5 inexpensive ways to elder proof your home
America’s largest generation is approaching its twilight years. The oldest baby boomer turned 65 on Jan.1, and every day for the next 19 years, another 10,000 boomers will enter into the traditional retirement age bracket, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
“If you think about who boomers are as a generation, they’ve redefined every space they’ve entered. We know from all indications that they’re going to redefine what it means to age, what it means to grow older,” says Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist and head of The Hartford Advance 50 Team.
The country’s largest cohort will be faced with a number of later-life planning issues: When to give up driving? Should I try to remain in my home or transition to assisted living? If you’re a boomer concerned with aging in place, it’s time to make your home safe for seniors.
Planning for your golden years now, before an accident happens, will likely allow for more independence as you age. One-in-three adults aged 65 and older falls every year, making falls the leading cause of injury death among seniors, according to research published by the Center for Disease Control.
“Every dollar spent on prevention equals about seven dollars spent on treatment,” says Peter Schroeder, who co-founded the website Elder Proof Home after he became his father’s live-in caretaker four years ago. “Denial or procrastination has no place in this world. You have to pay attention. You have to be proactive and think ahead.”
Retrofitting will not only make your home safer, but it may save you money over the long haul compared to assisted-living communities or a nursing home. “The up-front cost may be a lot of money but that has to be weighed against what would it cost if you had to go into an assisted-living facility, which may cost $4,000 to $5,000 a month,” says Tucker Watkins, an Ameriprise Wealth Management adviser. “If the cost of retrofitting a house is $20,000, that might just represent four to five months in an assisted living facility.”
Living on a fixed income and concerned about financing a major overhaul to your home? If a senior is covered by long-term care insurance and files a claim due to such conditions as a stroke, accident or old-age frailty, the cost of retrofitting a home may be reimbursed by their policy, says Watkins. Boomers can also explore home-equity lines of credit or reverse mortgages should long-term care insurance not be an option.
If major renovations aren’t necessary, or affordable, here are some tips from Schroeder’s soon-to-be released ebook “Stay Independent” on how to make your home senior-safe without breaking the bank.
Railings and bars
Bathroom safety is crucial for seniors. The combination of water and slippery surfaces can spell a world of hurt. “If a person needs support on their balance or they find themselves losing their balance, they might well reach for the towel bar which will come off the wall with them as they fall down,” Schroeder warns. Replace the towel bar in your bathroom with a weight-bearing handrail or a grab bar, which can be purchased for under $20 a piece.
Watch for trip hazards
Remove all area rugs and foot stools from your home to keep trip hazards to a minimum. Keep items off the floor in hallways and entryways to ensure smooth room-to-room transitions. Be sure to tuck away electrical cords. Threshold ramps are very important because bumpy thresholds can make people trip. They run the gamut in terms of price. Check out discount suppliers like discountramps.com if you want to keep costs low.
Remove doorknobs with built-in locking mechanisms, commonly found in bathrooms and bedrooms, to ensure you won’t be inadvertently trapped. Instead, install lever-style door handles, which can be purchased for as low as $7.95.
Revamp slippery surfaces
Bathroom and kitchen floors can be as slippery as a skating rink when traipsing through your home in sock feet. Schroeder suggests installing no-skid treatments in high-traffic areas to ensure stable footing. And don’t forget about the bathtub or shower. Elder Proof Home offers non-skid shower mats for as low as $15.85.
Sure, being an active ager has nothing to do with your home, but the more on-the-move you are, the better your chances of reducing injury. Sign up for a senior yoga class, spearhead a walking group in your neighborhood or join a local gym that specializes in keeping seniors active. Not only will you look great and feel physically fit, there is no denying the mood-lifting benefits of endorphins.