The real estate bubble and subsequent decline in home values has created a challenging situation for our aging population. Just a few years ago an average 3 bedroom Colonial that may have been have sold for $349,000 back in 2005 may only worth $274,000 today. For a couple in their mid forties that may not propose much of a problem. But for the couple in their mid 80’s, (who were counting on the sale of their home to finance their later year living expenses) that’s somewhat of a problem. The fact is that most boomers want to age in place but few have a plan. However, there a ways to make your House a Home for a lifetime and steps you can take that will allow you to successfully Age In Place.

If you or your parents are like most Americans, you never want to be forced into moving into a nursing home or retirement facility. Your home is your castle (and for some of us, our retirement savings account) and that’s exactly where most of our elderly prefer to reside…. In fact, according to recent AARP study when asked where aging adults prefer to live out their golden years, nearly 80% of responded “I’m not moving anywhere”. As we age, we become more resistant to change, and as a result, more likely to desire the familiar surroundings of home.

The real challenge is that most of our non-selling housing stock, here in hilly topography of Connecticut and around New England, consists largely of homes with lots of stairs, steep inclines, bumps and hazards that make Aging In Place quite difficult, if not outright dangerous. Back in the 50’s and 60’s when a great deal of our existing housing stock was built, there was little thought of “Universal Design” building concepts ie, few homes built with zero-step entry ways, 36′ entry doorways and 4 foot wide hallways.Home front doorway

That same AARP study cites the fact that the main reason why our aging parents are forced into moving into Skilled Nursing Facilities is due to poor planning due to the lack of an adequate first floor bedroom and first floor bathroom….

Say that you are in your 80’s, a lifelong diabetic and you have a stroke that leaves your left side weakened to the point where you can’t walk or bathe yourself….Medicare may cover the up to the first 90 days or so in a Skilled Nursing Facility, but if your home is unfit to move back into, where do you go from there? Sure you can get in home care aides and potentially get mobility aids to ambulate better around the house, but is the house safe?

Upon admission to a Short Term Rehabilitation facility you should begin to work with the discharge planning team who, upon arrival, begin to plan for your ultimate discharge back into your home. Normally, at some point prior to discharge, a Physical therapist and or an Occupational Therapist will be dispatched out to the home to asses the safety and viability of discharge and make recommendations.

Likely the discharge planning team will make several recommendations to help improve the safety of your home.

Here are 6 Ways You Can Make Your Home Safer:

1.) Eliminate tripping hazards by getting rid of clutter and remove throw rugs… especially in the bathroom…

2.) Install bathroom safety grab bars and and safety grip strips in the tub & shower floor

3.) Assure that there are sturdy handrails on both sides of your staircases and anywhere that there are steps both inside and outside….or, install a stair lift

4.) Ensure that you have adequate lighting and switching especially at stairs, halls, and entries

5.) Secure or or even potentially remove carpets at stairs

6.) Install soft path lighting for nighttime mobility

These are just 6 simple ways to make your home safer. If you would like additional ideas on things you could do to make your house a home for a lifetime, have a more thorough home safety assessment conducted by a Certified Aging In Place Specialist.