Aging In Place
Making Homes Safe & Accessible for Aging Seniors
Results from a recent AARP study of adults ages 45 and older suggest that wanting to remain in one’s home and one’s community as one ages continue to be paramount. Nearly three-quarters of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “what I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible.”
As adults age, living self-sufficiently or even with a spouse can become increasingly difficult and potentially dangerous for seniors. Thankfully, there are many things adult children of seniors can do to make their parents’ homes safer and more accessible, regardless of how much — or how little — the family can afford to spend.
No-Cost or Low-Cost Modifications
De-clutter: Seniors tend to have accumulated a lot of possessions over the years, but too many belongings can put them at risk for falls. Remove clutter so that rooms are as sparse as possible.
Re-organize: Put the items your parents use often in the most accessible places. This is especially important in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Adjust lighting: Nightlights can be placed throughout the home (especially in hallways and bathrooms) to improve visibility. It’s also a good idea to replace low-wattage light bulbs with high-wattage bulbs.
Reduce slip risk: Help fall-proof your parents’ flooring by securing rugs with non-skid pads or tacks and using non-skid wax on the floors. Wet floors in bathrooms are also a major slip risk for seniors. Slip-resistant rugs are perfect for bathrooms because they won’t move even when the floors are wet.
Safe-T-element Cooking System: Once installed over the stove top, this device will shut off burners if they’re accidentally left on and get too hot.
Security poles with curved grab bars: Install these next to the shower, toilet, couch and/or bed to help your parents safely rise, sit, and get in and out of difficult-to-navigate spaces.
Ramps: Parents who use a wheelchair or have mobility issues will especially appreciate this ease of access to and from their homes…and inside their homes.
Stair lifts: These mechanical devices will safely transport a parent up or down stairs on a seat that attaches to a track that’s installed on the stairs.
Walk-in tubs: These tubs have a door that opens so seniors don’t have to step over the side to get in or out. They also usually come with a built-in seat and grab bars for safe bathing.
Sensors:? Incredible new technology — in the form of sensors placed throughout the home — can help you keep tabs on how your elderly loved ones are doing. If your parents interrupt their daily pattern of behavior (such as not getting out of bed or not returning from a trip to the bathroom), you can be notified.
PAYING FOR MODIFICATIONS
LONG-TERM CARE COVERAGE
If you were far-sighted enough to have such a policy, call your insurance agent and ask whether home modifications are covered under your plan and what documentation you need to be reimbursed. A policy will not pay for upgrades if you are still healthy.
In general, regular health insurance does not cover physical upgrades to the home, though it often will pay for an occupational therapist to come in and do an assessment
TAPPING HOME EQUITY
If you want to make substantial changes to your home, but don’t have the cash to pay for them, consider taking out a home equity loan. For information on ways you can tap into your home equity, go to LongTermCare.gov, a site run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
While a home equity loan is your best option, if a bank won’t give you such a loan, another possibility is a reverse mortgage. Available to people over 62, a reverse mortgage lets you convert the equity in your home into cash. But the fees can be substantial, so be sure to speak with a financial planner before taking out this type of mortgage.
WHEN MONEY IS SCARCE
Contact your local department of aging and inquire about home modification loans and services available to seniors. Use the federal government’s elder care locator — www.eldercare.gov — to find your local office, or call 800-677-1116.
Some government agencies make low-interest loans to those with low or moderate incomes. In addition, get in touch with Rebuilding Together www.rebuildingtogether.org, or 1-800-473-4229), a national nonprofit organization that helps people with low incomes improve their homes. The organization’s Safe at Home program was created specifically to help older people do just that: stay safe at home.
What is Aging in Place?
“Aging in Place” refers to our ability to live safely and comfortably in our homes as we get older, often to the very end of our lives. Homes that are suitable for aging in place are those that are “accessible” to us as our mobility decreases. Accessible homes include those on a single story that remove the dangers and effort of climbing stairs on creaky legs. Multi-level homes with a master bedroom on the first floor, as well as homes with elevators or stairlifts, are also suitable for aging in place but tend to be more costly than single story homes. Other features of accessible houses include the absence of stairs to get in or out of the house, good lighting, wide doorways for walkers and wheelchairs and walk-in showers or baths.
Purposeful aging in place has grown in popularity and celebrated by the National Aging in Place Week and the National Aging in Place Council that promotes the positive outcomes of older adults having a choice in their care and living arrangements. In addition to Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists (“CAPS”) there are many more professionals trained to fill the growing need in this service model for older adults. Industries that have special programs or certifications include Real Estate, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Relocation specialists. Many communities are now fully engaged and committed to exploring ways to better serve older adults by developing action plans that address future needs and ensure that the necessary services are in place when they are needed. Recognizing that a home is filled with memories and is more than just a place to stay, companies are engaged in accommodating the elderly for years of comfortable living. These companies provide comprehensive services ranging from household cleaning to occupational therapy to assist in maintaining maximum quality of life.
As people age in place and their needs evolve, companies adapt services to meet the changes so that the homes remain safe, well-kept and comfortable.
There are many benefits to owning an age-in-place home in retirement. You can plan to live the rest of your days in a comfortable, familiar environment. You can also remain in a cherished neighborhood with beloved friends, stores, restaurants, doctors, places of worship and relatives nearby.
For more information on Aging in Place in your home or community, contact Edward Malone at email@example.com.