Smart Remodeling: The Best Home Renovations for Seniors

By: VGFS
Monday, August 26, 2019

More American seniors are aging in place than ever before. Driven by a rapidly-growing elder population largely comprised of Baby Boomers, today’s seniors are enjoying far more active, vibrant lifestyles and longer lifespans than previous generations. Still, growing older often comes with physical challenges that can make it hard to get around the house. That’s why more and more senior citizens are opting to remodel their homes to accommodate this decline in mobility.

While a major home remodel can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it’s often less costly than senior living alternatives. For example, a basic unit in an assisted living facility in Maryland runs a whopping $45,000 per year, according to the latest Cost of Care survey from Genworth Financial. With staggering costs like these, remodeling your home for aging in place can be a smart financial move. Still, some renovations are more likely to merit the time and expense than others. Here are seven aging-in-place home improvements that experts say are well worth the investment.

1.     A first-floor bedroom. Climbing stairs might seem effortless now, but in the years ahead, declining health condition or disability could make it challenging. If your home’s bedrooms are all located on an upper floor, consider putting in a sleeping area on the ground floor. Convert a room on the lower level into a bedroom or build an extension onto the main floor of your home if it’s feasible. Adding a full bath to create a first-floor suite is a sought after feature for buyers and can pay off handsomely.

2.     Bathroom modifications. If you’re building a new bathroom, ensure that it’s designed with the necessary age-friendly enhancements, such as attractive grab bars and hand rails, a no-threshold shower, and higher toilet. If you’re remodeling an existing bathroom, you’ll want to replace the fixtures, as well as the counter and medicine cabinet to be safer and more easily accessible. Switching knob-style bathroom faucets to those with a lever-style handle is inexpensive and can be helpful for arthritic hands, too. For a complete bathroom remodel, you can expect to pay about $20,000, according to Remodeling.com.

3.     An accessible kitchen. A host of various modifications could be put in place here, depending upon your needs. For example, creating a pullout pantry and placing the microwave on a counter or below counter height may make the space more practical and comfortable in which to work. Regular countertops stand about 34 inches off the floor; installing cabinets and countertops at a more accessible 30 inches can make it easier for someone using a wheelchair or scooter to prepare food. Depending upon the extent of improvements made, you can expect to pay $22,507 for an average kitchen remodel in 2019, according to Remodeling magazine's Cost Vs. Value Report.

4.     An accommodating entrance. Make sure your residence will be easy to get in and out of as you get older by building at least one exterior door with a flat entry or a ramp rather than steps. Today’s designs and materials today allow accessible ramps to be an attractive integrated part of the finish and architectural design of the home. If your entryway is narrow, consider adding a few inches to the frame to easily accommodate a wheelchair or walker.

5.     A chair lift or elevator. If your home has multiple levels and you want to be able to move between floors, install an elevator or a chair lift that attaches to the stairs. According to Remodeling.com, the average cost of a motorized chair lift is between $3,000 and $4,000, while an elevator installation typically tops $20,000.

6.     Enhanced lighting. Accidents and falls are just waiting to happen in the dark spots throughout your home. Assess each room carefully and take note of areas that are in need of extra lighting. An electrician can easily install fixtures in dimly lit places, such as a hallway or dining room. Add glow-in-the-dark switches and motion-sensor lighting to alleviate the struggle of locating light switches in the dark. For a do-it-yourself approach, you might also put light strips on the stairs or add a lamp where more illumination is needed. When replacing bulbs, use LEDs, which have a longer life than incandescent bulbs do and can significantly reduce your energy bill each month.

7.     Non-slip flooring. Take a proactive approach to falls by installing vinyl or linoleum floors. They provide more traction than slick, hardwood or concrete floors, and the somewhat softer material can be more forgiving in the event you or another household member takes a tumble. Bamboo and cork are also popular choices, although they are more expensive. Expect to pay about $3 to $4 per square foot to buy and install vinyl or linoleum floors. Cork averages about $5, while bamboo runs between $5 and $7 per square foot.

The National Association of Home Builders even has a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation for contractors who specialize in helping senior homeowners to remodel their residences. You can contact a CAPS professional to get advice on modifications, plan a renovation, and/or find qualified contractors in your area. While most of these home renovations expenses will need to be paid out of pocket, you may qualify for a limited number of home improvement grants, based on your income and location. Visit the Department of Health and Human Services’ ElderCare.gov website for more information.

Many seniors prefer to live in familiar surroundings as they grow older. Undergoing an aging-in-place remodel can help you maintain your independence while enjoying the comforts of the home you love. At Vaughn Green Funeral Services, we always have your best interests at heart. If you’d like additional information about aging-in-place remodeling, we’re happy to assist you in finding the resources you need. Please contact our helpful funeral directors any time.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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