Home Adaptations for Independent Living


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Important Considerations When Purchasing a Home

Posted on August 23, 2021 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (24338)

Knowing that the air in your home is safe and conducive to aging in place can give you peace of mind. Because seniors often have compromised lungs and immune systems, indoor air quality should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing a home. Elderly people are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollutants because they spend more time indoors and may already have compromised respiratory systems or underlying health conditions. Further, you want a home where you could reside long-term with minimal repairs or maintenance to maintain that great air quality.

So what are some of the things you should be mindful of when buying a home to age in?


Checking for asbestos in the home is crucial if you’re buying a home built before the 1980’s and planning on any renovations or additions to make the space more livable. The material is likely to be in homes from this time and is easily disturbed during any demolitions or renovations. Asbestos can cause lung and respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma and should be removed from the home by professionals.


Whether you’re considering buying a newly built or vintage home, prioritize radon testing. This should be done by a professional on every floor you plan to live on, especially the basement, since radon gas comes up through the ground. Radon is a carcinogenic radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. However, if the home has elevated levels of radon, don’t panic. Instead work with a radon contractor to seal the foundation and mitigate levels.


If the home you’re looking at was built before 1978, there’s a good chance it has lead paint or lead plumbing. Exposure to this material can cause lead poisoning and is especially dangerous to elderly folks because of the symptoms. Before purchasing your home, it’s important to test for any remaining lead products . If any lead is found, it should be removed prior to moving in.


Some pressed wood products such as particle board and hardwood or permanent press fabrics such as curtains or sofas may contain formaldehyde, which can cause lung, throat, and nose irritation or cancer. The best way to prevent high levels of formaldehyde is to simply air out or wash any new products that have a high VOC (volatile organic compound) level. If the home has newly installed cabinets or paneling, air out the house before moving in.


Oil and gas furnaces, wood and coal stoves, and anything else gas or oil powered produces carbon monoxide, which causes low oxygen in blood and is extremely dangerous. While homes must have a monitoring system, it’s advisable to have the heating system inspected before purchasing a home. During the inspection, ask them to ensure the heating system is properly vented to the outdoors and have them point out the alarm to you.


While mold isn’t as dangerous as some of the toxins mentioned above, it still poses a threat. Mold tends to grow in dark, damp places, but could be anywhere in a home. Because mold causes irritation of the lungs, throat, nose, skin, and eyes, it’s crucial to check for and clean out any mold before moving into a new home. This is especially important for seniors who have compromised lungs, asthma, or other breathing problems.


Choose a home that doesn’t use a wood burning stove, instead opt for a traditional furnace, pellet stove, or any other alternative. Smoke from wood burning stoves emits particle pollution, carbon monoxide, nitrate oxides, VOCs, benzene, formaldehyde, and various other carcinogens. These emissions can cause a variety of heart and lung conditions and aggravate existing conditions present in the elderly.


Carpets can trap various asthma triggers and pollutants such as tobacco smoke, dust, dust mites, dander, and mold. Since carpets are surfaces that are disturbed often by mere foot traffic, the pollutants are constantly being re-released into the air. If possible, choose a home with little to no carpeting, and instead opt for hardwood or tile flooring. Further, new carpets are often installed with VOCs, chemical irritants that seep into the air.


While it’s crucial to ensure your home doesn’t have any of the toxins mentioned above, it’s still important to air out your house. Look for a home with many well insulated windows, this way you can be warm in the winter, but always have the option of fresh air and sunlight.


Vulnerable populations like the elderly need clean air because of their e.levated risk for lung and heart problems. Advocate for yourself and your loved ones armed with information about indoor air quality. Although a lot can cause indoor air pollution and lead to new health conditions or worsen existing ones, knowing what to look for and ask about is the first step. Communicate with the home inspector and voice your concerns during the buying process. Ask them about the specific pollutants you’re worried about and have them walk you through air quality measures in the home.

 Asking the hard questions now will let you breathe easy in your new home.

