Aging in place is fast becoming the new norm. By far the most popular choice today, this care option allows seniors to enjoy the comfort and familiarity of their homes without sacrificing their quality of life or well-being.
In fact, a recent study showed that 90% of Americans over the age of 50 plan to age in place. But aging in place isn’t always as easy as it sounds. The truth is that in order for this care option to work, seniors and family caregivers need to view the home environment with a careful, safety-focused mindset.
Home remodeling is a crucial aspect of an effective aging-in-place strategy. Without it, your senior might be at serious risk for falls and other accidents as mobility issues arise.
We’re committed to promoting the well-being of all seniors, whether they’re enjoying their twilight years in a long-term care facility or in the comfort of their own homes. In this article, we’ll discuss the various aspects of aging-in-place remodeling, how to get started, and where to find contractors for seniors near you. If you’re ready to find help right away, be sure to check out our Resource Hub, where you’ll find a detailed listing of qualified remodelers and construction companies in your area.
Aging-in-place remodeling: Keeping seniors safe at home
What is aging-in-place remodeling?
Aging-in-place remodeling is the process of “senior-proofing” a home, resulting in a safer and more comfortable living environment. Contractors and family caregivers start by developing a clear action plan based on the unique concerns and limitations of the senior and their home. After scanning the home for safety hazards, contractors recommend and carry out renovations to reduce the chances of an accident.
While aging-in-place remodeling helps prevent slips and falls, it also boosts overall convenience. The idea is to make daily activities in a senior’s home as easy as possible so they can continue to enjoy their residence long into their twilight years.
What are the main goals of aging-in-place remodeling?
The goals of aging-in-place construction are relatively simple:
- Safety: Fixing safety hazards and installing new features to prevent accidents
- Comfort: Making day-to-day activities less physically demanding
- Convenience: Reducing stress and eliminating time-consuming tasks
- Universal design and planning: Ensuring that a home will remain senior-friendly long into the future as older adults continue to age and encounter new health and mobility issues
Why would my senior need aging-in-place remodeling?
Your senior may want to age in place… but do they actually need to? If your senior is independent and places enormous value on living in their own home, aging in place might be the best choice. Taking them away from their residence could lead to mental health issues such as depression.
Perhaps you worry about your senior becoming a recluse—shut away in their home and avoiding all social contact for weeks or even months on end. While these concerns are certainly valid, many seniors want to age in place because they have strong connections to their local community. Moving your senior to an assisted living facility might actually sever these social connections, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Your senior might also benefit from aging in place simply because it’s a cost-effective care option. Generally speaking, it costs less to remodel a home for seniors than to stay in an assisted-living facility. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 20% of seniors over the age of 65 are homeowners without a mortgage. For these seniors, that means reduced living expenses when you allow them to age in place. The only additional financial concern is the one-time cost of remodeling the residence to maintain long-term safety.
What are some signs I should seek out aging-in-place remodeling?
Perhaps the most obvious sign your senior needs to remodel is a recent accident, such as a fall or a burn. But there are many other signs to watch out for, including:
- Dimly lit areas (especially stairs)
- Uneven flooring
- Bunched-up rugs
- Pets that are easily caught underfoot
- Lumpy/bumpy carpets
- Lack of grab bars in bathrooms
- Steep staircases
- Areas that are not wheelchair-accessible
- Countertops at awkward heights (especially if seniors are confined to wheelchairs)
- Faucets that produce water that could scald someone
- Difficult-to-reach light switches
- Lack of handrails along staircases
- Lack of proper carbon monoxide and smoke alarms
- Phones that are difficult to access
- Doorbells that are too quiet
These are just a few potential signs you might need to consider aging-in-place remodeling. Each senior is different, so it’s important to keep your eyes open for anything that might be a safety hazard as your loved one ages in place.
Questions to ask yourself as you consider aging-in-place remodeling
- Does the cost of a home renovation for seniors outweigh the cost of a nursing home?
- How much does my senior value their independence?
- Do they have ties to their local community?
- Has my senior already paid off their mortgage?
- What kind of physical limitations might my senior be struggling with in five to 10 years?
What can aging-in-place construction accomplish?
According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 30% of adults over the age of 65 experienced fractures from bathroom injuries. In addition, 38% of seniors over 85 were hospitalized due to bathroom-related injuries. Based on these numbers, it should come as no surprise that bathroom renovation is a top priority for many caregivers who are conducting aging-in-place remodeling.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can transform your senior’s bathroom into a safe, comfortable environment with easy access to amenities. Comfort-height toilets, grab bars along the walls, step-through tubs, slip-resistant flooring, and curbless showers all add functionality that can prevent falls.
Flooring is another potential risk for seniors aging in place. Ideally, you should aim for smooth, flat floors with few ledges or drops. You may need to replace heavy carpet with hardwood, vinyl or another similar alternative. Other options include color-contrasting areas (to highlight changes in levels), grippy surfaces and ramps.
