A selection of careful, targeted investments in making your home ergonomic, user-friendly and prepared for ‘Aging in Place’ are arguably as important for your future independence as putting away money into retirement funds.
According to a study performed by the AARP, the majority of people desire to age in their own homes, but unfortunately only 13% of homes are inherently ready to meet aging needs. This means that 87% of homeowners run the very real risk of being isolated at home and dependent on others for help, or faced with spending the later years of life living in a facility, that is – if they haven’t made some important structural changes to their homes.
The most important features for an age-proof home include
- At least one entrance to the home that does not require you to navigate stairs
- A bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor
- Doorways that are at least 32” wide for easier clearance of walkers and wheelchairs
- Minimal (or zero) thresholds between rooms
- Easily accessible pathways between major areas of the home
- Railings beside all stairs
- A curb-less shower
- Good lighting throughout the home
If it is your goal to remain in your own home and your house does not already come equipped with these features, then it is important to work on gradually – but steadily – reducing the barriers that will make it difficult, or even impossible, for you to ’Age in Place’. Now, I am willing to bet that a good portion of you reading this article just had the thought “I will wait until the time when the barriers become a problem, and then address them.”
Unfortunately this very philosophy is the reason so many people find themselves isolated at home, relying heavily on family or friends later in life – or worse, forced to move from their home and into a facility against their will.
The reality is that the time when you will actually need these features is exactly the time in life when you will be least capable of implementing them. Remodeling can take weeks and in many cases months to complete and it requires a lot of time and energy to hire and manage contractors, choose equipment, materials, appliances, tiles, colors and so on; not to mention that construction comes with dust, noise, chaos and strangers tromping through the home for weeks – all things, which are far from ideal when you are older or recovering from a surgery or illness.
Pre-Age-Proofing Your Home Ensures Your Freedom of Choice – and can save you thousands
Preparing your home incrementally over the years, and doing it right the first time you remodel an area of your home, will prevent you from needing to do it again in the future. According to the National Home Builder’s Association it costs on average only 10% more to add accessible, age-proof features – if they are done at the same time you are doing standard remodeling. In contrast if you were to choose to remodel a portion of the home in your younger years and neglect to add age-proof features (blocking in the wall for grab bars, a wider doorway, slip-proof flooring, floor space to use a walker or wheelchair etc.), there is a high chance you will need to completely remodel it again in the future, doubling your remodeling expenses.
So for example, if you spend $20,000 on a bathroom remodel, and at that time add $2,000 in age-ready features, you can save yourself from needing to spend another $20,000+ to remodel again in the future. Simply put – doing it right the first time means that you have not only taken steps to ensure your future independence, but you also may have saved yourself $20,000.
My advice to you is each time you need to repair something, or want to modernize a part of your home, you should try to find ways to simultaneously remove barriers that will limit your future independence. For instance, stairs are one of the greatest obstacles for ‘Aging in Place’, so if there is a time you need to replace a rotting porch deck or a cracked concrete pathway and there are steps present, take that opportunity to add a step-less entrance. A home with at least one step-less entrance adds value for everyone. It makes it easier for mothers entering and exiting the home with a baby stroller, easier for visiting parents or grandparents who use a mobility device (rolling walker, wheelchair or scooter), and better ensures your own ability to enter and exit the home independently in the future.
More Age-Proof Solutions…
An age-ready, barrier-free home will also reduce your need to rely on friends, family and assistance from caregivers when you’re older. Many elderly individuals require a caregiver to come in the morning and again at night to help them up and down the stairs, transfer safely in and out of a bathtub and for assistance in and out of the house. If you can adapt your home so that it has a step-less entrance, a bedroom and a full bathroom on the first floor and a curb-less shower you can significantly reduce the number of hours of outside assistance required.
Lastly having a home that is ready to support any level of ability will reduce the likelihood that you will need to move to an expensive Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home in the future, which can cost upwards of $3,500-$10,000/month. According to a study performed by the MetLife Insurance Company, if you have an age-ready home, you can save on average $10,000 per year by staying in your own home, when compared to the cost of staying in an assisted living facility.
Accessibility Features Add Value to Your Home
If done well, accessibility features can be made to blend seamlessly with the home and will not only make your life easier, but also add to the retail value of your home.
According to the National Home Builder Association, housing designed for multi-generational living is one of the hottest trends right now, and is expected to steadily rise in popularity as our population ages and more people seek cheaper alternatives to Assisted Living Facilities.
An Age-Proof Home = A Lifetime of Independence
As you age, the architectural features of your home play an integral role in your ability to remain both independent and connected to the community.
So – invest in your independence!
There are a countless number of great tricks, techniques and equipment solutions possible for adapting the home. In subsequent articles we will go into more depth on each of the above areas and look more closely at specific products and solutions.
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More Topics You May Be Interested In:
- Beginner’s Guide to Accessible Bathrooms
- Your Own Home vs. Assisted Living Facility: Cost Comparison
- 12 Barriers to Living Independently – and 36 Ways to Break Them Down!
- Falls-Equipment to Help You Get Up Again
- The Truth About Home Modification Funding