Kaiser Health: Renovating the Home for Aging Can be Costly

Though many retirees focus their financial efforts on downsizing their homes in order to minimize their financial commitments, the increasing preference of baby boomers to explore options for aging in place can often come with significant price tags. This could further stress the fixed incomes of seniors as they plan out the retirement stage of life, according to a new report in Kaiser Health News (KHN).

“For some seniors, aging in place might amount to simple modifications, such as adding shower grab bars or replacing a standard toilet with one that sits taller,” writes KHN’s Sharon Jayson. “But many seniors anticipate a financial crunch as they try to plan for their future on a fixed income, uncertain how far their savings and retirement funds will stretch.”

While home modifications for aging in place can be simpler for some seniors compared to others, questions can arise for some who may struggle to find ways to pay for costly modifications when attempting to apply fixed resources to them, like savings and retirement funds. A recent report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) emphasizes this, since it offered a substantive look at the increasing prevalence of senior poverty.

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This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the homes that seniors intend to stay in for the remainder of their lives are not well-suited to people with diminishing mobility, according to Abbe Will, associate project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard.

“Currently, a lot do not have single-floor living — especially in certain parts of the country. There are lots of stairs and multi-story homes when land is more valuable,” she tells KHN. “Many homeowners don’t necessarily have the funds to do aging in place.”

Adding to the financial uncertainty is the fact that costs for home modification can vary significantly, from simpler, less expensive tasks like adding grab bars or non-slip bathroom mats to more complex and costly ones, like widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, adding access ramps to front and back doors or installing easily-accessible showers.

Addressing the increasing need for accessible housing and the ability to age in place will be essential to solving many of issues related to housing inventory and home modification, according to JCHS study author Jen Molinsky in an interview with RMD.

“The data shows that most people don’t move and they do tend to stay in their houses for a long time,” Molinsky told RMD earlier this month. “So, I think it depends on where you are, I think as people age into their 80s and beyond, we typically see a greater need for services and transportation other than the car they may not want to drive anymore. So, with a lot of people aging in low density locations, that’s a concern.”

Read the story at Kaiser Health News.

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