Four Key Steps for Aging in Place

The U.S. Center for Disease Control defines Aging in Place as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.

As a large portion of the American population enters their golden years, we are faced with making tough decisions for aging family members, partners and close friends. Most elderly individuals prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home rather than moving to a retirement or nursing home. When helping your loved one with these choices, it is important to consider their safety as well as their happiness. We have put together four key steps that will to help your loved one age in place.

Get your home assessed for safety

A Home Safety Assessment lets you proactively evaluate the safety of the home and make modifications if necessary. This assessment is typically performed by a licensed health-care professional, but you can also start with a real estate professional who carries the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation. They will identify ways to adapt the home for safety and comfort while working with you to make the necessary modifications.

Additionally, several non-profit and community organizations in our area have fall prevention programs available to help make home modifications. According to the National Council on Aging, Senior Connections and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services would be great places to start.

Avoid trips and falls with smart modifications

The Centers for Disease Control’s home safety checklist recommends the following key modifications in the home:

  • Clear pathways by decluttering and moving furniture to allow safe passage
  • Remove area rugs or secure with double-sided tape
  • Secure wires by taping or bundling
  • Fix broken steps and ensure lighting above stairs
  • Install grab bars in the tub or shower to get in and out safely
  • Update flooring to make sure it’s ADA compliant and slip resistant

Just as you are considering widening doorways and removing physical barriers for wheelchairs and walkers, consider new floor covering options as well. Carpeted floors tend to grab the wheels of wheelchairs and legs of walkers, but hard flooring such as hardwood or luxury vinyl allow a smoother passage.

More than one in four aged 65 and older fall each year according to the Centers for Disease Control, and often stairs are the culprit. Minimize falls on stairs by adding a carpet runner or adequate slip-resistant tread. In the bathroom and kitchen, consider the COF (coefficient of friction) rating of tile before you spend hundreds of dollars on replacing your floors. Higher COF numbers are better than lower numbers. The ADA recommends a minimum of 0.5 COF which does include some ceramic tile options. Another slip-resistant flooring option is linoleum or luxury vinyl.

Consider creating an open floor plan in the bathroom. As we age, getting in and out of the bathtub becomes more challenging. Walk in tubs or roll in showers can help maneuverability and can accommodate a wheelchair or walker. The floor can even be sloped to help drain the water.

Hire the right contractors

According to the National Association of Home Builders, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) can help you transform your home for the next phase of living. Staying in the home is important as we age, and safety is just as important as comfort.

Consider the following when making home modifications:

  • Determine the budget for a home modification project
  • Seek out referrals from family and friends who have completed similar work
  • Contact trade associations like area home builder associations or real estate professionals
  • Look for certifications like CAPS or Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)
  • Select a professional with the right amount of experience for your project – remember: you get what you pay for!

Affording the remodel

You have a budget and some ideas in mind, so now it’s time to complete the financing portion of your project. Some items may be considered Durable Medical Equipment (DME) and Labor. DME items such as hospital beds, lift chairs, or mobility devices, can be assessed as medically necessary and may be covered by your insurance policy.

Consider accessing your home’s equity to make the modifications. You can either open a home equity line of credit or apply for a home equity loan. Both draw on the equity you have built up in your home, and your home will be used as the collateral. Some older homeowners consider a reverse mortgage for making home modifications. Reverse mortgages are available to homeowners who are 62 years of age or older.

For flooring installations, On the Spot offers a financing program through Synchrony Financing. With Synchrony Financing, you can access a network of home service providers and retailers while getting what you want and need for your home – right now. The Synchrony Home credit card gives homeowners access to over 15,000 merchants across the country including flooring, furniture, appliances and electronics.

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