Age brings many important decisions that must be made, and where to live is perhaps the most pressing. For the vast majority of seniors, it boils down to two options: renovate or relocate.
There are numerous options that allow seniors to age in place safely. For those who remain sound of mind and body, a few minor renovations may be all that’s necessary. These include:
- Enhanced lighting throughout the home
- Grab bars in the bathroom
- Raised toilet
- Moving cords behind the wall
- Larger light switches
Even those with physical impairments may be able to outfit their home with products and accessories that make living alone a little less hazardous. Mid-level remodeling options are:
- Widen doorways to 42 inches
- Additional lighting on stairs and entryway
- Non-skid flooring
- Shower seat
- Remote control window blinds (recommended by S. News & World Report)
Older adults with significant mobility concerns may find it more difficult to live alone. Thankfully, technology has made it easier for independent-minded seniors to do just that. These include:
- Stair lift
- Wheelchair entry
- Smart home products
- Push-button emergency response systems
- Remote-operated home security
- WebCam for caretaker access
All seniors, regardless of current physical abilities, should also consider:
- Lever handles on doors
- Bathroom addition to first floor
- Walk-in bathtub
- Appliances with knobs instead of buttons
- Leveling of lawn to prevent falls
- Replace sagging carpet with hardwood
- Smoothing transitional height differences between rooms
- Set hot-water heater to 120 degrees
- Install anti-scald valves at all faucets
- Repair damaged driveway/walkways
The Home Seniorization Checklist offers more information for seniors wishing to remain home instead of moving to an assisted living facility.
There’s a lot to think about when deciding whether a senior should stay at home or relocate to a safer environment. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one alternative. Assisted living is an option, but it may not be a desirable one for seniors who vehemently enjoy their privacy. Less invasive than assisted-living are 55-plus communities, which cater to retirees and often come with community amenities and resident-planned activities.
Seniors who do not wish to live specifically in a senior community may consider looking for a home with pre-existing accessibility features. Online tools, such as Redfin’s home search, allow potential homebuyers to select accessibility options, price, and desired neighborhood. Take these homes in Los Angeles, which have a median list price of $821,000. While the inventory is ever-changing, this and other tools can take much of the guesswork out of senior housing.
Factors to Consider
Seniors considering either option should take into account their health, finances, and quality of life. FamilyAssets.com notes that, while living alone is often more cost-effective, there are many concerns that must be addressed. The safety and functionality of the home along with access to important services (doctor, grocery store, social activities, etc.) must all meet the senior’s current and future needs. Seniors should also consider their home in proximity to loved ones.
The two biggest concerns for seniors living alone are loneliness and injuries due to falling. If these can be compensated for by home renovations, public transportation, and added safety measures, living at home may be sustainable for the long term. However, a bad neighborhood, a home that cannot accommodate the senior’s needs, or out-of-budget repairs or modifications may necessitate a relocation.
HuffPost offers more information on home improvement assistance programs for seniors.
Seniors concerned about the accessibility of mortgage products should contact their bank for lending opportunities. Those over the age of 62 may wish to consider a home equity conversion mortgage.
Aging in place might seem impossible, but it can be done with a little work. Take a look at your home and determine if you can continue to live there safely with a few simple modifications. If not, you might have to consider relocating.
Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design. He has a new book coming out Fall 2018 called Aging in Place, One Project At A Time – DIY Home Modifications That Don’t Require a Professional.