The front door
If you have reduced mobility or are unable to get up quickly enough to answer the door, it may help to give a copy of the main door key(s) to trusted regular visitors, such as family and friends.
These are secure boxes holding one or more keys and requiring a code to open that are fixed to a wall outside. They are a good option for people who can't let in visitors, such as family members and home carers, and for anyone who forgets their key regularly.
Make sure the key safe you purchase is police approved; it may be more expensive, but it’s likely to be more reliable.
Doorbells and intercom systems
If you don’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 you can keep in your 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 you 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 if you have reduced mobility, as you won’t need to move to the door to let in a welcome visitor.
An intercom will allow you to know who is at the door before choosing whether or not to open it.
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.
Smart home security
As well as traditional security equipment, there is now also a growing range of ‘smart’ security devices available.
Smart technology enables you to remotely control a range of devices around the home. A smart home security system can include internet-connected devices such as wireless cameras, motion detectors and smart doorbells. These can all be monitored and controlled from a central smart hub or smartphone app.
Making locks, keys and handles easier to turn
There are many products available to help with locking and unlocking doors if you’re beginning to lose strength or dexterity in your fingers, or have 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’s now possible to have remote locking for your home (similar to a car’s central locking system), although this is not necessarily a cheap solution.
- Larger handles: consider changing the handles so they’re larger and easier to grip.
Choosing the right independent living products can improve your safety and wellbeing, and give you greater independence.
Use our checklists to review the basic safety aspects of your home – such as lighting, heating, power and furniture.
Read about how personal alarms can help older people feel safer at home and remain independent for longer.