Guest post by Harry Cline.
According to an AARP survey, 90 percent of people age 65 and older would rather stay in their own homes than move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. Other indicators show many younger people aren’t waiting until retirement to downsize or make the modifications they need in order to age in place.
And the number of pre-planners will likely be on the rise in coming years considering one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2035 and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age range by then. So, if you soon will be part of that growing group or already are, it could be time to take a look at your home with an eye toward accessibility and aging in place.
Making a Move
Tech-savvy real estate brokerages have made it easier than ever to search for homes with specific characteristics, including accessibility features. And accessible homes don’t always command a large price premium. For instance, the average listing price for an accessible home in Meredith, New Hampshire, is $429,950, which is similar to the median list price of $425,000 for all the homes in the area.
And homes on the smaller side could list for less. Plus, downsizing has several benefits when it comes to aging in place. Indeed, the term encompasses more than accessibility, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defining it as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” So, for some seniors, reducing housing costs could have a big impact on their ability to age in place. Indeed, moving into a smaller space could cut mortgage costs, property taxes, maintenance costs and other homeowner expenses.
But if you can’t find a home with all the accessibility features you want and need or don’t plan on moving soon, an increasing number of construction professionals are equipped to make modifications specifically designed to make aging in place easier. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders, in conjunction with groups including AARP, offers a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist program for remodelers, general contractors, designers, healthcare consultants, and other professionals who want to address the needs of America’s aging population.
These professionals can recommend renovations to make any home more accessible, but it helps control remodeling expenses if the property has certain existing features. For instance, an easily accessible home should be a single story or have at least one bedroom, full bathroom, and entrance accessible from the main level, according to Easter Seals. Similarly, the kitchen and main-floor bathroom should be large enough to accommodate a person using a wheelchair and hallways and doorways should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility aid. So, if your existing home doesn’t already have some of these features, it could affect your decision to downsize or encourage you to start saving for major renovations such as installing a full bath on the first floor.
Meanwhile, there are many inexpensive modifications you can make to assist with aging in place. For instance, adding non-slip bathmats to the tub and buying bath rugs with slip-proof backing are cost-effective accommodations you can make on your own. And you can have a couple of grab bars in an existing bathroom for around $250. Similarly, adding seating in the shower and swapping a standard toilet for a comfort-height model won’t break the bank and should make your bathroom much more accessible as you age.
So whether you want to move or stay in your current home, it is possible to age in place, especially if you make modifications and buying decisions with your future needs in mind.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
Editor’s note: Walk-in bathtubs are a great option for people with limited mobility. Here is a guide from Consumer Affairs to the best walk-in bathtubs: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/walk-in-bathtubs/#