WaPo: How to Modify a Home to Help Seniors Age in Place

One of the strongest arguments that anyone can make about the potential assistance a reverse mortgage loan can provide to a senior is in discussing how the loan proceeds can be used to help that older person age in place. Remaining in the home has taken on an increased level of importance recently due to the rise of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and as seniors explore options to allow them to stay at home, something that may require consideration is a series of modifications to the home itself to help make aging in place an easier prospect.

Several potentially beneficial options for modifications were recently explored in the Washington Post, which looked at such things as changing the type of flooring to make it easier to traverse; the addition of new kinds of ramps to make the home more accessible; and changes to a bathroom to minimize the risk of falling or slipping.

In terms of flooring, one potential option a senior may want to explore is luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring, which provides a non-skid, waterproof surface that “stands up to wear and tear,” according to Post columnist Michele Lerner. A senior may also want to consider the purchase and installation of accessible appliances.

“Ovens at countertop height and refrigerators with French doors are more accessible and easier to open and close,” Lerner writes.

An external concrete ramp up to the front door of a home may also be beneficial to increase the accessibility options into a home, limiting the possibility of an accident that can come from traversing stairs while also allowing a wheelchair to easily enter and exit a home’s front door.

In the bathroom, lighted bathroom mirrors can be tilted and illuminated to allow for easier use, and a linear shower drain may help to smooth out the surfaces of showers to minimize the potential risk of an accident.

“With a linear shower drain, there is less slope in the floor than in a typical shower drain system, which leads to more stability when standing,” Lerner says. “A bonus is the sleek, modern look this option presents.”

The addition of a folding bench inside the shower could also be beneficial for seniors who may have some mobility challenges, as it allows them to sit in the shower instead of standing for the duration of use. Teak or wood with a steel frame will also be more comfortable, and less prone to the cold touch of tile or stone, Lerner explains.

In a 2019 interview with RMD, Dr. Jon Pynoos, professor of gerontology, policy and planning at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, described that the United States has not been creating resources for seniors at a quick enough pace to accommodate the aging population, and without the creation of more dedicated facilities with well-managed costs, aging in place could potentially serve as a way to mitigate this issue, Pynoos says.

“The growth of nursing homes has really not been very substantial,” Pynoos told RMD at the time. “I think the cost of nursing homes and older persons seeing them as a last resort has led us to look for other options. Assisted living is expensive, so the option for most people is to try and stay where they are for as long as they can.”

Read the article on home modifications at the Washington Post.

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