Guest writer Jim Vogel writes today about what people can do to make their forever home a place to stay forever:

If you’re like nine out of 10 seniors, you want to stay in your home as you age. However, getting around and completing daily tasks is becoming difficult, and you know you’ll need to modify your home to comfortably age in place. Before you start shopping for grab bars, it’s important to have a plan for how you’ll create the access you need while maintaining the appeal of your home.

Identify Your Needs

When you’re planning home modifications, consider your current accessibility needs as well as future needs that may develop as your mobility, vision, and dexterity continue to change. Even if you don’t expect to need a wheelchair or walker, accidents happen, and you may find yourself using one temporarily or permanently.

Spend time evaluating each room of your house. Can a wheelchair easily maneuver around rooms and through doorways? Are light switches, outlets, and appliance controls reachable without you having to stoop or move from a seated position? Can you meet all your basic needs on the main floor of your home if you need to? These are just a few of the questions you should ask when planning to remodel your home for aging in place.

Consider Universal Design

Leading architecture experts have worked to create universal design standards that meet the needs of people of all ages living with or without disabilities. Universal design combines aesthetic appeal with barrier-free access to the things everyone needs to lead a full life. While universal design is typically applied to new construction, you can utilize its principles in your home remodeling to create accessible functionality without the clinical appearance.

Examples of universal design include levered door handles, wider doorways, higher electric outlets, and open spaces under sinks, cooktops, and counters.

Find a Contractor

When you’re remodeling your home for aging in place, you don’t want to hire just any residential contractor. For results that excel in both form and function, look for a contractor that’s a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist through the National Association of Homebuilders. Your contractor should be familiar with construction standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as attuned to your personal needs and preferences.

Secure Financing

If your aging-in-place remodeling needs exceed your budget, there may be public and private assistance available to help you stay in your home.

  • Area Agencies on Aging provide education and help seniors access federal, state, and local home improvement funding.
  • The Federal Housing Administration insures loans and reverse mortgages made by private lenders to help families access funding for home modifications. These are commonly known as FHA loans or Title I loans.
  • In some states, Medicaid offers funding assistance programs for qualified low-income seniors who want to modify their home for aging in place.
  • Rebuilding Together is a volunteer organization that helps low-income homeowners across the US transform their home into a safe place to live.
  • The US Department of Agriculture has a Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants program to help low-income persons make safety-related modifications to their home. Some state USDA offices may offer similar funding programs.
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs offers the Specially Adapted Housing grant and the Special Housing Adaptation grant for qualified disabled veterans seeking to purchase a new home or modify an existing home.

Nearly every senior wants to stay in their home and near the community they love, but turning aging in place into a reality takes planning. Whether you need a more accessible home now or you’re preparing for the future, it’s important to have a full understanding of your needs, finances, and vision so you can create a home that will keep you independent and safe for years to come.