Many retirees, like you and your husband, want to remain in their own home for as long as possible. But, being able to do so will depend on how easy it is to update your home as you get older. Here are some helpful resources to get an idea of the different types of features and improvements you can make that will make your house safer and more convenient as you grow older.
A good first step in making your home more age-friendly is to do an assessment. Go through your house, room-by-room, looking for problem areas like potential tripping or slipping hazards and areas that are hard to access or difficult to maintain. To help with this, there are several organizations that have aging in place checklists that point out potential problems in each area of the home, along with potential modifications and solutions.
Rebuild Together, for example, has a short "Safe at Home Checklist" that was created in partnership with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Go to AOTA.org and search for "Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Checklist."
The National Association of Home Builders also has a checklist that offers more than 100 suggestions to help homeowners over age 50 live safely, independently and comfortably. Go to NAHB.org and search for the "Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist."
You may want to check out AARP's excellent resource that is filled with tips and diagrams to make your entire home safer and easier to live in as you age. You can access it at AARP.org, then search for "HomeFit Guide" or call 888-687-2277 and ask them to mail you a free copy.
If you want more personalized help, consider getting a professional in-home assessment with an occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist (OT) can evaluate the challenges and shortcomings of your home for aging in place, recommend solutions and introduce you to products and services to help you make improvements.
To find an OT in your area, check with your physician, health insurance provider or local hospital, or seek recommendations from family and friends. Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by your doctor. However, they will not cover the upgrades to the home.
Another option is to contact a builder who is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS are home remodelers and design-build professionals that are knowledgeable about aging in place home modifications and can suggest ways to modify or remodel your home to fit your needs and budget. CAPS are generally paid by the hour or receive a flat fee per visit or project.
To find a CAPS in your area visit the National Association of Home Builders website at NAHB.org/capsdirectory where you can search by state and city.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.