1. It pays to retrofit. Basic design and structural modifications to a one-story home cost an average of $9,000 to $12,000, according to The MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0. Contrast that expense to the cost of assisted living, which averaged $3,500 per month in 2014, according to Genworth Financial, or $42,000 a year.
2. Think small. Start with replacement hardware, such as lever-handled doorknobs and sturdy handrails along stairs. Install grab bars, single-handled faucets and “comfort height” toilets in the bathrooms. Upgrade your kitchen by adding rollout shelves and better lighting under the cabinets. (For a comprehensive to-do list, see the Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist at http://www.nahb.org.)
3. Make it accessible. Other modifications will cost more, and you may want to consult an expert. Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) — who have completed a program developed by the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP — can create a prioritized to-do list suited to your budget and resources (to search by zip code, visit the NAHB website at http://www.nahb.org and search for “CAPS Directory”). If, for example, your home has entry steps, consider installing a ramp; it will run $1,200 to $2,500, according to http://www.costowl.com. A curbless modular shower will cost $2,000 to $3,000 to install.
4. Consider the big picture. Structural changes may include widening doorways and corridors and eliminating walls to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters, or even creating space in a multistory home to add an elevator later. The perfect time to make such adjustments is when you’re updating or remodeling your home.
5. Tap your equity. If you have substantial equity in your home, you have multiple ways to pay for improvements, such as a cash-out refinance of your mortgage, a home-equity loan or line of credit, or a reverse mortgage. For more information on reverse mortgages, visit the websites of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (go to http://www.cfpb.gov and search for “reverse mortgage”) and the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (http://www.reversemortgage.org). Veterans may be eligible for a grant to construct or retrofit their homes (see http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/adaptedhousing.asp).
6. Use Technology for support. R2-D2 to the rescue. Voice-activated robot helpers are on the way. Meanwhile, existing tech tools can help you stay in touch with family, caregivers and community, as well as monitor your health and provide for security, says Laurie Orlov, founder of the Aging in Place Technology Watch (http://www.ageinplacetech.com). For example, the BeClose system (http://beclose.com; $499 for equipment plus $99 a month) will alert your emergency contacts if you diverge from your usual activity pattern.
(Patricia Mertz Esswein is an associate editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
(c) 2015 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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