The Boomer’s Roadmap for Aging in Place: How to Prepare Today for Your Senior Years
Aging in place is an attractive option for many baby boomers and retirees who value independence and living life on their own terms. This lifestyle choice is a commitment to remaining in the home that you know and love, rather than relocating to a retirement community or assisted living facility.
Establishing an aging in place plan denotes taking responsibility for your quality of life without being a burden on your family or community. Now is the time to start planning for your senior years and making small changes a little bit at a time. Trying to prepare everything at once can be a daunting endeavor, and some changes you may want to make, such as major home renovations, may displace you from your home for days or even weeks. Home repairs and modifications are easier to make before your senior years, and it’s never too early to start planning ahead.
This is a guide for adults who want to live out the rest of their lives with dignity, freedom, and confidence in their own homes during their senior years. It is also a useful resource for baby boomers who are planning for the future and actively trying to make changes to live more comfortably where they are now. Perhaps you have a parent who has limited mobility, but a second parent who is willing and able to take care of the two of them in their own home as they age. Adult children can also benefit by reading this guide to start making plans with their parents and worrying less about manageable, emotionally-charged tasks.
Choosing the Right Home
Your current home may be full of memories, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right home for you as you get older. Now is a good time to consider downsizing to a home that is more suited to your current situation. The large house that you raised your kids in may be too much to handle for just you and your spouse. Large homes require lots of maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep, and all of those tasks become more difficult with age.
To determine if your current home can be a lifelong home, start by asking yourself the following AARP HomeFit questions:
· Is there at least one step-free entrance into your home?
· Is there a bedroom, full bathroom and kitchen on the main level?
· Are the interior doorways at least 36 inches wide?
· Are there secure handrails on both sides of the stairs?
· Are your hallways, staircases, and walkways well lighted?
· Do you have a shower/tub with a step-free entry?
· Is the carpeting in your house and on your stairs secure and in good condition?
If you answered “no” to some of these questions, it’s time to start making changes around the house or looking for a more suitable home that requires less work. For example, a one-level home may be easier to maneuver than a multi-story home with many stairs as you get older. Reasons to relocate include having a walkable neighborhood, lowering household expenses, increased access to convenient facilities, and being close to friends and family.
Home Modifications to Consider
There are many ways that you can modify your existing home or a new home that you move into to make it comfortable and accommodating. According to the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, six out of 10 falls occur in homes with a high prevalence of hazards like loose throw rugs, a lack of tub/shower grab bars, and obstructed pathways. These are some modifications to consider working on now.
Wide doorways can accommodate scooters, wheelchairs, and walkers and can be very useful for seniors who use mobility assistance. Doorways should be 36 inches wide and hallways should be 48 inches wide according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Specially Adapted Housing Minimum Property requirements.
Getting in and out of the tub is an issue for many seniors, and a walk-in bathtub can help prevent dangerous slip-and-fall accidents. Consumer Affairs allows you to compare reviews for walk-in bathtubs, which are taller than standard tubs and typically include grab bars, a built-in seat, hand-held shower head, and non-slip floor.
Grab Bars and Handrails
There are many places inside the home where grab bars and handrails can be useful, including the shower, along the staircase, and beside the toilet. Some senior-focused nonprofit agencies, such as CASA, enlist the help of volunteers to install grab bars and hand rails for seniors in the community free of charge.
Ramps make senior homes much safer and more accessible by eliminating stairs that pose hazards. You can install ramps outside at your front and back doors and inside in place of interior stairs. Ramps.org provides a free ramp builder directory by state to connect you with organizations in your area to increase accessibility in your home.
It’s easy to procrastinate on simple household repairs that don’t seem all that important. However, household issues tend to worsen over time when ignore. Make a point to start fixing broken steps and cracks in the floors now before the conditions get worse. Not only do these types of repairs prevent falls, but they are also more cost-effective when performed without delay.
Features of a Manageable Home
In addition to home modification projects, there are other helpful features that you can incorporate into your home to make aging in place more manageable.
Clear Out Clutter
It’s a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by your favorite mementos and treasured possessions, but this is also a good time to evaluate your belongings and clear out the clutter. Clutter-free homes are easier to live in and maneuver around. Take a weekend to de-clutter and simplify your life as much as possible by evaluating each room and making piles to sell, donate, and throw away.
