Think you’re too young to consider housing plans for retirement? Make Aging in Place home renovations now for benefits today and throughout your Golden Years.
Where do you envision yourself living in retirement….apartment, condo, town home, single home, 55+ community….big or small, urban or rural, rancher or multi-level…current or new home?
While the choices are exhausting, according to a study by AARP, 3 out of 4 people over the age of 50 want to remain living in their own homes as they age. Maybe you are already living in or have plans to move into your “forever home.”
Throughout my Physical Therapy career working with clients in their homes, I have seen countless people suffer because they failed to think about their future needs. They didn’t modify their homes before they were in a crisis. Usually, a quick and less than ideal bandage fix has to be made until a longer-term solution can be planned and completed. So much stress and expense can be prevented with some advanced planning and by making home modifications before they are actually needed.
A perfect storm is brewing
As you may already know, the United States population is aging rapidly. According to the US Census, by 2030 there will be twice as many people aged 65 and older as there were in 2000. Professionals who specialize in assisting seniors to plan and perform home modifications will be in extremely high demand in coming years.
Shortage of professionals
Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS)
Currently, there aren’t enough Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS), or similarly trained individuals, like myself, for the rapidly growing number of elderly who will need services.
Demand for qualified tradespeople, like carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, is already extremely high. These professionals are needed to perform necessary home modifications for each person’s unique situation.
Many current building contractors are ready to retire and there aren’t enough new ones entering the workforce to replace them. A significant shortage of qualified tradespeople is expected, while the demand for their services will be rising sharply.
Common home renovations such as installation of zero-step entrances and showers, raised toilets, and bathroom grab bars are going to be in high demand as more people renovate to successfully continue living in their own homes.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably found it challenging to find skilled, trustworthy, reliable, and reasonably priced contractors. Most of them are also generalists and are not well educated in the safest and most appropriate senior home remodeling needs.
Finding general contractors will be difficult, but finding contractors who specialize in Aging in Place renovations will be in very short supply. In certain parts of the country, specialized Aging in Place contractors may be non-existent.
You may have to wait many months for a highly recommended Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) or building contractor because he or she is busy with other projects. If you need the work done quickly and you can’t do it yourself, you may be out of luck.
When demand for services or products increases, so do prices. It’s a simple rule of economics.
If you wait, you will certainly pay more and lose out on the incredible benefits the modifications will make to your home and your life in the meantime. Why would you want to wait to pay more for home renovations that could make your life more comfortable, convenient, safer, and efficient now?
No matter your age and ability, wouldn’t it be nice to have a comfort height toilet that doesn’t make your knee or back hurt when you stand up? Maybe you are a weekend warrior, and by Monday, your entire body aches. The difference of a few inches of toilet height can make a dramatic difference in your experience getting on and off the toilet at any age.
Imagine being able to open your door or turn on a light with your elbow when your arms are full of groceries. This is possible if you replace your old doorknobs with door levers and replace toggle lights switches with rocker switches. Simple solutions that work well for today and the future!
Little changes can make a big difference. Minor, inexpensive upgrades can lead to significant everyday improvements. Almost all home renovations that beneficial for seniors are beneficial for you, your family, and guests today.
Prepare for the expected & unexpected
“Be prepared” is not just a good motto for a Boy Scout. It’s also an excellent motto for anyone planning to Age in Place. Very few people consider or plan for unexpected injuries or illnesses that are likely to occur at some point.
What if you break your ankle hiking? You may need to use crutches, a walker, wheelchair or scooter to get around for several months.
Before the accident, the 3 steps at your front door were probably no big deal as you went up and down them without difficulty several times per day.
But how are you going to get into the house now? Hop up? Have someone carry you up? Scoot up while sitting on your buttocks and then stand up at the top? Rent or quickly install a ramp?
Now imagine you’ve chosen to hop up and down those steps on your uninjured “good” leg. After 2 weeks of needing to use your arms and your “good” leg to keep the weight off of your broken leg, your shoulders will ache and hands burn with calluses. Your “good” leg is now painful because it’s been overused…
You may think that having only a few steps to get into your home is no big deal. As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I have worked with so many clients with situations similar to the above scenario. Those few steps can cause a big headache (and arm ache, hand ache, leg ache) and sometimes even lead to another injury.
The problems don’t stop at the front door. If the bathroom doorway would have been widened during the last renovation, you would have been able to go through the door forwards using your walker or crutches. But instead, you need to turn sideways because the doorway is too narrow, resulting in increased difficulty and decreased safety. And if you need to use a wheelchair, well, you will be out of luck because the wheelchair wouldn’t fit going front, back, or sideways through that narrow doorway.
If you like to entertain and want to be a good host, it is necessary to consider how your home will benefit not only you but also your family, friends, and visitors. By modifying your home using principles of Universal Design, anyone of any age or ability will be able to interact with and within your home successfully.
A home is much easier to visit when it’s universally designed and Age in Place friendly.
Your aunt, who just had her hip replaced, can come to Thanksgiving dinner because she doesn’t need to climb steps to get into your house. And since you wisely installed a comfort height toilet, she won’t violate her post-operative hip precautions.
Your neighbor with arthritis can easily wash his hands in your guest bathroom since you smartly replaced the builder-grade knob-handled faucet with a lever style faucet.
Increase home value
Contrary to most people’s beliefs, Aging in Place home modifications can actually beautify your home and increase property value if done thoughtfully. Universal Design doesn’t have to look sterile and institutional, but it does provide benefits for everyone.
One beneficial Universal Design and Aging in Place concept is open floor plans. With fewer walls and hallways, open concept designs better accommodate the use of an assistive device such as a wheelchair or walker. Homes with open concept living are very popular with homebuyers who frequently request this type of design.
Bathroom features such as a step-free or curb less, roll-in shower provide a modern and extraordinarily useful element when built with both function and beauty in mind. Adding a sleek handheld shower, maybe with a rainfall shower head, adds a spa-like and convenient feature to a shower. What potential buyer wouldn’t like a spa-like bathroom?
A sensor operated faucet can be turned on without the use of your hands. This adds an attractive, modern touch to your kitchen or bathroom and is exceptionally functional. And kids think they are super cool!
I would argue that well planned, designed, and executed age in place home modifications can attract more home buyers and increase your home’s value. Many families today are multi-generational, so they are looking for homes that accommodate a wide variety of abilities.
Expert tip: Be Proactive with Aging in Place Home Modifications
I challenge you to accelerate your plans and make modifications to your home sooner rather than later. Having an individualized, thoughtful, and comprehensive plan for Aging in Place is critical to live independently in your own home happily for as long as possible.