Susan Luxenberg

HomeSmart LLC

Long Term Care: When to Plan and How to Pay

Posted on October 3, 2018 at 3:48 PM Comments comments (976)
Long-Term Care: When to Plan and How to Pay
Preparing for the possibility of long-term care for a loved on is a scenario no one wants to envision. But, with  63% of seniors needing long-term care, everyone must consider it. As we grow older, it’s wise to put a plan in place to ensure our aging loved ones will be cared for in the best possible way. While you may be open to being a caregiver, taking on the role unexpectedly can be a considerable burden. This article will help you understand steps to take to plan and pay for long-term care.
Planning for Long-Term Care

When you help a friend or family member make decisions about the possibility of long-term care, it won’t be easy. It can be hard for our aging loved ones to accept the potential of needing in-home care or moving into an independent of assisted living facility. However, make sure to point out to them that by planning, they have a substantial say in their future. You have time to:
●     Examine family history to see what kind of care may be needed. For example, if your loved one has had more than one close family member — like a sibling or a parent— diagnosed with dementia, their risk increases significantly.
●     Start making healthy lifestyle choices that will postpone or prevent some of the common conditions that cause seniors to need long-term care. A healthy diet and daily exercise, along with quitting smoking and limiting alcohol, can add 5, 10 or even 15 healthy years onto a life.
●     Reduce the chance an in-home injury could occur by installing non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens, moving bedrooms to first floors or installing a stair lift. More than 3 million seniors go to the ER each year due to accidents in the home. Not only could an injury due to a slip or a fall require physical therapy to recover, but it could also result in the long-term consequences of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Planning for long-term care is part predicting the future and part preventing it. Help your loved one understand that planning is a type of prevention. If you take steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario, you’ll actually be focusing your energy on how to make their golden years the best years yet.
Paying for Long-Term Care

Deciding on ways to pay for long-term care is crucial if you want your planning to make a difference. If your loved on is adamant they have in-home care, but the two of you don’t work out how to cover the costs, they could be facing a great deal of disappointment when the time comes. Figuring out how to pay for long-term care means looking closely at insurance and assets.  
Once they understand their insurance options, the next step in planning for costs involves helping them analyze their assets and cash flow. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, especially for seniors who come from a generation where finances are an extremely private matter. Emphasize this is a judgment-free conversation, focusing on helping them free up funds for long-term care by:
●     Including long-term care in their retirement planning, from deciding when to retire to how much they will need to put into a 401(k).
●     Considering a reverse mortgage, which involves understanding the pros and cons. On the one hand, a reverse mortgage will give your loved one cash in-hand without needing an excellent credit score rating. This can help with making home modifications for accessibility or hiring an in-home caregiver. On the other hand, there could be negative implications to their estate or a spouse or partner who will remain in the home after they leave.
●     Selling a life insurance policy is another way to pay for long-term care’s costly daily expenses and medical support. If care isn’t needed, then the policy stands as-is. Many seniors consider this option to be a win-win.

As our life expectancies increase, so does the potential for long-term care. It’s scary and even overwhelming for seniors to think about, so knowing they have the support and guidance of a caring friend or family member means a lot. Your loved one deserves to feel loved in their golden years. Planning for long-term care— even if it is never needed— provides invaluable peace of mind. 

Article by June Duncan, the co-creator of the website Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

Benefits of Hiring an Accessibility Specialist

Posted on May 22, 2017 at 3:08 PM Comments comments (1050)
If you or a loved one are reaching the point in life where either a move or upgrades to a current home is necessary, working with an accessibility specialist can be like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

Maybe you or someone you know would like to be more independent but are having difficulty maneuvering the barriers found in most homes. Narrow doorways, stairs and steps, standard bathtubs, slippery floors are all common barriers to safety that most people struggle with as they get older.  An accessibility specialist can help with these issue. These professionals deal with all of the aspects of home remodels in order to allow those who are aging but don’t want to move away from their home, or those with disabilities but who want to maintain their independent living conditions succeed in their desires.  Although there are a large number of independent and assisted living facilities available in most areas, an overwhelming number of people would prefer to spend the golden years of their lives in the home where their children may have grown up, or where they’ve created decades of good memories and connections.  
If you do need some help, who should you call?  What type of training should an accessibility specialist have?   There are only a few programs that offer specialty training in designing and remodeling home environments so as to help those who choose, remain in their homes safely and comfortably. There is more to this than meets the eye and these specialists have learned to look not just at a specific environment but also the people who will be living there. This is precisely what differentiates an accessibility specialist from a contractor - their ability to link specific ailments with specific solutions and to project long term changes as one ages that might affect ones safety and independence within a home environment.  Keep in mind that even simple things like grab bars should be installed based on an individual's physical condition.  

The National Association of Home Builders offers a short course known as the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), designed to train contractors in the technical and business management side of renovations as well as the customer service skills which are needed for these types of transaction. 

The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers an online course in Home Modifications, dedicated to promoting aging in place and independent living for persons of all ages and abilities. This five week program covers home assessments and safety checklists, construction techniques, funding resources, and also includes required coursework in the ethics of dealing with a vulnerable population.  After successful completion, the Program grants an Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM).

