Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Home Modifications, Repairs, & Accessibility Issues
Keeping Older Adults Safe At Home

According to a recent AARP housing survey, "83% of older Americans want to stay in their current homes for the rest of their lives," but other studies show that most homes are not designed to accommodate the needs of people over age 65. A house that was perfectly suitable for a senior at age 55, for example, may have too many stairs or slippery surfaces for a person who is 70 or 80. Research by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that home modifications and repairs may prevent 30% to 50% of all home accidents among seniors, including falls that take place in these older homes.

Before you make home modifications, you should evaluate your current and future needs by going through your home room by room and answering a series of questions to highlight where changes might be made. You can begin your survey by examining each area of your home and asking the following questions:

Appliances, Kitchen, Bathroom

Closets, Storage Spaces

Doors, Windows

Driveway, Garage

Electrical Outlets, Switches, Safety Devices

Floors

Hallways, Steps, Stairways

Lighting, Ventilation

Once you have explored all the areas of your home that could benefit from remodeling, you might make a list of potential problems and possible solutions.

Many minor home modifications and repairs can be done for about $150-$2,000. For bigger projects, some financing options may be available. Other possible sources of public and private financial assistance include the following:

• Home modification and repair funds from Title III of the Older Americans Act—These funds are distributed by your local area agency on aging (AAA).

• Rebuilding Together, Inc., a national volunteer organization, through its local affiliates, is able to assist some low-income seniors with home modification efforts(1-800-4-REHAB-9)

• Investment capital from the U.S. Department of Energy's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)—Both of these programs are run by local energy and social services departments.

• Medicare and Medicaid funds—Although these programs usually cover only items that are used for medical purposes and ordered by a doctor, some types of home modifications may qualify.

• Community development block grants

• Home equity conversion mortgages or small private loans.

Seniors may also choose to bypass public assistance programs and hire a contractor to do their home modifications or even do the job by him or herself. Keep in mind these points if you want to have a professional contractor come into your home to work on a large project:

• Ask for a written agreement that includes only a small down payment and specifies exactly what work will be done and how much it will cost (with the balance of payment to be made when the job is finished).

• Check with your local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor. Make sure that the contractor has insurance and is licensed to do the work required.

• Talk with your family and friends to get recommendations based on their experiences with the contractors they have hired. This step may actually be the most important one; because contractors with a good reputation can usually be counted on to do a good job.

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