Safety tips and tricks to help keep seniors safe during the holidays

While the holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends, they are also a time accidents occur more often, especially for seniors. Whether living alone, with family or a caregiver, see below for a list of holiday dangers, hazards, and tips, to be aware of to help keep the holidays safe!

Outdoors: Preventing Falls and Injuries

  • Snow and ice are the number one risk to seniors during the holidays, so make sure walkways are clear of both. When able, seniors should always have someone help them keep walkways cleared and salted.
  • If help is not possible, be sure to wear slip-resistant boots and tackle clearing the snow and ice in small chunks to help avoid injury. After all, snow removal is one of the leading causes of heart attacks.
  • Seniors should avoid going outside when it’s snowing or immediately following.  
  • Keep a supply of all essentials (food, medications, bottled water, blankets, etc.) on hand in case you are unable to leave the house for an extended period of time. 
  • Seniors should make a list of people (and their phone numbers) they can call if they need help and keep the list easily visible.
  • When decorating outdoors, extension cords for outside lights and yard displays should always be tucked away near the base of the home and never run across walkways. 

Indoors: Preventing Falls and Injuries

  • If decorating inside (or even outside) this holiday season, seniors should get help putting up decorations, especially anything heavy or up high. 
  • When choosing where to put decorations, remember to keep all indoor walkways clear of tripping hazards like unsecured rugs or extension cords. 
  • Try to keep wires contained in areas where no one will be walking and/or secure them to a wall. 
  • Injuries due to a fall are very common for seniors, so it’s worth the extra time to prevent them.
  • When prepping holiday meals or baking, set a timer to remember when to check the food and try not to leave the kitchen while the oven or range is on.

Electrical Safety:

  • Holiday decorations often have lights or need electricity to move. This usually means extra electrical cords throughout the home. Again, cords are fall and trip hazards, so be sure they are not in walkways and are secured to walls whenever possible.
  • Do not skimp on the quality of holiday lights and lit decorations. Some lower quality lights may cause electrical shortages, which lead to electrical fires.
  • Christmas decorations and lights should be put out in areas where there are adequate outlets.
  • Do not string extension cords across the floor or hide them under rugs. While you may think concealing an electrical cord under a rug is a good idea, it can cause bumps that are easy to trip and fall on. Especially if you or a loved one tend to shuffle your feet or use a walker or a cane.
  • Look for battery-operated Christmas decorations and keep the tree near an outlet so it can easily be plugged in. 
  • Use a timer and set lights to go on and off automatically. Using a timer will save you or a loved one from continually bending down to plug lights in and out.
  • Check extension cords and lights to ensure they are not old or frayed. Old extension cords and lights can cause electric shock or sparks. Try not to leave lights on while unattended. 

Fire Hazards: 

  • Fire is another serious risk to seniors, especially during the holidays. Many holiday decorations involve very combustible materials such as tissue paper and flammable cotton. Avoid these materials and use fire-resistant decorations when possible. 
  • If combustible materials are unavoidable, keep them away from bare electrical wires, fireplaces, or candles to help ensure they do not catch on fire.
  • Have an emergency fire plan in place and ensure a working smoke detector is in each room of the home. 
  • Seniors should avoid climbing on ladders or chairs to test their smoke detectors and call someone to help. 
  • Have at least one fire extinguisher in the home in case you need to combat small house fires.
  • Be careful when using family heirlooms or other older decorations, especially near open flames like candles. 
  • During Hanukkah, keep flammable items, like drapes or tablecloths, away from the Menorah.
  • Christmas Trees:
    • Christmas trees are the centerpieces of many Christmas events and hold decorative and nostalgic ornaments that bring joy and happiness to families. However, they can also be dangerous.
    • Try and use an artificial tree that is labeled as “fire resistant” and avoid real trees when possible. Real trees are at a higher risk of catching fire than artificial trees. 
    • If you do get a real Christmas tree, make sure to choose a live tree that has green needles that do not break easily. The tree should be sticky with resin, only have a few loose needles, and the tree stand should always be filled with water. 
    • Both real trees and artificial trees should be kept away from vents, radiators, fireplaces, and candles and try and use only flame-resistant ornaments.

While the holidays are a time to celebrate with family, friends, and loved ones, they are also a time to be mindful of the hazards of the season. Simply follow these tips, and you can make sure that you and your loved ones stay healthy and injury-free during the holidays. Be sure to pass along these holiday safety tips to any seniors in your life. Together, we can help ensure the season is merry and bright!

Check out more great articles for holiday safety tips:

Holiday Health and Safety Tips from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

The 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

11 tips for helping seniors stay healthy during the holiday season from

Mental Health This Holiday and Beyond: 4 Steps to Combat Loneliness in Seniors from the National Council on Aging (NCOA)