It’s tough to watch our parents age. The people who used to glide around the house with ease, moving from room to room, picking up after us and playing games suddenly are not able to walk down the hallway without holding onto the wall to keep balanced. The fall that Dad took last year has him in a wheelchair, or Mom’s diabetes caused nerve damage in her legs and she needs to use a walker. When that time comes, their home needs to be more accessible to them so they can move within it easier. Depending on their needs, along with a consultation from a doctor and physical therapist, there are certain areas of the house you will need to have retrofitted for accessibility so that your parent can age in place comfortably.

What Does “Age in Place” Mean?

Aging in place (or “aging in the right place,” as it is referred to in The New York Times) is a broad term that can mean anything from keeping Mom and Dad in their home for as long as they can stay there to retrofitting the home and making it accessible as they develop infirmities. If they develop mobility problems for whatever reason, make a point to observe how Mom or Dad gets around the house the next time you visit. Input from the doctor and other health care professionals may give you insight on your parents’ abilities and areas of difficulty.

What Does a Retrofit Involve?

Retrofitting is more than just bolting rails to the hallway walls our building a ramp to the front door. It involves working with a contractor licensed to do accessibility retrofitting, in addition to your parents’ physical or occupational therapist, to determine exactly what needs to be done to enhance mobility. The therapists can probably recommend a good contractor.

Depending on what the needs are, the contractor will probably want to start with modifying the outside before tackling any of the interior work. Overall, the costs might range from minor (larger lamp switches and doorknob grippers) to major (wheelchair ramps, stair glides, or even a new bathroom or bedroom). Medicare normally doesn’t cover these costs, but the Veterans Administration might if either or both parents served in the military.

Why Not Just Move to a Retirement Home?

 There are benefits to moving to a retirement home instead of aging in place. The units are already retrofitted, the areas are more accommodating, and there’s always someone on staff who can handle any emergency situation. However, Mom and Dad might not want to uproot themselves. They probably have a deep sense of pride in owning their home and are willing to put up the money to retrofit it instead of spending money to live in a retirement community.

Won’t Modifications Affect Resale Value?

If the house must be sold, the accessibility modifications might or might not affect its resale value. Considering that many baby boomers are aging, there is a market for accessible homes, especially those that are close to hospitals and rehabilitation centers. However, according to Sandra Fleishman of The Washington Post, the market for accessible homes is still a work in progress, but who are the ones most interested in buying? Those who want to age in place.

Retrofitting a home to make it more accessible definitely has advantages for our aging parents who want to remain in the place where they watched their children grow, where friends and family gathered, and where life happened. It is where they are comfortable, and where they can stay comfortable as they modify it to meet the physical challenges that naturally occur as they age.

This article was written by Lucille Rosetti. If you would like more information on this topic (I know that it sure hit home with me, as my parents are aging and don’t have plans to move any time soon.  My dad turned 75 years old today!), don’t hesitate to reach out to Lucille at The Bereaved.

And if you need advice on options for your family’s Long Beach home, simply use the Contact Me form on my webpage, and I’ll be happy to help!

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