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Few things are more important than being - and feeling - safe in our own home.

On this page you can find examples of what you can do to help improve safety and security in the home.

1. Answering the door
2. External lighting
3. Making locks, keys and handles easier to turn

Answering the door

If your relative is insufficiently mobile or unable to get up quickly enough to answer the door, they may want to give a copy of the main door key(s) to trusted regular visitors such as family and friends. Another solution is to install an outdoor key safe on a wall by the door: these are secure boxes, holding one or more keys and requiring a code to open. Make sure the key safe you purchase is police approved; it may be more expensive, but it is likely to be more reliable.

For someone who doesn’t always hear the doorbell, there are several options. Choose from doorbells designed to be extra-loud (or have optional high-volume settings) or which have flashing lights. There are also wireless doorbells that link to a vibrating pager, which people can keep in their pocket.

Many older people also like to have a safety chain on the inside of the door. Modern variants of the safety chain now come with an external key-operated release. The purpose of this is to allow the internal chain to be released in an emergency, for example by a relative or other trusted key-holder.

Another good option is an intercom system, using a phone, camera, or both. An intercom will allow someone to know who is at the door before choosing whether or not to open it. Some systems can also be set up with a control to remotely unlock the door. This may be particularly useful for an older person with reduced mobility, as they won’t need to move to the door to let in a welcome visitor.

External 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.

  • 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.

Making locks, keys and handles easier to turn

There are many products available to help with locking and unlocking doors if your relative is beginning to lose strength or dexterity in their fingers, or is suffering from reduced visibility or hand-eye coordination. Some of these include:

  • Key turners: these are plastic handles designed to attach to a key (or sometimes several keys) at one end. Look for one that fits comfortably in the hand, perhaps with a textured surface to give better grip; and for space for the key to fold into the handle when not in use.
  • Rubber lock and/or handle covers: if the problem is with turning a lock on the inside of a door – for example, with a Yale lock that has a knob to be turned – use a rubber cover, fitting over the top of the knob to provide a better grip.
  • Remote locking: today’s technology means that a traditional key-and-keyhole is not the only option for locking and unlocking doors. It is now possible to have remote locking for your home (similar to a car's central locking), although this is not necessarily a cheap solution.
  • Larger handles: consider changing the handles so they are larger and easier to grip.

More information

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: April 2019