older couple at homeHere’s the first of a series of guest posts from Terri Williams, of reviews.com.

According to 2017 U.S. Census population estimates, there are nearly 50 million Americans who are 65 years of age or older, and by 2060, that number will surpass 98 million. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that older Americans experience 29 million falls a year, resulting in 7 million injuries – and states that falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans.

The CDC also reports that there are 61 million Americans with a disability that impacts major life activities.

With so many people affected by disability in the U.S., many turn to modifying their homes as a way to maintain independence and comfort. However, the possibilities of making a home more accessible can come with a steep price tag.

Individuals 65 years of age and older are more likely to have a disability, according to the Bureau’s American Community Survey of disability characteristics. Regarding specific disabilities, the survey reveals that those over the age of 65 are more likely to have vision difficulty, hearing difficulty, and self-care difficulty. In addition, the CDC reports that older Americans experience 29 million falls a year, resulting in 7 million injuries – and states that falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans.

Home Modifications – Part 1

A home’s structural design and overall accessibility can go a long way toward allowing older individuals and those with disabilities to maintain independence, or on the other hand to force them out of their homes. From small alterations like grab bars in the shower to large alterations like ramps and stair lifts, home modifications can allow seniors and adults with disabilities to live comfortably, safely, and often, independently.

Here are some key home modifications that can make a big difference:


Jim Kabel, owner and general manager of Case Design/Remodeling in San Jose, California, recommends adding a chairlift along the staircase if the home has more than one story. Without a chairlift, Kabel says, many people end up living on the main level since it is too painful to go up and down the stairs.

Chairlifts (or stair lifts) can range in price from $2,500 to $5,500 for basic straight chairlifts, whereas stairlifts for curved staircases could cost $10,000. However, you could get a straight DIY chairlift for approximately $1,900 from AmeriGlide, and the company projects a 3-hour installation if you use a competent handyman.

Stairwell Handrails

We mentioned above how many seniors are treated for fall injuries every year. But here’s another way to look at it: “Every 11 seconds, an older adult ends up in the emergency room from a fall, and every 19 minutes, someone dies from a fall,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor. “In homes with multiple levels, it’s critical to install two handrails on every stairway for added stability.” And depending on the number of stairways, DiClerico says this project will cost between $300 and $1,500.


Lighting is another modification that can reduce accidents, and it can also improve vision. “Additional lighting helps individuals to see level changes, be able to do task oriented work, and the glare that causes falls is reduced,” says Chicago-based designer Leslie Markman-Stern, who modifies homes for seniors and the those with disabilities. It also helps to make the additional light sources easy to reach and control. LED lights, which many find to be less harsh than incandescent bulbs  might be easier on the eyes for some people.

It’s also easy to see why adequate lighting is especially important at the top and bottom of stairs. “For good measure, equip the fixtures with motion sensors so the light will come on automatically — no fumbling for the light switch with a laundry basket in both arms,” DiClerico advises. He says an electrician will charge $100 to $200 for the installation.

Shower Modifications

It’s easier and safer to get into a shower than a bathtub, so renovating the bathroom can help to prevent injuries. Even walk-in tubs may not be the best idea since they have a threshold. “Showers can be modified so one can walk and or roll in (wheelchair) which means there is no threshold to trip over,” Markman-Stern says. “A seat can be added so one can sit in comfortably and the water controls can be operated hands free or by using technology so one doesn’t have to worry about getting scalded from hot water.”

According to DiClerico, updating the shower to be curbless will typically cost around $2,000. This is also a good place to add grab bars, which can provide additional safety in the bathroom. “Expect to spend about $120 per bar, installed,” DiClerico says.

Original source: https://www.reviews.com/blog/home-modifications/

Look for Part 2 next month!