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Help seniors age at home by making fixes

  • For more tips on making your home more accessible, get a copy of AARP’s Homefit Guide by going online to or calling 1-888-OUR-AARP (888-687- 2277) and ask them to mail you a free copy.

If you’re an older homeowner on Oahu, chances are that you like the neighborhood you live in and want live in your own home as you age. But to make that possible, you may have to remodel your home or apartment to make it age friendly.

Laurie Kaneshiro, a designer, tells her clients that they should plan to make their homes accessible even if they aren’t a caregiver or think they need caregiving.

“Do it while you’re able,” said Kaneshiro, who is also an AARP volunteer. “If you do it when someone’s sick, it’s so stressful.”

Kaneshiro, a former caregiver, knows this from experience. She said her bathroom remodel cost more than it needed to and wasn’t exactly what she wanted. She was in a hurry to finish it so that she could take care of her mother.

One of her clients, a couple, thought they were too young have to worry about accommodations. But shortly after the husband retired, he fell out of a tree while trimming branches.

Luckily, the couple planned ahead, spent a little extra money and put in wood studs in the bathroom walls to hold grab bars.

“Because we pre-planned it, it was easy to go out and get the things we designed,” Kaneshiro said.

Remodeling a bathroom is the top home modification older homeowners say they need to make. That will likely require planning and hiring a contractor, which can cost a lot of money. But experts say it’s money well spent.

Consider that the median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is more than $137,240 a year. If you can live at home or keep someone you love out of a nursing home, the remodel can pay for itself.

It’s also what most older homeowners want. An AARP survey of Honolulu residents ages 45 and older showed four out of five want to stay in their own home as they age.

Remodeling also increases the value of the home and Kaneshiro says there’s another benefit — When she hosts family parties at their house, the accessible bathroom is the one all her older relatives use.

To make your house or apartment a home for life, doors and hallways need to be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair, showers and toilets may need to be modified, cabinets and counters need to be reachable if seated, and there needs to be at least one entrance without steps.

There are some simple things you can do without a contractor to make your home more age-friendly. These include:

>> Changing bulbs for better and more efficient lighting

>> Securing carpets and rugs with nonslip grips

>> Installing nonslip strips or mats in the bathtub and/or shower

>> Setting your hot water heater at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit

>> Making sure smoke detectors are installed and can be heard in every bedroom

>> Installing lever-type handles on door, shower and cabinet fixtures

>> Ensuring all electrical and phone cords are safely located so they aren’t a tripping hazard

>> Having an accessible fire extinguisher.

“There’s a lot of simple things that can be done that will make a big difference,” said Evan Fujimoto, president of Graham Builders.

Even when designing a new home, Fujimoto recommends having wider halls and doorways, larger bathrooms and accessible entrances so the house doesn’t need to be modified in the future.

“I don’t care how young you are or healthy, something can happen. You just need to be able to accommodate someone,” he said.


For more tips on making your home more accessible, get a copy of AARP’s Homefit Guide by going online to or calling 1-888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277) and ask them to mail you a free copy.

Free copies of the Homefit Guide will also be available at AARP Hawai‘I booth at the Building Industry Association Home Building and Remodeling Show Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. On Sunday, Jan. 28, admission is only $2 for seniors 60 and older. Otherwise one day admission is $7 and a three-day pass is $10. AARP Hawai‘i is sponsoring two HomeFit Workshops on Sunday at the show at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

AARP Hawai‘i will also hold a HomeFit Workshop on Feb. 17 at 9 a.m. at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.

Sign up at or call 1-877-926-8300.

Barbara Kim Stanton is the state director for AARP Hawaii, an organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.

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