Secure Loose Rugs
It’s easy for anyone to trip over loose rugs regardless of age or agility. Rugs add beauty and character to a room, but they can also dangerous and lead to bad falls. Buy rugs with non-slip bottom or secure your rugs to the floor with glue, adhesive, rubber backing, or rug pads.
Use Slip-Resistant Mats
Similarly, pick up slip-resistant mats to place in your bathtub and shower to prevent falls and feel secure when you step in and out. It’s also a good idea to place a non-slip mat by the sink area as well to reduce the risk of slipping.
Invest in Auto Shut-Off Appliances
It can be easy to forget to shut off appliances in the home, but this is an issue of both safety and energy efficiency. For peace-of-mind and as a cost-saving strategy, start investing in appliances that have automatic shut-off mechanisms. You can find stoves, toasters, and even curling irons that shut off on their own after time passes without use.
Make Lighting More Accessible
Dimly lit rooms can cause you to trip and fall in your home, especially if you suffer from balance issues or worsening eyesight. Add a few lamps to dim rooms and extra lighting fixtures in hallways where light switches aren’t easily accessible at the doorway.
Use Assistive Technology
The implementation of assistive technology can help seniors stay in their homes longer and enhance the quality of life too. This term refers to products that help people with limited abilities accomplish common tasks and maintain independence.
Types of assisted technology products that are useful to seniors include the following:
· Medical alert system
· Door and faucet grips
· Bulb changing kit
· TV ears
· Wireless keyboard
· Stair, bed, and bathtub lifts
Assistance Programs and Resources
After retiring, many adults find themselves on a fixed income, which makes costly home repairs a challenging financial burden. Fortunately, there are some programs available to help give you the financial boost you need to be safe and secure in your own home. For instance, foundations, agencies, and organizations award grants to veterans, people with disabilities, and seniors for home modifications.
Financial Assistance Programs
The nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together hosts National Rebuilding Day in April of each year to provide free home repairs and modifications to low-income homeowners and promote affordable homeownership. This is a nationwide program that completes nearly 10,000 projects per year by enlisting the help of reputable partners including the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Homebuilders, and the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Another helpful place to turn to is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator, which is a nationwide service that connects seniors and caregivers with information on senior services. You can find help in your community or contact the headquarters office to ask about home modification funds available through the Older Americans Act.
You may be able to work with a lender that offers home equity conversion mortgages and reverse mortgages to help you pay for home improvements with your home equity. Contact the National Council on Aging at (571) 527-3900 to learn more about using your home to stay at home and learn about reverse mortgage counseling opportunities.
Here are some additional resources for finding funding in the form of grants for your home modification needs:
· Assistive Technology Funding and Systems Change Project United Cerebral Palsy Associations - (800) 872-5827
· Department of Veterans Affairs - (800) 827-1000
· National Council on Independent Living Center - (703) 525-3406
Assistive Technology Resources
Whether you want to simply learn about advancements in the field of assistive technology or shop for a specific product, these are some resources to bookmark as you prepare your home for the future.
· The National Public Website on Assistive Technology
· Easy Home Medical Supplies for Medline products
· Clean Cut Bath for step-in tubs
· Beam n Read hands-free lights
Resources in Austin
· Rebuilding Together Austin – (512) 636-4498, [email protected]rebuildingtogetheraustin.org
· Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area – (512) 916-6062, [email protected]
· Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services – (512) 438-3030, [email protected]
Resources in Dallas
· Rebuilding Together Greater Dallas – (972) 636-8039, [email protected]
· North Central Texas Area Agency on Aging – (800) 272-3921, [email protected]
· Community Council of Greater Dallas, Dallas Area Agency on Aging – (214) 871-5065, [email protected]
Making your home safe and accommodating is one of the most important aspects of aging in place; however, there are many other factors to consider before committing to this lifestyle as well. Think about what type of support you will need if you suffer from a chronic condition and if an in-home caregiver or geriatric care manager would be helpful in your situation. You need to understand the risks involved with aging in place, think about a transportation plan, and talk with your family about your wishes and concerns.
To learn more about these issues, Home Mods, a nonprofit funded by the Archstone Foundation, offers a wide range of home modification resources from the housing, disability, aging, and healthcare industries. On the nonprofit’s website, you can access full text documents in the library, browse relevant websites, watch educational videos, and purchase home modification products from reliable companies.