What is the Best Type of Handrail for Elderly People?

man with walking stick

Falls are the most common type of accident that an elderly person can suffer from. The effects can be all kinds of injuries from cuts and bruises, to broken hips and other bones and joints. Unfortunately, some of the injuries can result in complications and time spent in the hospital. Rehabilitation takes longer for an elderly person, as is much more painful and uncomfortable.

The good news is that most of these falls can be prevented with handrails and grab rails throughout the home. This can be especially useful in bathrooms, kitchens and other areas that carry a high slip/trip risk.

Handrails – What Are They?

A handrail is a wall fixture that users grip for stability, support and balance. It is a standard feature on staircases and balustrades. The aim is to bear the weight of the person using it so that they can support and balance themselves whilst walking, climbing or descending the stairs. It can also be used for general balance. Many older people have rails in their kitchens so that they have a little bit of extra support- but can still cook for themselves.

The Best Places for Handrails

They can be fitted across the home, dependant on the user and where they need them most. Usually, handrails can be fitted-

  • Bathroom, in or around the shower area, the bathtub, the wash basin and the toilet
  • Bedroom to help people pull themselves out of bed or to help steady themselves as they lower themselves onto the bed
  • Kitchen
  • By external doors
  • On the staircase wall, running parallel to the staircase handrail so that the user has a grab rail on either side.

Types of Handrails

In the UK, there are very tight regulations for balustrades and handrails. There are rules on how they should be fitted, at what height etc. It is important to take a look at what these building regulations say.

Handrails need to be;

  • At the right height – for most interior applications, the handrail needs to be at 0.9m from the ground or surface to which it is fixed. Short grab rails are different: they can be placed at the best spot for use by the user. Handrails and grab rails are about offering an extra layer of safety to living and moving around the home inside and out. Outside, handrails fixed to balcony balustrades etc. would normally be fitted at 1.1m to help prevent falls.


  • Made from a sturdy material – handrails can be made from wood or metal but this doesn’t mean that handrails have to look plain or boring. In fact, with a glass balustrade, metal posts and a light beech handrail, your staircase or balustrade will look spectacular.


  • Able to withstand a spread and pinpoint load – handrails are there to help a person steady or balance themselves. For many elderly, they will often be the tool that they use to climb stairs or step down, and this means that the handrail need to bear their full weight. This is known as the load on the handrail or balustrades. The handrail will need to disperse this load through the entire system, as well as be able to withstand load centred on one spot.

Handrail Installation

Even with the right materials, unless the handrail is installed properly and superior components used, then the handrail will not offer the load bearing capabilities that an elderly person using it will need.

Handrails don’t have to be professionally designed and fitted BUT they need to be fitted correctly.  If they are not fitted correctly, the strain when someone uses it will not be dispersed correctly, resulting in strain. Eventually, the handrail will ‘give’, possibly detaching. If this happens when in use, the injuries could be serious.

If at all possible, handrails should be both designed and installed professionally. They should also have strong brackets so that you have peace of mind.

A Necessity

Handrails are a necessity rather than an option. They are a relatively inexpensive tool that can be fixed all around the home. There are some options that are temporary solutions and moveable too, relying on a strong ‘sucker’ to hold them in place. But by far, the best options are those that are designed and installed by a professional company, like Balustrade Components.


More Information

For more information of the right kind of handrails, and help with funding necessary changes and adaptations to your own home or the home of a loved one, contact your GP, social worker or health visitors and find more information about handrails at:

The Shaw Trust



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