What is Aging in Place?

Aging in Place is a phrase growing in popularity as more and more aging individuals are choosing to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Maintaining independence and living in the house they’ve called home for decades are both very important to the 55+ demographic. Unfortunately, the disabilities and diseases that often accompany old age can make it difficult or impossible to live in your current home. That’s where aging in place remodeling comes in.

Aging in place can be defined as modifying your home based on your current and anticipated needs in order to make living as comfortable and easy as possible. A well-executed remodel should address all the areas of your home where you or a family member are struggling with daily tasks due to a disability or old age. It’s important for you and your contractor to review what your needs are now and what they will be down the road so that your project covers all of your bases. If you decide to “future-proof” your house now you won’t have to do another remodel in the future and will have more time to enjoy your upgrades.

Examples of Aging in Place Improvements

Hundreds of modifications can be made to your home to make it more accessible. A common example could include lowering the light switches, thermostats, and electrical outlets around the house from their standard heights to a more comfortable level for a family member in a wheelchair. If you or a family member have limited access due to narrow doorways, it can be a good decision to remove the doors themselves and widen the frame past a traditional width to allow easier passage. Some other examples of aging in place improvements are:

  • Reinforcing the walls in the bathrooms and other common areas and installing grab bars for safe support in and out of the bath, shower, or anywhere else.
  • Stairlift systems that stow out of the way when not in use but are available quickly whenever someone unable to use the stairs needs to get to a different level of the house
  • Moving amenities such as the washer and dryer or an office space from the second floor down to the first floor. Plumbing often needs to be reworked as well.
  • Zero-step entrances and specialty door frames can be integrated into nearly every entryway. Another option is to build a gradual ramp sloping up from the ground to the original entrance without blocking the existing steps
  • Another popular option in the bathroom is a step-in shower or bath unit. This design allows you to enjoy your shower or bath without having to worry about slipping as easily from stepping over a high ledge.
  • Hopefully this gives you some ideas on what improvements are possible!

Procrastinators vs. Planners

When it comes to aging in place, are you a procrastinator or a planner? Both have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to aging in place decisions, but having a general plan at least provides a starting point for future decision making.

Procrastinators like to wait until the last minute to make a decision about remodeling or improvements. Sometimes, it’s because they’re struggling to come to terms with their situation or they just have a lot on their mind. Other times, a situation will force their hand like an unexpected surgery or sudden worsening of a condition where they might wish they had decided sooner. This is a really big decision to make and should not be made lightly so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The planner, on the other hand, is two steps ahead of the situation and any possible future situation, too. They have every possibility accounted for and a plan for each one. They assess the most likely and worst-case scenarios to make sure they’re ready for anything. Don’t go overkill on this and drive yourself crazy but do take an objective look at what your circumstances are and how you can approach them logically.

“Should I Remodel My Home for Accessibility?”

Analyzing four factors can help put in perspective if you should undertake remodeling your home for accessibility reasons, or consider choosing an alternative living situation.

  • Cost – Budget is often a factor in this decision whether we like it or not. Much of today’s modern equipment is expensive and a project with a large scope can quickly get costly. Some retrofits like moving the light switches down require secondary work, including drywall patching and painting.
  • Length/Degree of Disability – This one is part common sense and part predicting the future. If you had a bike accident and have a fractured leg for 2 months but are otherwise as healthy as ever, it probably is not the best idea to put in a $10,000 stairlift! However, if you have a condition that is slowly and predictably worsening, then it’s an option to meet challenges ahead of time to be prepared.
  • Time in Home – Consider how long you plan on living in the home you’re thinking about modifying. What if you move in two years for retirement or to be closer to a family member? A good rule of thumb is to plan on staying in the home you’re remodeling for at least the next five years.
  • Location – Do you need to live in an area for your career or could you work remotely in a house that’s better suited to your needs? Is your family nearby and you want to stay near them? Even loving where you live is a great reason to stay in your current house or area. Moving can be a hassle, too. If nothing is tying you to a certain location and you’re thinking about a move – hold off on any significant projects until a decision has been made.

