route from the parking area to the front door. Use low-level lighting to illuminate paths and provide direction.

External steps

Older people with mobility problems can find steps difficult to negotiate. Some ways to help prevent a fall outside in this risk area include the following suggestions:

  • Repair steps that are crumbling or in poor condition.
  • Where possible, replace or adapt steps that have over-hanging edges (sometimes called 'nosing').
  • Where possible, alter or replace steps that are too narrow to accommodate the whole of the foot. For a person using a walking aid (such as a frame), steps should be at least 600mm deep.
  • Be aware that steps that are exposed to the rain and weather may become slippery when wet.

Mobility aids to help avoid falls

If you know that mobility is a problem for your relative, there are aids that are available to help reduce the risk of falls.

  • Half steps: these are moveable metal or plastic blocks that can be placed before fixed steps to reduce the height a person has to step up or down. Look for half steps designed for outdoor use, with height-adjustable feet and a built-in slip-resistant mat.
  • Hand rails: these can be very useful aids for going up and down stairs, particularly if the steps are steep.
  • Non-slip (also called anti-slip) rubber mats: some types of these mats are suitable to use on outdoor surfaces such as concrete steps, and do not become slippery in wet weather.
  • Ramps: if your relative uses a wheelchair or scooter, consider installing one or more of these as necessary.

More information

Page last reviewed: March 2015
Next review due: November 2016