What can you expect once you’ve located a trained accessibility specialist?  The Specialist will meet with you in your home to help define your needs, and then complete a full written assessment that includes suggestions for improving safety and comfort.  Recommended changes will vary widely from home to home, based not only on home layout but also on each individuals physical requirements as well as budget realities. Afterwards, you will be shown some plans and/or be given written suggestions to suit both your short term and long term needs. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you may be offered a floor plan which will help you to visualize the concept in the way that it will appear once complete.  The suggestions can include every aspect of your home living, both inside and out.  For example, a ramp leading up to your home will help with stairs if they become hard to navigate or if you have to use a wheelchair.  Seats in your shower along with an accessible and removable shower head, lowered shelves to hold grooming supplies and a handle to help you in and out of the tub or shower unit can all be changes that will help accommodate your right to privacy and good hygiene. You might also need to think about expanding doorways, adjusting the height of your countertops, or making storage more accessible.  Arrangements can be made to reconfigure or bring in specialty equipment for ease of use.  It’s possible that your floors may need to be changed (from a deep pile carpet which can catch wheelchairs or even cause a tripping hazard) to low pile carpets or laminate for better traffic movement.  Better lighting can help you see in the dark, and motion sensor lights can alleviate the need for reaching for light switches.  There are so many different things to think about that someone trained in the process will help to ensure nothing is overlooked and can make suggestions that haven’t even entered your mind.  Renovations can be a large expense and quite the production; you want to get it done right the first time.  Your accessibility specialist will also give you an estimated budget for the renovations you’d like done so that you can determine which are affordable and which ones might need tweaking.

Since most accessibility specialists have dealt with numerous renovations, they can often lead you to competent and efficient businesses and contractors able to handle the suggested modifications.  From electricians to carpenters to plumbing suppliers, an experienced accessibility specialist has set up a good relationship with a variety of tradespeople and can let you know which ones will be right for your particular job and one that will do the work based on your budget.

Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Vidalux. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

Current Trends in Senior Housing

Posted on March 20, 2017 at 10:04 PM Comments comments (764)
     Times are changing at an ever increasing pace, and with it, offerings in senior housing are attempting 
to keep pace.  These days, seniors are delaying their move from independent to dependent living 
by as many years as possible using a variety of means, and gaining more control over decisions regarding where they live and what facilities are at their disposal.  

     With 2016 came an influx of new assisted living complexes, meaning that the competition can be fierce and providers must cater to a growing set of needs.  Most of the time people move into an assisted living community due to needing some help with medial care that they can no longer maintain alone, even with the help of nearby family and friends.  Over the next 20 years, our population aged 85 and above will increase by 74%.  Knowing what types of medical conditions are most prevalent in their nearby communities in order to accommodate them in the best way possible will give providers a decided edge against the competition.

     One way in which an assisted living provider can take advantage of both an increasing use of technology by seniors (52% of seniors are online) and cater to their desire to remain in their own homes is to offer assistance outside the walls of the assisted living residence.  This may mean offering home visits to help support medical needs or even reminding someone remotely via a tablet to take their medications or eat at mealtimes.A surprisingly high percentage of seniors (over 70%) regularly use some type of online social media, so communication via these tablets or phones is also a great way for staff to keep in touch with their charges. A rise in the use of electronic health records could help support a growing number of seniors, both living in and outside of the residence, without overwhelming staff.  This an easy way to track the health care and condition of a patient and provides a reliable database for those who can relay this information to concerned family members in order to help make the best medial decisions possible.  It also provides a benchmark for those patients living outside the residence for use in considering how many years they will be able to continue to enjoy independent life in their own home.  By providing elder care within their own homes, a company starts a relationship with potential future tenants sometimes years before they need any space within the residence walls.

     It says a lot when a healthy 78 year old today has a life expectancy of 15 years or more with a reasonable level of activity and nutrition, compared to that of someone living in a traditional assisted living residence, who can expect half of that number in years ahead of them.  As our health is better maintained later into life, candidates for residency will demand more and more facilities to support better fitness and diet.  As expectations increase, so too do the number of ways in which a facility can deliver to their residents.  “One stop shopping” businesses are cropping up to help provide a variety of elements that our ageing communities are looking for, including healthy catered meals, hair dressing, social activities, and fitness equipment and classes.  When a provider can outsource all of these things, it has the ability to focus on the health and needs of the residents and become far more streamlined in its care.

