In a recent AARP study, nearly 75% of adults 45 and older said they strongly desire to stay in their current home as long as possible. To make sure that you can “age in place” you may have to make several updates to your home and your financial plan. Do not expect that your children or the government is going to step in and help you out. You need to create a plan to take care of yourself.
In addition to concerns about transportation and the availability and cost of help you need to take a serious look at your home. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to make needed improvements. Are your doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair? A narrow wheelchair or walker needs clearance of at least 32 inches.
Do you have your master bedroom on the first floor? If not, are the steps to the second floor steep and is the stairway narrow? You may have to consider some sort of stairway elevator to get up and down at some point. Do you have a full bathroom on the first floor? If so does it have a walk in shower? Converting a bathtub to a walk-in shower may cost somewhere between $3000-5000. This is most likely one of your most costly changes.
Look at your faucets and cabinet handles. Are they big enough to access with a closed fist? Check out your lighting. Older eyes need more light to see clearly. Check to see that the lighting is good in areas where tasks are performed. Consider the interior colors in your home. If your home has dark floors, keep the walls light. Change the color at potential tripping points, such as where the carpet on the stairs meets the floor. Are there other step ups or step downs in the home where it is possible to trip and fall?
You need to review access to the home itself. In addition to the entry way being wide enough for a wheelchair or walker, is there room to install a ramp for access if necessary?
Do not wait until someone is coming home from the hospital to consider these steps. Look around now and start planning to make the changes that will help you stay in your home. Most of the suggestions listed above will not only make your home safe and accessible but they will probably increase its market value as well.