Tuesday, January 12, 2021 / by Randy Durham
According to a recent survey from the AARP, it is no surprise that about 90% of Americans over age 65 want to remain at home for as long as possible. Older Americans prefer to age in place due to factors like maintaining independence, safer environments, and saving costs of assisted or skilled nursing facilities. Physical and cognitive decline can make daily living activities difficult. However, help from their support network and making interior alterations can make aging in place possible. The emotional toll of leaving home puts seniors at higher risk of depression and physical ailments. The cost of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities can cost nearly $20,000 a year. This is often a common reason for aging in place home improvements. However, there are a few things to consider before you choose if aging in place is a reasonable option.
· Your social support network is minimal. You have few friends, family members, or neighbors you can rely on for assistance, or you’re uncomfortable having paid caregivers in your home.
· You can’t drive or there are few public transportation options available.
· You are in poor physical health that severely restricts your daily living activities.
Aging in place is rooted in the concept of universal design. Their design principles include usage that is equitable, flexible, and simple. Universal designers wish to create a space that any age, size, or ability can dwell in or visit. If you are planning to build a custom home, incorporating universal design features into the pre-construction phase is more cost-effective. If you are planning on renovating an existing home, it costs more and can usually be done by choosing a few changes to fit the existing owner or occupant.
Universal Design Features for Aging in Place
· No steps: Have at least one no-step entry into your home. This allows for safe and easy wheelchair access. You can find threshold ramps here (https://www.amazon.com/Threshold-Wheelchair-Ramps/b/ref=dp_bc_aui_C_4/136-7055132-0853152?ie=UTF8&node=3776501). For more extensive modifications, ramp installations average at around $1,100.
· Single floor living: While this is not the case for many older homes, having a bedroom on the main level with a full bath is a great option for aging in place design.
· Wide doorways and hallways: You can modify doorways to be at least three feet wide, allowing for anyone and anything to move in and out freely and reduces trip hazards. The average cost to widen an exterior door is around $800. The cost to widen hallways without any structural change to the house averages at around $1,100. However, widening hallways that require structural changes can average $35,000.
· Reachable controls & switches: Ideally switches that are three to four feet above the floor, making wheelchair-bound residents able to easily reach things like thermostats and light switches. If you have to renovate, contractors take existing outlets and moving them, and can cost an average of $50 per location for each switch lowered or outlet raised.
· Easy use handles: Lever style door handles and faucets instead of twisting knobs make opening doors and getting water easier for any age or ability. This is a cheaper modification, averaging only $220.
· Front-loading appliances: This includes washers, dryers, and dishwashers. Raising these appliances is also a good modification for aging in place.
Other Aging in Place Modifications:
· Kitchen storage: Adjustable height cabinets and cupboards.
· Non-slip flooring: Considering falls are a leading cause of injury for older homeowners, one way to reduce this risk is to install non-slip surfaces. The cost of non-slip flooring professionally installed ranges from $6,400 to $11,000 nationally. Installing this flooring yourself gives you an option of surfaces like slip-resistant vinyl or cork usually costs less than $3 per square foot and can be done in high-risk areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
· Low or no-threshold stall showers: This reduces trip hazards and modifications for built-in benches or seats are another useful improvement for added comfort while bathing.
· Walk-in Tubs and Showers: Another option is to install walk-in features in place of the common shower tub combo. The average cost to install a walk-in shower is an estimated $3,300.
· Raised toilets:
· Windows: Design that allows for easy opening and cleaning requires a double-hung window. The cost for replacement varies on the number of windows in your home and ranges anywhere from $600 to $1,000.
· Chair lifts: If you have bedrooms and bathrooms only on the main level, installing a chair lift may be a requirement for aging in place if you are wheelchair-bound or can no longer climb stairs and want to reduce fall risks. Installation costs can range from $3,000 to $12,000. However, keep in mind that not every staircase can accommodate a lift.
· Covered entryways: To shield residents from rain and snow and reduces trip hazards.
· Multilevel kitchen countertops: These modifications often have open space underneath so you can prepare and cook food while seated. These changes are more expensive and should be considered according to immediate need because the modification costs range from $15,000 to $20,000 for a contractor.
· Cabinet pulls: D-shaped cabinet pulls are easy to grasp and are a cheap modification.
Most homeowners will not have to make all of these modifications and should be carefully considered according to your finances and medical needs. Also, look into any tax credits you can receive for medically necessary improvements to your home. You can find an in-depth article on aging in place renovations here. (https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/housing/info-2015/home-fit-dollars-and-sense/)
If you want more references on cost estimates, read up here https://www.retirementliving.com/the-cost-of-aging-in-place-remodeling, and contact a local contractor that is licensed and insured for the most accurate estimate.