Planning Ahead for Aging in Place
Many seniors avoid adapting their homes to the demands of old age. Some view home modifications as an admission of diminishing health, while others worry that accessibility features will give their home an institutional feel. But if you want to continue living at home as you age, making adaptations is a necessity. Here’s what you need to do as you plan for aging in place.
No one wants to imagine themselves disabled, but it’s better to account for all possibilities when planning home modifications. If you base remodeling plans on your current needs alone, you could end up in an endless cycle of remodeling projects as your needs continue to evolve.
What that looks like in practice is making your home wheelchair accessible even if you’re still able to walk, improving lighting even if your vision is still adequate, and designing for single-story living even if stairs don’t yet pose a problem. By factoring future needs into your remodeling plans, you make it possible to continue aging in place even if you experience an unexpected illness or injury.
Don’t wait until your health demands it to start remodeling your house. If you do, you’re more likely to end up at a nursing home or assisted living facility if your health begins to fail. Rather, start remodeling your home while you’re still young and healthy. Starting early lets you space out remodeling projects so you can budget projects over time and avoid the stress of a home that’s constantly under construction
Not everyone can afford to pay for home modifications out of pocket. Depending on your circumstances, there may be financial assistance available to help make your home safer for aging in place. If you don’t qualify for assistance, consider options like a loan or reverse mortgage to pay for remodeling projects. Selling your house and purchasing a more affordable home can also free up funds for home modifications.
Find Reputable Contractors
Nothing takes a remodeling project downhill faster than contractors you can’t count on. An unscrupulous contractor could drag a project on for weeks or months beyond the projected completion date, surprise you with hidden costs, or even leave a job unfinished or not up to code. So make sure to do your due diligence when hiring contractors. The Federal Trade Commission offers advice to consumers on finding and working with home remodeling contractors.
Consider Purchasing a New House
Sometimes a house simply isn’t suitable for extensive accessibility modifications. This is particularly true of homes that are multistory, have closed floor plans and small rooms, or whose landscape necessitates a staired entry.
Rather than spending a lot of money trying to shoehorn remodeling projects into a house that doesn’t suit you, spare yourself the time, money, and stress by purchasing a home that’s more appropriate for aging in place. You can search for accessible homes in New York City or seek out houses that are easily adapted to the needs of aging owners. If you can find a home with a step-free entry, hard floors or low-pile carpeting, an open floor plan, raised outlets and lowered light switches, bright and even lighting, and wide doorways, you’ll save thousands on home modifications.
Remodeling your house is no walk in the park. However, for most seniors, it’s preferable to living in a nursing home or assisted living facility. When you follow this advice, you can keep home remodeling manageable for your schedule, budget, and sanity.
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- Claire Wentz
Claire Wentz is creator of caringfromafar.com and author of the upcoming book, Caring from Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long-Distance Senior Caregivers. Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years. Specifically, she is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.