If you or a loved one is aging and beginning to experience mobility challenges, modifying your home to accommodate this transition can be quite a task. 

While most folks would certainly find it easier to stay at their home until their final days, a home’s layout and features can make that incredibly difficult. Lots of stairs, narrow areas, multiple floors and other common home layouts may not be a problem for younger people, but become nearly impossible to deal with as we age. 

Staying in your own house as you age is called “aging in place.” There are lots of reasons why this is beneficial for seniors. 

But, physical challenges may make it difficult to get around their house, and remodeling may help accommodate some of these challenges. 

If you’re considering renovating your home to fit your own needs, or the needs of a relative, you may want to learn more about the process before making a final decision on whether it’s an appropriate option for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss why seniors wish to age in place, provide several renovation suggestions for safe senior living, and discuss how RenoFi can help finance your home remodeling projects.

Planning Ahead

Aging in place is the dream for most seniors and their families, and that’s not super surprising.

Living at home allows people more independence and autonomy, as compared to senior living facilities where residents have to follow schedules. Seniors also don’t have to move and completely redistribute their possessions and adjust to a new living environment that may not be totally comfortable.

Lastly, the costs of aging in place are often lower than senior living facility fees. Many senior living facilities charge upwards of $5,000 per month, and aren’t fully covered by Medicaid.

However, in a lot of situations, once an older person’s physical health starts to deteriorate, it starts to deteriorate fast, which doesn’t give them and their family enough time to renovate their home and make it more accessible. Instead, they are forced to make a hasty decision about moving in with a family member or into a nursing home, which may not be what they would have chosen if they’d had more time to prepare.

Aging in place is a great option for lots of seniors, if preparations have been made & the home is safe and accessible. This means you may want to start talking to your loved ones about potential renovations early.

For instance, you may be doing stairs okay now, but in two years, it’s quite possible that having a set of stairs between your bedroom and the kitchen will make daily life really difficult.

If you wait until the last second, when they are close to impossible to navigate, it will be too late to start a major renovation to accommodate.

Starting the Conversation

Here are some conversation topics to start with if you’re thinking about changing your home to age in place:

  • Consider any mobility issues that you or a family member might be dealing with, and set a time to talk about how they could progress over the coming years.

If you’re unsure about how quickly any mobility issues will progress or what you’ll be dealing with, schedule a talk with your doctor about the type of support you’ll need around the house.

  • Seek out expert advice from designers and contractors. Some home modifications are less involved than others and may be appropriate for you to complete yourself - DIY style. However, if any electrical or structural changes need to be made, it’s important to interview & hire a contractor.

However, there are some easy tips that family members or friends can help you with no matter what, to make sure your home is accessible on a day-to-day basis.

  • Make sure there is plenty of light and the light switches & night lights are currently installed - if any lights are out, make sure to get them replaced.
  • Make sure there is no excess clutter that could present a tripping hazard - move any cords or wires outside of walking areas.
  • Replace any unsteady or wobbly chairs or furniture.

Aging in Place Remodeling Suggestions

Simple tips can only go so far when it comes to aging in place - most folks will need to remodel their homes in a more significant way as they age.

Here are some of the most common changes that seniors make to their homes.

Make Bathroom Modifications

Ensure that it’s easy to get in and out of the shower. Consider adding a seat in the shower for comfort.

Consider swapping out the existing toilet for a toilet with a built-in bidet or for a comfort-height toilet (that can make sitting and standing easier).

Consider wall-mounted sinks that can be placed at a desirable, accessible level.

You may want to do a larger renovation and install a new master bath on the first floor, if you don’t already have one, to eliminate worries about mobility between floors.

Cost: While this may be the most convenient, it’s also the most expensive, (averaging about $20,000).

Widen Doorways

If doorways are narrower than 32 inches, you may need to expand them to accommodate a wheelchair.

Hire a contractor to replace the door frame and take care of insulation, drywall, and paint. You also may need to move and rewire light switches.

Along with widening doorways, you may find that a different style door suits your home better. There are several options including French, Double, or Sliding Pocket doors.

Before you attempt to widen a doorway, you should consult your home’s blueprint to ensure that structural integrity is maintained.

Cost: The average cost to replace a door is $975.

Change Door Knobs & Faucets

Door knobs require a twisting motion which can be problematic for those with arthritis. A lever-style door knob can be swapped out and significantly reduce the difficulty of use.

There are several faucet options which reduce the reaching distance required. This can minimize the strain on your back.

Lever-style knobs are easier to grip than round knobs, since they don’t require a twisting motion, which is helpful for seniors with arthritis.