Alternatives to CAPS Remodeling

You have options when deciding how to approach the challenges that come with aging and/or disability. In order to make a fair assessment, you should utilize the same factors listed in the previous section to compare options and make a decision that’s best for you. Take an “apples-to-apples” approach and keep in mind your budget, location, severity of conditions, and length of stay when considering each of the following alternatives to remodeling your current home.

  • Hire a caretaker/in-home nurse – Hiring a professional to come by daily or weekly to assist with household tasks is a common occurrence. They can assist you with just about anything from cooking and cleaning to checking up on your health, depending on what company you use. Cons to this solution are having to pay a person periodically rather than having a permanent solution and having to rely on others instead of full independence.
  • Retirement community – Retirement communities exist nationwide and more are popping up all the time to meet the rising demand of aging individuals. Location isn’t much of a concern as you can find one near just about anything you deem important. These are often full-service communities that include food, housing, group amenities, and staffed premises. Cost can quickly become a huge factor when you consider the price that needs to be charged to cover all those expenses, and there are a lot of other residents that you must live with for better or worse.
  • Find/Build a house with modifications – If you get estimates for remodeling your current house and they’re just too much to justify, then moving to a house or building a new one with your desired modifications could help remedy the problem. This solution can be ideal if your current house is too big or you don’t use the second story at all and wish to downsize. Houses with modifications already in place can be tricky to find and even trickier to match to your exact physical needs.
  • Do nothing – Doing nothing is a perfectly valid choice in the face of deciding aging in place options. Daily life may not be particularly convenient or easy with a limitation, but there’s nothing wrong with working around the issue with the resources you have at your disposal. Soldiering through can get very tiresome and there are some cost-effective options out there to make things easier if desired.

What is the Process for Remodeling?

Remodeling can be a stressful process, but a good contractor can make it as pain-free and non-intrusive as possible. Though everyone has a unique set of wants and needs, there’s a general process or checklist that you should make sure to check before signing with a contractor:

  1. Wants/Needs Analysis – an in-depth look at what condition your house is currently in and what your needs are (and will be in the future).
  2. Proposal – a firm price for all your necessary improvements that you can budget around with confidence that it won’t change the minute you sign.
  3. Design – the chance to visualize the project and make adjustments before your home is worked on. 3D and top-down CAD drawings are ideal for this.
  4. Professional Installation – you can and should expect a clean installation with minimum interruption in your day-to-day life. Modern equipment and efficient scheduling make this easier than ever.
  5. Service & Warranty – a company should stand by their products and installation as well as provide service if something doesn’t look or function as intended.

There are many smaller steps in between and many different ways to accomplish a great remodel, but the best ones usually hit all five of the items listed above.

Importance of CAPS Certification

If you see “CAPS” after someone’s name on their business card or website, then it means they have earned the designation “Certified Aging in Place Specialist.” An individual earns this certification by taking and passing tests for a series of three courses. The courses were designed by the AARP, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the 50+ Housing Council. The CAPS holder must also attend continuing education classes to maintain the certification and to keep up with industry advancements.

By attending classes and keeping up with the top proven equipment in the country, Aging in Place Specialists offer knowledge of, and provide modern solutions to, the biggest roadblocks that come with aging or disability. The CAPS and NAHB community also provide accountability and support to their members with up-to-date best practices and products. While there may be some companies that perform well without a CAPS designation on staff, having one ensures the contractor has had at least 20 hours of training and utilizes the material to match your needs as closely as possible.

  • Stair Lifts and Elevators
  • Lighting Installation
  • Non-Skid Floors
  • Easy Access Entry Systems
  • Ramps and Entrances
  • Grab Bars & Other Bathroom Assistance
  • Reinforced Railings
  • Security Monitors and Systems
  • Wheelchair Lifts
  • Lowered Countertops & Sinks
  • Lowered Cabinetry
  • Custom Cabinet Organizers
  • Custom Closet Systems
  • Floor Plan Changes

If you need help with your aging in place remodel, visit R. L. Rider Remodeling online at /remodeling/certified-aging-in-place-caps or call (517) 487-3713. We are CAPS certified and will help guide you through the remodel process. Thank you!