While some older adults prefer to relocate to assisted living centers or other facilities, most would like to stay in their own home throughout their golden years. According to the 2018 AARP Home and Community Preferences Survey, one in three people in America is age 50 or older, and the large majority of people in that age bracket want to remain in their current home and community as they age. With so many people wanting to age in place, it’s essential communities and homes are made more affordable, safe, secure, and livable for seniors.
Modifying your current home
Many seniors choose to save money by downsizing into a smaller house or condo in their same community. However, if you’ve decided to stay in your current home as you get older, you may need to make modifications. The fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry is for home modifications for people who are aging in place. Look for contractors with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation. These specialists are trained on the specific home improvement needs of seniors as they get older. The right home modifications should improve safety and convenience. For example, steps should be replaced with ramps, and sufficient lighting should be installed throughout the house. If you live on more than one level, adding a stair chair or even an elevator may be a possibility.
According to Paying for Senior Care, the majority of bathroom injuries result from seniors trying to stabilize themselves on towel racks, shower doors, and other bathroom fixtures. The addition of handrails, grab bars (having three installed will cost $140 on average), a curbless shower, a transfer seat, and non-slip flooring may help reduce the risk of falls. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it may cover the costs of a walk-in tub and other medically necessary modifications.
For the best accessibility, doorways and hallways should be widened throughout the home to accommodate a wheelchair. Door and faucet knobs can be replaced with lever handles for easy use. Oversized light switches with sliding levers rather than traditional flip switches are also a good idea. Some seniors also prefer push-button door openers to automate the opening and closing of interior doors. Keeping all these modifications in mind, and gather estimates to determine the best possible prices for your budget.
If modifying your current home is too expensive or if it’s too large for your needs, you can also downsize into a more accessible home. If you’re buying a new home, be sure to calculate your monthly expenses and income so you know how much you can spend.
Unfortunately, seniors are often the targets of crime. Usually in the form of scams, muggings and home invasions. And even if you live in a safe community, it’s wise to stay vigilant and to protect yourself. Be mindful of what you carry with you when you’re out and about, and stay up to date on the latest scams that focus on seniors. It’s also wise to add an alarm system to your home, as well as deterrents like additional exterior lighting and even thorny bushes. If you’ve decided to downsize into a new home, it’s paramount that you have the locks re-keyed; you can’t be sure who might have a key to your home. As soon as you have access to your new home, connect with a local locksmith with the experience and know-how to re-key all the exterior doors in your home. Be sure to check ratings and reviews online to ensure you work with a reliable and trustworthy contractor.
Social isolation is a serious problem for seniors, particularly those who don’t drive. Isolation causes poorer quality of life and, in some cases, contributes to earlier death. Access to affordable transportation options keeps older adults connected with family, friends, and their community, as well as provides a reliable way to get to doctor’s appointments.
When it comes to medical-related situations, traditional Medicare provides coverage for emergency transportation services but not for doctor appointments. However, Medicare Advantage plans can sometimes provide transportation assistance for non-emergency appointments through partnerships with ride-sharing services. If you often need transportation to the doctor’s office, making the switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan may be a good idea.
Networking in your community
Another way to find affordable transportation is by joining a village, which provides access to social groups, service providers, and other support for those who are aging in place. Village members are part of a network with other members and volunteers. The volunteers connect the members to each other and to the vetted service providers for transportation, as well as meals, home repairs, and other needs. You can even work to create your own community to help others age safely and happily.
Living independently in an affordable home that is right for your needs and in a community that provides support, services, and social interaction can lead to a longer, happier life. With proper home modifications and a network of friends, family, and service providers, aging in place can be a wonderful way to maintain your independence in a safe, healthy environment.