There’s No Place Like Home: Plan Ahead with Age-in-Place Upgrades

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Most older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently, according to AARP. Now that boomers are getting older, there’s a term for this: “Aging in place.” The trouble is, aging in place comes with a fair number of challenges, considering that most homes aren’t designed for accessibility. However, there are ways to age in place happily and comfortably, as allU.S. Credit Union explains below.

Make Modifications to Your Current Home

Aging-in-place modifications need not look institutional or awkward. These upgrades are simply about making your home adaptable for people of all ages and abilities. The focus is on planning ahead and preventing accidents before they happen. When you consider the rising costs of assisted living, money spent on modifications is money well spent!

  • Select durable, non-slip matte-finish hardwood floors. Smooth floors such as hardwood eliminate trip hazards and make it easier to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Remove all hazards such as area rugs and electric cords.
  • Install a wheelchair-accessible ramp outside if necessary, along with handrails and grab bars in areas where falls are likely. (More than 30% of seniors suffer from a fall every year. Falls are also the leading cause of death and injury in aging adults.)
  • Pay special attention to the bathroom, and replace the towel bar with a weight-bearing handrail or grab bar. Also, use non-skid shower mats in the bathtub or shower. For those who must sit, have portable shower seats as well as movable shower heads. Consider remodeling your shower so that it’s curbless too. Upgrade your standard 17” high toilet to one that is chair height (19” tall), and you’ll find that everyone prefers it, mobility issues or not!
  • Remove thresholds from doorways to make passing through them easier and to prevent tripping. If it’s not possible to remove them, you can purchase ramps that make it easier to get over them.
  • Widen doorways for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs typically need at least 32,” but ideally 36” of space makes maneuvering easier. Also, make sure that countertops and cabinets can be accessed comfortably from a wheelchair.
  • Replace all door knobs with lever-style door handles. These handles are kinder on arthritic hands with less dexterity and will ensure that you won’t be inadvertently trapped inside your room. Using levered faucets in the kitchen sink are best for older hands too.

Some of this work may require professional contractors. Ask friends and family for referrals, and get written estimates. Keep in mind too that some home accessibility modifications can be deducted from your federal taxes. Widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, etc. can be considered medical expenses, so be sure to talk with your tax professional.

Downsize to a Smaller Home

Your current house made sense for you when you bought it, but it may no longer make sense for you today or tomorrow. Down the road, you may prefer walking or using a wheelchair to get to your nearest store or doctor’s office rather than driving. You may need a single-story home or access to an elevator, or you may no longer want to spend time maintaining two acres of land.

Familiarize yourself with real estate listings in your area now to get an idea of what it might cost to buy a new home. It’s also key to find a real estate professional who is savvy to the needs of senior buyers. A great agent will also walk you through different scenarios if you prefer to buy and sell at the same time or if you want to buy something new and then sell your home.

Being proactive by modifying your home now is not only a wise investment in your future, but it’s a wise real estate investment too. Age-in-place modified homes are one of the hottest trends on the market. Best of all, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve got a beautiful home that will work for you now and into the future.

By becoming a member of allU.S. Credit Union, you can reap the benefits of higher savings rates and lower fees and loan rates. Fill out an online application today!