How can we make the homes of today suitable residences for the needs of tomorrow? Start with these 4 tips.
1. Make home repairs and improvements sooner rather than later
Americans 65 and older with lower incomes are more likely to own older homes, which likely require more frequent and costly repairs than newer models. Regardless of your age or income level, try to make home repairs as soon as possible. Fixing problems promptly often saves you from paying for larger, more costly disasters down the line.
"The most important recommendation I can offer is the urgent need for homeowners to take necessary steps to ensure an age-friendly home before they need it," stresses AARP Foundation Vice President of Housing Vivian Vasallo. Begin to optimize and improve your living quarters while you're physically able to save money and avoid accidents.
2. Understand Universal Design
"Universal Design is an approach to home building, remodeling and community development that centers on safety and ease of movement both inside and outside of the home," explains Vasallo. "UD features range from lever door handles and easy-to-grasp cabinet pulls to no threshold showers, zero-step entrances, and first floor living.
Remember, a well-designed, practical home doesn't need to look stuffy. Your home can be age-in-place-friendly and still reflect your personal style.
3. Consider a reverse mortgage
"If you are a homeowner who wants to age in place and are on a fixed income and have no real financial wherewithal to fix a roof, fix the furnace, etc.-all the things you need to do if you own a home-you may possibly explore a reverse mortgage, or home equity conversion mortgage," says Brian Sullivan, spokesperson, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Think of the mortgage you're paying on your home now as a forward mortgage. Through a reverse mortgage, the mortgage company pays you. At the end of the term of occupancy, the bank takes control of the property. But the option is not the best fit for everyone. "It is critical senior citizens get housing counseling before they tap into the equity," urges Sullivan.
4. Take advantage of available resources.
Consider grants and loans available though Government Home Repair programs, or reach out to grassroots nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together. The AARP also offers a wealth of resources.
"We understand that it is often difficult to know where to begin when it comes to making meaningful home modifications. Often, the best way is to start simply," suggests Vasallo.
To get started, follow these five steps from the AARP Home Fit Guide :
1. Install handrails on both sides of all steps (inside and outside).
2. Secure all carpets and area rugs with double-sided tape or carpet mesh.
3. Install easy to grasp C- or-D-shaped handles for all drawers and cabinet doors.
4. Use brighter bulbs that do not produce excessive glare in all settings.
5. Install night-lights in all areas of night activity.
AARP Foundation's new Home Repair Accelerator grant program will invest in new programs that "markedly increase the number of vulnerable 50+ people served by existing home repair organizations in a way that can be sustained in perpetuity," notes Vasallo.