Many family caregivers forget all about the exterior of the home when it comes to aging-in-place remodeling. The truth is that many seniors injure themselves outdoors—either in the yard, on the driveway or as they climb the front stairs. Lighting is especially important in exterior locations because your senior will likely struggle to see clearly in the dark.
Motion-activated lights can help, and you might want to create a wheelchair-accessible ramped entrance instead of a set of front stairs. In addition, it’s best to keep landscaping needs minimal with low-maintenance shrubs and grass.
Many seniors injure themselves in the kitchen, and it’s important to address various safety concerns associated with this area. Anti-scald faucets can help prevent burns, and a raised dishwasher allows your senior to clean up without bending over. You might also consider lazy susans and easy access cabinets that slide out.
There are many parts of the home that qualified contractors for seniors can help you remodel, including:
- Bedroom: Keep bedrooms on the main level if possible to avoid stair-related accidents. Install safety handles on beds to help seniors get up in the morning. Keep a phone on the bedside table in case of emergencies.
- Laundry room: Move the laundry room to the main floor to reduce falls. You might need to bring the laundry machines up from the basement. A senior-friendly laundry room should include plenty of counter space to reduce bending and lifting, and laundry machines should be elevated.
- Doors and hallways: Doors and hallways should always be well-lit. Doorways should be wide enough to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. The same general logic applies to hallways, and the American Disabilities Act recommends that hallways should be at least 48 inches wide. All rugs should be removed from these hallways to prevent falls.
- Pet areas: If your senior has a pet, you might need to rethink pet feeding areas, cat litter trays and more. Door flaps allow animals to come and go as they please without asking to be let out. Automatic food and water dispensers reduce labor requirements. A self-cleaning litterbox can help, too.
Adding smart technology
Aging-in-place home remodeling isn’t just about making homes safe; it can also improve your senior’s quality of life. Intercoms and panic buttons have been around for decades, but smart home technology is quickly revolutionizing aging in place with many new possibilities.
With voice-activated commands, seniors can contact loved ones, call 911, ask questions, control lights, adjust heating, set alarms and much more. Smart technology adds functionality that improves both safety and communications, and many service providers can now help you install it.
Aging-in-place home remodeling checklist
- Provide low-maintenance landscaping
- Make sure decks and patios are easily traversable
- Aim for a single-story layout without the need for stairs
- Keep floors as flat as possible with no ledges
- Keep hallways as wide and well-lit as possible
- Avoid front steps if possible
- Install easy-to-operate blinds and curtains
- Install anti-scald faucets
- Use pull-down shelving
- Adjust countertops to comfortable heights
- Consider raised appliances (dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, etc.)
- Use loop handles
- Consider a wheelchair-accessible bath
- Use grab bars in walls around tub, shower, shower seat and toilet
- Install a curbless standing shower
- Put in a toilet with a higher seat
- Install ramps as needed
- Consider a chair lift or, if possible, an elevator
- Install light switches by every entrance
- Have easily accessible thermostats
- Use touch light switches
- Consider an intercom system
- Provide access to a 911 button
- Install smooth flooring
- Provide color-contrasting floors to highlight ledges and drops
- Use low-pile carpet only
- Ensure plenty of ventilation and fresh air
- Consider a central vacuum system
- Have an empty room for a potential live-in caregiver in the future
Questions about aging-in-place remodeling
Is aging-in-place remodeling reliable?
Like normal home renovations, it’s important to choose reliable contractors and service providers when it comes to aging-in-place remodeling. You want to make sure the home is safer after work is completed. Remodeling for seniors is no opportunity to risk poor workmanship, shoddy materials or inexperience.
Fortunately, we provide detailed listings through our Resource Hub that allow you to select qualified service providers in your local area. When you meet with contractors, you can ask them about their experience with aging-in-place remodeling. Some contractors have extra qualifications and training in this specific field. Certifications such as CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) ensure contractors have the appropriate knowledge to help seniors with home remodeling projects.
Is aging-in-place remodeling available for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia?
Aging-in-place remodeling isn’t just for homeowners with mobility issues. It can also help seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. A senior with dementia may be highly mobile, but their environment can quickly become dangerous if their mental health issues are not taken into account. Aging-in-place remodeling can help in many different ways, including:
- Loud door chimes that help caregivers keep tabs on seniors
- Glare-free windows to prevent disorientation
- Automatic shut-off features on appliances
- Childproof latches on cabinets containing dangerous items
- Monitoring system
- Draining and blocking off the pool
Tips for caregivers who want to help
Although many remodeling tasks should only be handled by professional contractors, caregivers can do their part as well. Here are some general tips for caregivers who want to aid in the remodeling process:
- Use clear labels and reminders placed throughout the home
- Get rid of anything that might be confusing, such as artificial fruits
- Install night-lights
- Post emergency phone numbers clearly throughout the home
What questions should I ask aging-in-place remodelers?
- What kind of experience do you have with aging-in-place home remodeling?
- Do you have any specific qualifications or certifications in this area?
