The Journal Gazette
Monday, August 27, 2018 1:00 am

Ready home for future

Planning to stay in your home well into your golden years? Doing some renovations before you retire can help make your house more accessible and safe for your life ahead.

Nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures with AARP Public Policy Institute. But many wait too long to make renovations that facilitate aging, says Marianne Cusato, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture. “You don't wait until you have mobility issues to make changes to your house,” she says.

Some universal design changes and remodeling projects will help you grow older in your home comfortably and safely.

A walk-in shower. For older adults with mobility problems, climbing over the edge of a bathtub can be difficult. A walk-in shower can solve this problem.

Cost: Tearing out an old tub or shower and building a walk-in shower can be expensive. Although some walk-in shower kits start as low as $200, you need to be knowledgeable in plumbing and framing to do the work yourself. Having one of these kits professionally installed will add $750 to $2,500, depending on the bathroom layout and plumbing requirements. For a professionally installed custom shower, expect to pay $6,500 to $15,000 or more.

Grab bars. Adding grab bars in select areas can help reduce your risk of falling.

Your main shower, even if it's a walk-in, should have one. And a spot that deserves a grab bar yet is often overlooked is the front door. “When you're trying to balance packages or grocery bags that you're holding, it's nice to have something to hold onto other than the door handle,” Hoffacker says.

Cost: Grab bars generally require professional installation. On average, it costs $140 to have three grab bars installed, according to

A first-floor master suite. One of the best ways to age-proof a house is by having a master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, says Mark Hager, founder of

Cost: If you don't already have first-floor space that you can turn into a master suite, you'll have to build an addition. But it costs a lot of money to increase your home's footprint: Homeowners spend an average $80 to $200 per square foot, HomeAdvisor says.

Door lever handles. Nearly half of people 65 years or older have arthritis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, which can make even grasping a doorknob painful. One solution: Replace doorknobs with lever handles.

Cost: At Home Depot, stainless lever handles start at about $5 apiece. And you don't need to hire a professional: This is an easy DIY project.

Carpeting. Floor surfaces can be slippery, depending on their material, so some homeowners cover hardwood or laminate floors with rugs. But “rugs can create a hazard, because they change the grade of the floor,” says Cusato, the Notre Dame professor.

Replace any hardwood, laminate or tile flooring with carpeting in every room except for the kitchen, bathrooms and mudroom.

One caveat: Most wheelchairs and walkers don't roll over carpet as well as they roll over hard flooring, so make sure the carpet is no higher than a half-inch and the padding underneath is firm.

Cost: Many factors must be considered: room size and shape, carpet material, furniture removal, labor. But in general, high-quality carpeting and padding can be installed for $19 to $38 a square yard.

Pullout drawers. Pullouts aren't designed only for aging homeowners, but they're helpful as you age by giving you easier access to dishes, tools and cookware.

Cost: The price tag varies depending on the size of the cabinets, but a 22-inch-deep pullout shelf costs $58.69 at Home Depot.

And you don't need a handyman to replace shelves with pullout drawers.

– Daniel Bortz, Washington Post

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