At least three-fourths of American adults age 50 and older have one thing in common: they want to grow old in their own homes. According to a 2018 AARP survey, 76 percent of respondents prefer to stay put in the houses they’re living in now as they age, enjoying the familiar surroundings of the community they love. But will they be able to? Unless they start now to make their homes appropriate for aging in place, the answer is probably no.
Home Renovations are Usually Overlooked in Retirement Planning
There are some improvements you should consider making to your home today if you hope to age safely living there in the future. This recent article from the Money website outlines three home renovations that the author, Alix Langone, claims will help you live independently as you get older. “Many Americans spend decades preparing for retirement financially, but overlook another key aspect of planning: housing,” Langone writes – a statement with which we agree completely. Since so many older Americans want to remain in their homes as they age, it’s ironic that “few are making modifications to help them accomplish that goal. Indeed, most people don’t try to make their home more navigable until there’s a crisis,” says one Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist who spoke to Money. “One day everything is okay, they have their home, they can function okay, but then they fall,” this planner says. This kind of crisis “changes the whole trajectory of their life.”
In spite of the obvious risks inherent in aging in a poorly-designed home, seniors seem to remain stubbornly resistant to recommended alterations that would make their houses safer. “Sixty-five million households in the U.S. are now headed by someone over the age of 50,” says the Money article, quoting a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Yet less than four percent of the country’s housing stock “incorporates three vital features for aging in place: single-floor living, no-step entries, and extra-wide halls and doors, the report says.” Depending on the age and design of your home, you may have to move in order to find such age-friendly features. But before you give up your home, it’s worth considering whether some strategic renovation is feasible. The Money article gives you a place to begin. “Here are some of the most practical home modifications older adults can make to continue living independently for as long as possible, along with cost estimates for each,” says Langone. “If they seem expensive, consider that the cost of inaction could also be high, in the form of pricey medical bills following an accident, or even the expense of relocating to a care facility if you can no longer stay at home.”
Three Home Renovations That Belong on Your To-Do List
Let’s look at three upgrades on the Money list of age-in-place upgrades:
- Update Your Bathroom. “One in four Americans age 65-plus falls each year,” Money warns, “making falls the biggest cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans. And the place where people fall the most? The bathroom.” Installing grab bars by the shower and toilet generally costs around $150 each, the article says. If you feel you want to undertake a more costly change, you can remove your bathtub and install a walk-in shower – but figure on spending a minimum of $4,000-6,000 just for the new shower. A full bathroom remodel can quickly run well into five figures, but for your peace of mind (not to mention resale value) it’s probably worth it.
- Upgrade Flooring and Lighting. When it comes to both flooring and lighting, consistency is the key, says the Money “Muscle weakness, joint pain and other issues can make it harder for older adults to navigate different surfaces, moving from hardwood hallways to a carpeted living room to tile in the kitchen,” writes Langone. It’s ideal if the flooring is similar throughout your house, but you also have to pay attention to fall hazards like area rugs. Experts also suggest keeping your lighting levels the same throughout the house – it’s easier on a seni0r’s declining vision, since your eyes don’t have to adjust every time you leave a room. New flooring (installed) will generally cost $12 or more per square foot, and non-glare, long-lasting LED lights can run about $6 each. You may also want to consider motion sensor lights and even remote-control lighting which is great for those with mobility issues.
- Widen Entryways and Install Wheelchair Ramps. Current recommended home-building standards require doors 32 inches wide, but older homes typically have narrower doorways that can’t easily accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, says the Money The ideal width is 36 inches, and the upgrade can cost a minimum of $400-$800 per door. Wheelchair ramps are not only helpful as you age, they can also add value to your home, but they will set you back: Money quotes $5,000-$6,000 for a temporary aluminum ramp and $12,000-plus “for a permanent structure attached to a house with around eight steps.”
Home Renovations Can Be Part of “Retirement Renovations”
If we were to ask you, “What’s the most important aspect of retirement planning?”, you might come up with several answers. Some say the most important thing is to get your financial house in order. Others would claim that making the right legal preparations is what really matters. You’ll hear some claim that good medical coverage is the critical element to a secure retirement, or that support from your family can help you secure a happy future. And, yes, some would say it’s essential to “get your house in order” by making sure you’ve got a solid housing plan in place. Our philosophy at AgingOptions, however, is that every one of these elements is essential to a strong and solid retirement plan – the kind we call a LifePlan. A LifePlan combines financial, legal, medical, family and housing plans into one comprehensive strategy that will guide your steps into the retirement of your dreams.
Please accept our invitation and join Rajiv Nagaich at one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. In these highly enjoyable and information-packed sessions, you’ll discover just how powerful a LifePlan can be. You’ll find a complete listing of seminar dates, times and locations here on our Live Events page where you can register for the LifePlanning Seminar of your choice. Bring your family, your friends and your questions. We’ll look forward to meeting you!
(originally reported at www.money.com/money)