- Which part of my senior’s home needs immediate attention?
- What are the most cost-effective renovations to consider?
- Can you show me examples of other senior remodeling projects you’ve completed?
Talking about aging-in-place remodeling
Speaking about aging-in-place remodeling can be tricky, whether you’re broaching the topic with other family members or your senior. Other family caregivers may be reluctant to invest in a major renovation, and your senior might be unhappy at the prospect of change.
How to talk to family members about aging-in-place remodeling
The primary concern for most family members is the cost associated with aging-in-place remodeling. If you face these concerns, explain that aging in place is often more cost-effective compared to a nursing home or a similar facility. Although the up-front costs can be considerable, you could save more money in the long run.
How to approach the topic of aging-in-place remodeling with your senior
Your senior may also be hesitant about aging-in-place remodeling for a number of reasons. They may value their privacy and balk at the thought of strangers coming in to renovate their home. They may also feel insulted at the idea of having safety-oriented features installed, insisting they’re unnecessary. Other seniors may simply avoid change, preferring to keep their homes just the way they like them.
You can start by pointing out that a fall could put them in the hospital, and their injuries may be so severe that they might never return to their home. You could also point out that many of these renovations will improve their quality of life. In the end, most seniors will willingly accept your remodeling advice if the only other alternative is living in a nursing home.
Questions to help a senior consider aging-in-place remodeling
- Wouldn’t you like some new hardwood floors?
- Wouldn’t easy-access cabinets and lower countertops make cooking more convenient?
- You’ve worked hard your whole life. Why don’t you let me make your home more comfortable?
- Why don’t you let me make your bathroom more luxurious and convenient?
- Wouldn’t you like to experience the best technology the modern world has to offer?
- Why don’t we put your bedroom on the main floor so you don’t have to walk up the stairs anymore?
There’s no time like the present to have “the talk”
If your senior is among the vast majority of elderly adults who want to age in place, there’s no time like the present to discuss this subject. Before you know it, your senior might suffer a fall, sending them to the hospital and limiting their mobility for the rest of their life. By that time, it could be too late to address safety concerns in their home, and aging in place will no longer be possible.
Paying for aging-in-place remodeling
How much does aging-in-place remodeling cost?
The cost of aging-in-place remodeling depends on the specific needs of your senior, their home and the evolving contractor prices. Forbes reports the average cost for a bathroom renovation is $10,000. A more affordable renovation can cost as little as $2,500, while a major project can cost upwards of $30,000. The average cost for installing hardwood floors is about $4,000, or about $5 per square foot. The average cost of creating a fully automated smart home system is between $2,000 and $7,000.
A number of grants, government programs and other programs can help homeowners pay for aging-in-place remodeling. These options include:
- Specially Adapted Housing Grant for Veterans: The VA provides numerous grants for senior veterans who wish to age in place and remodel their homes accordingly. Although these grants are not specifically intended for remodeling, recipients who wish to age in place are free to use the funds as they see fit.
- Older Adult Homes Modification Program: The OAHMP is under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program helps low-income seniors make affordable modifications to their homes with grant funds. Through the OAHMP, nonprofits and local housing authorities offer modification services to qualified beneficiaries.
- HUD Home Improvement Loans: The Department of Housing and Urban Development also offers HUD Improvement Loans you can use for aging-in-place remodeling. This might be a good option if you do not qualify for low-income grants.
- Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants: These grants are organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These funds are specifically put aside for elderly, low-income people who live in rural areas, and they can be used for both repairs and renovations.
- Nursing Home Diversion Programs: Individual states may also offer their own unique “Nursing Home Diversion Programs,” which are assistance programs designed to help seniors age in place. This may involve funds that can be used for aging-in-place remodeling.
- Nonprofits: A number of nonprofit organizations can also provide financial aid to family caregivers and seniors. These include Rebuilding Together, Safe at Home, Heroes at Home, and National Rebuilding Day.
- Reverse mortgages: Reverse mortgages can also provide funding, but this is a major financial decision that’s only viable in certain situations.
Medicare Advantage plans may also provide some benefits for home modifications to add safety features and functionality for a demonstrated medical need.
Aging-in-place remodeling: a more affordable option
While the up-front costs of aging-in-place remodeling can be significant, the alternatives are usually even more costly:
- Assisted living facilities: Also known as nursing homes, assisted living facilities are generally more expensive than aging in place because you’re paying for your senior’s room, their food, staff care and much more.
- Home care: A range of professionals can visit your senior at home to deliver medical services, meals and a range of other care options. This additional cost may not be necessary if you remodel the home efficiently and allow your senior to be more self-sufficient.
How can I find aging-in-place remodeling?
If you’re searching for service providers who can remodel your senior’s home, simply visit our Resource Hub to find a detailed listing of local options nearby. Remember, aging-in-place remodeling can save senior homeowners from injuries, costly medical expenses and indefinite stays at nursing homes. Check out our Resource Hub today to get started.