According the AARP, homeowners over the age of 50 overwhelmingly prefer to age-in-place. Aging in place refers to living just where you are now, as opposed to moving into a retirement or nursing home and restructuring your own environment so you can remain in your own home as long as possible. It means living in your home safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.
People want to stay in their homes for many reasons. The main reason is that it is just that – your home. You may have built a life in your home. You’re settled into a community you love and grown close to friends and neighbors in the area. Problems arise as you grow older and reduced physical abilities may make your home difficult to maintain or even hazardous due to reduced mobility. But with some basic home modifications, you can remodel your environment and remain home for many years.
“The biggest challenge seniors face when choosing to remain in their home is being proactive,” says Dennis Long, Chief Financial Officer of Next Day Access Wilmington. “Many people do not think about accessibility and safety in their home until an accident happens or it becomes a necessity.”
Long says to being proactive means thinking about how to make your bathroom a safer environment or thinking about how you’ll climb stairs or even get to the front door before you can no longer do so without difficulty. Modifying your home to accommodate aging in place does not mean your home has to look like a hospital.
“Grab bars, for example, have options that now look like towel racks, soap dishes, and even toilet paper dispensers,” says Long. “These are designer options that provide safety and security while blending into the environment without an institutional appearance.”
Some of the options you might want to keep in mind if you want to remain in your home well into your golden years include the ability to live on one level, easy or low-maintenance for both the outside and inside, and accessibility.
- Entry/Exit: A no-step entry, wide walkways, a 36-inch wide door, non-slip flooring in the foyer, and possibly even keyless door locks.
- Stairs: Sturdy handrails, color contrast between treads and risers on stairs.
- Bathroom: Grab bars, fold down shower seat, slip-resistant flooring, a toilet 2.5 inches higher than standard with adjustable height.
“The biggest request Next Day Access Wilmington receives is how we can help someone stay in the home longer,” says Long. “A home is the biggest investment most people make. They have built their lives, personal networks, memories, and social lives around their home. To be uprooted from their homes and lives can have detrimental effects emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. We desire to help people stay in their homes longer by empowering independence.”
The NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in collaboration with Home Innovation Research Labs, NAHB 50+ Housing Council, and AARP developed the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program to address the growing number of consumers that will soon require these modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care professionals.
CHECKLIST: Choosing a remodeler for aging-in-place
- Figure out how much money you have to spend on the home modification project.
- Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had similar work done.
- Contact the Wilmington – Cape Fear Home Builders Association to find an NAHB professional remodeler.
- Check with your local or state office of consumer protection and the local Better Business Bureau.
- Verify the remodeler has the appropriate license(s) in your state.
- Look for professional designations such as CAPS, Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR), or Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR).
- Ask your professional remodeler for a written estimate of the work to be done based on a set of plans and specifications. Be prepared to pay for this package.
- Select a professional remodeler with plenty of experience with your type of project. Remember, lowest price does not ensure a successful remodeling project.
Which improvements does your home need?
- Do I want to add a bathroom and possibly a bedroom to the main level?
- How can I make my kitchen more functional?
- Am I worried about preventing falls?
- How much money can I budget for this project?
- Will I need to get a home equity loan?
- Will other members of my family benefit from modifications?
- Will remodeling increase the energy efficiency of my home?
- Where do I find a professional I can consult with about my needs?