DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: My husband and I are thinking about making some modifications to our home so we can remain living there for as long as possible.
Can you recommend some good resources that can help us with aging-in-place ideas?
— Staying Put
DEAR STAYING: Many retirees, like you and your husband, want to stay living in their own house for as long as possible. But being able to do so will depend on how easy it is to maneuver your home 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 you can make 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.
Rebuild Together, for example, 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.”
The National Association of Home Builders also has an “Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist” that offers more than 100 suggestions to help homeowners age 50-plus live safely, independently and comfortably. Go to nahb.org and search for “Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist.”
Also check out AARP’s excellent resource called the “HomeFit Guide” that’s filled with 28 pages of tips and diagrams to make your entire home safe and easier to live in as you age. You can access it at aarp.org — search for “HomeFit,” or call 888-687-2277 and ask to be mailed a free copy.
If you want more personalized help, consider getting 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, or a CAPS. CAPS are home remodelers and design-build professionals who 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/capsdirectory where you can search by state and city.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.