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Home Modifications to Support Aging in Place

A 2018 study by AARP revealed that 76% of US residents over the age of 50 would prefer to live in their homes indefinitely as they get older.

It’s easy to empathize with this desire, particularly when you consider how continuity of location can help with staying connected to your loved ones and engaged with your community.

Adapting certain features of your home to make certain daily tasks easier can help seniors maintain their independence longer. Here are a few of the most common home modifications for aging in place.

Converting a tub into a walk-in shower

Reduced mobility in the hips and knees can prevent people from getting into and out of a bathtub. A walk-in shower can allow someone to wash without needing to climb over the edge of the tub.

When converting a shower into a walk-in, it’s important to add design features that reduce the risk of slips and falls. Two ways of doing this are using textured tiles for the bathroom floor and installing handrails on the walls adjacent to portions of the floor that are likely to get wet.

If you do not want to re-tile your floor, a more affordable way of making the bathroom floor slip-resistant is by adding anti-slip flooring strips to your existing tiles.

A typical cost of turning a tub into a walk-in shower is $3000-$8000. This covers the cost of removing the existing tub, creating and laying the shower floor and installing additional glass panels to prevent splashing. If additional plumbing is required, this may push the cost up.

Installing a stairlift

Installing a stairlift is one home modification for someone who has difficulty climbing up and down flights of stairs. While stairlift installations do not usually require any additional remodeling, there are some requirements that a staircase must have for a stairlift to be installed, including:

  • Minimum width: Staircases need to be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate a stairlift.
  • Nearby power outlet: A plug should be available within 10 feet of either the top or the bottom of the flight of stairs.
  • Sufficient space to mount or dismount the chairlift: Landings need to be wide enough to easily get in and out of your chairlift. The amount of space needed to do this will vary from person to person.

Installing a stairlift costs around $3,000-$6,000 per staircase. This price is generally double if a staircase needs to be widened to accommodate the chairlift.

Widening doorways

Widening doorways can make them easier to walk through when using a wheelchair or walking aid. A doorway that is 34 inches wide should be able to accommodate most walking aids.

The cost to widen a doorway can vary a lot, depending on how much it needs to be expanded by and the material of the door and doorway. It can therefore cost anywhere from $500-$3,000.

Adding ramps and rails to the exterior of a home

When adding ramps to paths and steps you essentially have two options. These are:

  • Modular ramps: Fixture ramps that are permanently installed in your home’s exterior.
  • Portable ramps: These are smaller ramps that are easily removable.

For ramps that are less than three feet long, such as to provide accessibility over one or two small steps, portable ramps should be sufficient. Modular ramps will be needed for longer pathways.

Ramps are priced out by the linear foot. Depending on material, modular ramps can cost between $100-300 per linear foot. Portable ramps can cost as little as $25 per linear foot.

Getting financial aid for home modifications to support aging in place

If you are unsure about whether you can afford necessary modifications for your or a loved one’s home, you have a few options for financial support. These options include:

  • State-specific government assistance programs: 27 states have at least one financial assistance program specifically to help fund home modifications for seniors. You can find a list of these, along with eligibility requirements here.
  • Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organization that provides no-cost home modifications to assist with aging-in-place. You can get in contact with your local affiliate here
  • There are many charities that support veterans with aging in place, including providing financial aid for home modifications. You can find a list of these programs here.

This article was contributed to FirstLight Home Care by construction professional Volodymyr Barabakh. Volodymyr is the co-founder and Project Director of BM International Builders.

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