Home remodeling tips for senior citizens

HOUSTON - Living independently is something many aging people don't want to lose, but it is a fact of life, as we age, simple everyday tasks get harder and harder. A new trend in home remodeling focuses on allowing seniors to stay in their own homes longer.

When Cora Einterz's husband Frank had a stroke, the home they loved became a dangerous place, but she didn't want to move.

"I love my house and I wanted a place where the children who are out of town can come when they visit to stay, " said Einterz. "I knew Frank's mental capacity wasn't as it should've been and I was afraid bringing him to a brand new location, exposing him to different things that he wasn't used to would not be the best for him. So I wanted to bring him back to familiar surroundings. So we decided to renovate the house."

Like hundreds of families across the country, the Einterzs decided to find a way to make the home they had work for them.

"I knew that we would have to make some renovations to the house because there was no way he was going to be able to walk normally," Einterz said.

Millions of seniors are supporting a growing niche of contractors who specialize in addressing the needs of aging homeowners, as well as those with special needs.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists are trained through the National Association of Home Builders to work with senior citizens and those needing specific modifications in their homes.

The Einterz's called in certified aging-in-place-specialist, Kent McCool.

"We do a lot of bathroom modifications. But really, it can run the gamut from front entrances to making sure that the lighting is sufficient in a home," McCool said.

Falls in homes are the leading cause of death from injury for people over 65, so McCool says improvements as minor as adding slip-proof rugs and hand rails can make a big difference.

But it doesn't stop there. Improvements can include widening doorways, eliminating steps or curbs from entryways, replacing traditional bathtubs with walk-in showers or even raising a dishwasher to a new height.

"Bathrooms seemed to be addressed a lot. That's where the falls happen. We want to prevent those falls with simple things like grab bars," McCool said.

With big ticket items like ramps costing $2,000 to $3,000, one way to save some money is to look at renting versus building some of the bigger ticket items.

And really, this trend is not just for seniors. Even if you're in your 40s or 50s, if you are thinking about remodeling your home, you might want to consider some elements to make it more friendly for you as you age.

Angie's List Tips:

  • Talk to a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS): It's important homeowners who do need to make special modifications find a company with the training and know-how to identify the best changes to make. A CAPS contractor is trained to evaluate your specific needs and offer recommendations to make your home safe and functional.
  • Communicate your ideas: Explain what modifications you want done to your home. Even rough ideas on paper are better than nothing at all.
  • What are the costs? Aging-in-place project costs can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Cost can vary depending on the scope of the project and quality of products used. If you anticipate being in your home at least 5 or 10 years, the cost of modifying may be lower compared to the cost of moving into an assisted living facility. Explore all your options before deciding whether to move or remodel.
  • Be proactive, not reactive: Before the need arises is the best time to consider aging-in-place design. For any remodeling project, it is a good idea to look at what changes can be put in place now that will support aging-in-place, even if you are years away from needing it.

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