Housing & Transportation

Home Modification & Repair

There are adaptations to homes that can make them easier and safer for activities such as bathing, cooking, and climbing stairs, as well as alterations to the physical structure of the home to improve its overall safety and condition.

How many of us have heard an 80-year-old person complain that he or she doesn't want to move to that nice assisted living community nearby? "That's for OLD people," he or she may protest. The loss of independence, community, and the stigma of old age in our society makes it difficult to consider such a profound change.

To help you determine what modifications may be helpful, check out the useful home safety checklist at Careguide@Home.

For elders with limited resources, paying for home modifications can be a challenge. Some help is available for low- and moderate-income elders who are homeowners. There are no-interest or low-interest loans available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for home modification and repair. To find out how the program works in your state, contact your Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or your Council on Aging (COA).

If an elder does not qualify for assistance loans, and lacks the funds for needed home improvements or repairs, he or she may want to consider a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that lets the homeowner convert a portion of the equity in his or her home into cash. (For more information, see Retirement Planning.)

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology refers to equipment and other services that enhance the mobility and independence of people with disabilities. Ranging from simple devices, such as amplified telephones and handheld showers, to high-tech medication monitoring equipment, assistive technology has great potential for helping an elder remain at home.

Assistive technology is also important for caregivers. Caring for an elder often involves physical demands that can jeopardize a caregiver's own health. Home modifications, such as portable ramps, roll-in showers, widened doorways, and assistive devices can provide immediate relief while helping caregivers deliver care more safely. Caregiver Adaptations to Reduce Environmental Stress (CARES), funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, is one of the best resources for current information. You can access a free PDF in six languages on the Web site, call 213-740-1364, or e-mail cares@csu.edu.

Energy Assistance

As energy costs continue to rise, heating and air conditioning bills may become a factor in an elder's ability to stay in his or her current home. Most states have energy assistance programs, as well as laws that prevent utility companies from shutting off service to elder households that are experiencing a financial hardship. Contact your local utility companies to see if they offer reduced rates for elders.

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