Touchless or touch-free faucets are a smart upgrade, since they turn on and off with a simple wave of the hand.

You can install these yourself or hire someone to help.

Cost: Cost varies significantly depending on style and finish used. Can range from $50-$200 and above.

Install Grab Bars & Handrails

Having to go up & down stairs is one of the main reasons that Seniors sell their home. It not only becomes more difficult, but dangerous as well.

A slip or fall is much more likely to result in broken bones as we age. Grab bars in bathrooms help prevent falls in bathtubs and shower stalls. Handrails throughout the home help improve mobility and are particularly useful to include along stairs.

Cost: Installing Grab bars & handrails is one of the best ways to increase your standard of living, without selling your home. Prices for a grab bar range from $100-$250.

Prices for handrails vary greatly depending on the length and material, but averages are $750-$2000. Different materials include: Wood, Aluminum, Steel, and Wrought Iron.

Replace Flooring

Flooring can be one of the largest costs you incur during a renovation.

With hardwood flooring, you have several options depending on your price range.

Vinyl and linoleum flooring offer the best value per sq. ft and also offer slip-resistant solutions.

Cost: Vinyl ranges from $1-5 per sq. ft and linoleum ranges from $4-7.

If replacing your flooring is not in the budget, non-slip pads offer a cost-conscious alternative.

Add A Wheelchair Ramp, Chair Lift or Elevator

Adding these features will eliminate the need to climb stairs in your home, making entering the front door and visiting every floor of the house more accessible for everyone.

Cost: The average cost to build a ramp is about $1,500, chair lift averages about $4,000, and an elevator often costs about $20,000.

Adjust Countertops & Shelving

Another option is hiring a professional to install cabinets and countertops at a more accessible height of 30 inches off the floor (compared to the standard 34 inch height) to make it easier for someone using a wheelchair or scooter to use.

Adjust what you need to in order to make sure your shelving in closets, cabinets, and pantries is easily accessible.

Lowering cabinets requires almost a complete overhaul of your kitchen. In order to lower the height of your cabinets, you will have to remove the old ones and remount them. Or you can order brand new ones

Cost: To replace all of your cabinets, the average cost is about $250 per sq. ft. Lowering countertops can range from $13-45 per sq. ft depending on the size and material of your countertops.

Invest in Helpful Technology

A great way to make your home more accessible is to leverage technology to work for you. This includes smart appliances with auto shut-off features, smart sensors to detect fire and check carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide levels, motion sensors that automatically turn on lights, to name a few options.

One extremely popular device is a personal emergency response system (PERS), which helps seniors in the event of a fall or medical emergency.

Seniors can wear them around their wrist while going about their normal daily routine and simply press a button if they need emergency services.

Cost: PERS can range from a monthly subscription of $50-$100 or $250-$1000. Motion sensor lights can range from $300-500 to fully install.

Paying for Aging in Place Renovations

Many of the common remodeling projects that make aging in place possible are incredibly expensive - but all in all, come out cheaper than a senior living facility.

For instance, an upfront payment of $40,000 to pay for a first-floor bathroom and other mobility add-ons is a big lump sum, but the average cost of an assisted living facility is about $51,600 annually, according to the National Center for Assisted Living.

It’s important to note that Medicare or private insurance may help pay for medical equipment installed in a home, but they generally don’t pay for home renovations.

So, if you’re striving toward aging in place but don’t have a chunk of savings ready to pay for renovations, what can you do?

Here is one great option for funding home renovations for aging in place:

RenoFi Loans

RenoFi can help you or your family member pay for aging in place home remodel projects.

The best place to start with financing for your project, whether it be a new bathroom, wider doorways, or even an ADU in your backyard for your parents to move in - is a RenoFi Loan.

Here’s how it works:

A RenoFi Loan is a new type of home renovation loan that combines the best elements of a construction loan with a home equity loan, allowing you to borrow anywhere from $20,000 to $500,000.

When you work with RenoFi, you’ll get assigned a dedicated advisor, who will help you find the best lender and a great interest rate for a loan.

RenoFi will also evaluate your renovation plans and your contractor, to make sure you’re working with a reputable person and paying the right amount for the project.

The main things you need to know about RenoFi Loans are:

  • Loan amounts from $20k to $500k
  • Terms up to 20 years
  • Ability to borrow up to 90% of the after renovation value
  • Full loan amount available at closing

If you’re interested in seeing how much you could borrow with a RenoFi Loan, an estimate of your monthly payments and interest rate, and more information, you can start with the RenoFi Loan Calculator now.