Dear Savvy Senior,
My wife and I would like to make some affordable changes to our home so we can remain living there for as long as possible. Can you recommend some good resources that can help us determine what all we need to consider?
Many older adults, like you and your wife, want to stay living in their own home for as long as possible. But being able to do so will depend on how easy it is to maneuver your living space as you get older. Here are some helpful resources you can turn to, to get an idea of the different types of features and improvements that will make your house safer and more convenient as you grow older.
A good first step in making your home more age-friendly is to do an assessment. Go through your house, room-by-room, looking for problem areas like potential tripping or slipping hazards, as well as areas that are hard to access and difficult to maintain. To help with this, there are several organizations that have aging-in-place checklists that point out potential problems in each area of the home, along with modification and solutions.
For example, Rebuild Together has a two-page “Safe at Home Checklist” that’s created in partnership with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Go to AOTA.org and search for “Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Checklist.”
You also need to get a copy of AARP’s “HomeFit Guide.” This excellent 36-page guide has more than 100 aging-in-place tips and suggestions that can be made to an existing house or apartment or incorporated into designs for a new residence.
It explains how a smartly designed or modified home can meet the varied and changing needs of its older residents. It also features easy-to-do, low-cost and no-cost fixes that lessen the risk of trip hazards and increase the safety of high-use areas like the bathroom, kitchen and stairway.
In addition, they also offer videos and a HomeFit AR app (available for iPhone and iPad) that can scan a room and suggest improvements to help turn your house into a “lifelong home,” free from safety and mobility risks.
Visit AARP.org/HomeFit to order or download a free copy of this guide, or to watch their videos.
If you want some personalized help, you can get a professional in-home assessment with an occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist, or OT, can evaluate the challenges and shortcomings of your home for aging in place, recommend design and modification solutions, and introduce you to products and services to help you make improvements.
To find an OT in your area, check with your physician, health insurance provider or local hospital, or seek recommendations from family and friends. Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by your doctor. However, they will not cover the physical upgrades to the home.
Another option is to contact a builder who’s a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS are home remodelers and design-build professionals that are knowledgeable about aging in place home modifications and can suggest ways to modify or remodel your home that will fit your needs and budget. CAPS are generally paid by the hour or receive a flat fee per visit or project.
To find a CAPS in your area visit the National Association of Home Builders website at NAHB.org/capsdirectorywhere you can search by state and city.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.