Ditch Senior Living and Stay in Your Own Home

Ditch Senior Living and Stay in Your Own Home

A lot of Americans diligently save up for retirement, but it doesn’t occur to most to plan for home renovations in their later years.

It can be hard to picture yourself having trouble with stairs, using a walker or wheelchair or needing assistive devices in the shower.

But three quarters of Americans aged 50 and over say they want to remain in their homes as they age, according to a survey by AARP, yet very few are taking any action toward that goal.

In fact, most people don’t take any steps to try and make their homes more accessible until disaster strikes, typically after a bad slip or fall.

According a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 65 million households in the U.S. are now headed by someone over the age of 50. Yet, only 3.5% of the U.S. housing stock incorporates three vital features for aging in place: single-floor living, no-step entries, and extra-wide halls and doors, says the report.

The good news is there are clever ways you can save some money and make your home more age friendly.

Home Design

Instead of installing a chairlift on a staircase to access the second floor, it often makes more sense to convert a room on the main floor into a master bedroom.

Living on a single floor can reduce renovation costs. For example, it might allow you to only widen a few doorways versus many on both floors.

Another bonus in taking action now is with the right documentation, certain aging-in-place modifications will give you a tax write-off.

A wheelchair ramp may qualify you for a deductible medical expense. And veterans may also be eligible for financial assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here are three of the most practical aging-in-place modifications you should consider, along with cost estimates.

Note: costs may vary by contractor and location. Also, if you’re thinking these modifications sound expensive, consider the cost of inaction and the price of a nasty fall.

Here are three home renos to make if you want to live independently for as long as possible:

Bathroom Fixes

One in four Americans age 65-plus falls each year, making falls the biggest cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans. And the place where people fall the most? The bathroom.

For fifty bucks each plus another hundred for installation, you can retrofit your existing bathrooms with grab bars. This will eliminate you having to remove your bathtub and install a walk-in shower.

However, if you’d prefer a walk-in shower, you can install one for around $4,000-$6,000.

Additional add-ons like hand-held shower heads that move toward you, rather than having to move yourself are also worthy of consideration.

When you shop, look for ADA compliant products, there’s a surprisingly large selection of ADA product out there that doesn’t look half bad.

Floor and Lighting Fixes

As you age, muscle weakness, joint pain and other issues can make navigating different surfaces in your home a challenge. You might have one room that’s hardwood floor, another that’s tiled, and another that’s carpet.

For around $12.50 a square foot, you can rip out your old carpet and install new laminate flooring. Keeping the surface friction and height relatively consistent in your home is key. Also, try to get rid of other trip hazards like area rugs.

Another major fall hazard is your lighting. Having different levels of lighting throughout the house can make moving around challenging as you get older. Uniform lighting means your eyes don’t have to adjust every time you leave a room, helping you keep your balance.

Starting at $6, you can buy non-glare LED light bulbs. Try to make every room as bright as possible and consider motion sensor lighting that turns on automatically when you enter a room.

Door and Staircase Fixes

The current recommended width of a doorway is a minimum 32 inches, according to the International Residential Code. Unfortunately, most older homes have more narrow doorways than this.

To prepare for old age, the recommended width is at least 36 inches to allow for easy wheelchair access. You’ll pay anywhere from $400-$500 to widen one doorway. This price will also depend on the doorway you’re trying to fix, like say having to move light switches or other fixtures that might bump up the cost.

The last reno you should be thinking about for your home are wheelchair ramps. These can run you anywhere from $5,000-$6,000 for a temporary aluminum ramp, all the way up to $12,000-$14,000 for a permanent 8-step structure that’s attached to your home.

If you know you’ve found your forever home and want to make it as future-proof as possible, renovations ideas like these can help make it easier to manage – and much safer.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

You May Also Be Interested In:

Big Bank CEOs: Smooth Sailing Ahead

Some of the country's biggest banks recorded record fees for helping companies do deals. JPMorgan reached an all-time high. Now wonder CEOs are so confident about the recovery of the economy. But although we have learned quite a lot from the big banks, this summer will clearly be a test of what we can expect for the future...

Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

View More By Nilus Mattive