     Environments within a facility are changing too, as providers move to make the homes less institutionalized and more community-centric.  Some even offer independent condo living style situations with small team of care givers to manage any concerns for their designated group of 6-10 residents.  Others offer single unit homes or a townhome set up.  The variety of living accommodations has certainly changed drastically over the sterile and hospital-like state of residences from days gone by.

     With each generation adding years on to life expectancy, we will certainly see an increase in versatility and options for elder care in the decades to come.  Our seniors are raising their voices and the demand to be heard is creating an ever increasing shift in a sense of control even late into their golden years.

Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Steam Shower Store. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

Universal Design & Aging in Place

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 3:04 PM Comments comments (932)
The concept of accessibility is closely linked with the concept of equality.  In many countries, it is enshrined in law, for example the American with Disabilities Act,  The ADA, however, only applies in certain, specific environments, essentially government-run facilities, public infrastructure and employment.  It only covers a limited number of private companies, such as those involved in providing accommodation and transportation.  The development of private homes is entirely outside the scope of this legislation and yet arguably the provision of high-quality, accessible homes is of fundamental importance in a society where lifespans have been growing longer for many years now, with the result that there is a growing segment of people who strongly wish to age in place and enjoy their independence in to great old age.
Universal Design
It’s therefore hardly surprising that the principle of universal design has come to the fore over recent years.  In simple terms, universal design is based on the philosophy that all buildings should be completely accessible to everyone, as far as is reasonably and safely possible.  In other words, the idea of homes being created to fulfill the needs of a certain group of potential customers (couples without children, families, empty nesters…) is replaced by the aim of creating homes which are suitable for anyone at any stage of life and regardless of any disability.  As well as incorporating the principles of universal design into new-build homes, or homes which are in need of extensive renovation, it’s often possible to update existing homes to make them more accessible.
Accessibility in Practice
The first principle of universal design is that it should accommodate all users and avoid singling out any particular group of people.  Features such as ramps, widened doorways and laminate flooring all enhance accessibility in a way which is appropriate to all users.  The second principle is flexibility in use, which has become very much a feature of modern home design, particularly in cities.  Although this concept is often viewed in the context of maximizing space in smaller homes, it also maximizes usability in larger spaces and includes features such as pull-out work areas in the kitchen, appropriate lighting and accessible storage.  The third principle is simple and intuitive use.  Functionality and usability takes place over advanced features.  This would include features such as walk in tubs, floor-level showers and easy-access appliances.  Again, while these features all enhance accessibility and help to make aging in place a feasible reality, they are all of benefit to all occupants of a home.  It’s also worth noting here, that accessibility can become a major issue at any time, for example during the later stages of pregnancy or if a person has an accident and needs time to recover.  Hence, creating (or adapting) homes with accessibility in mind, takes care of these situations before they arise.
Managing the aging process
As the old saying goes, growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.  The aging process is a part of life, but it’s also fair to say that older age has a very different meaning now than it did even twenty years ago.  At age 82 Cloris Leachman competed in season 7 of Dancing with the Stars (in 2008) and lasted a full 7 weeks.  There are many reasons for this change and one of these reasons is that many people have become more actively aware of the need to manage their health throughout their lives and, in particular, as they transition into their later years of adulthood and into their senior years.  For all the advances in modern medicine, the human body itself still works in much the same way it always has, which means that as we age the body becomes more susceptible to injury and takes longer to recover from exercise or accidents.  This makes it all the more important to find gentle way of stimulating the body, with minimal risk of injury.  Water can play an important role in this.  Swimming is a safe and fun way of keeping fit into later years and can be supplemented by wellness treatments which combine the benefits of both water and heat, such as whirlpool baths and steam rooms.

Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Clearwells. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

Product Spotlight: Flip A Grip

Posted on November 4, 2015 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (828)
We love this product for our clients.  It's called Flip A Grip and is a handle that can mount on a door frame, or anywhere someone might have a problem maintaining balance. While we install grab bars of all sizes and shapes in bathrooms to increase safety for our clients, these little handles work beautifully in a places where a grab bar is just to big or bulky -- particularly in doorways.    

The Flip A Grip is a sturdy handle with a non-slip, latex free handle that glows in the dark and folds out of the way when not using it. If you or a loved one has trouble with transfers, stairs or walking, the Flip A Grip is a great safety product. Designed by a physical therapist to prevent falls and make it easier and safer to get his patients in and around the house, the Flip A Grip can help you maintain your independence.

Flip A Grip Features:
• Allows for greater mobility and independence within the home
• Attaches easily, securely and fits in spots that ordinary grab bars can't fit
• Folds up to be hidden and out of the way when not in use
• ADA compliant and meets ASTM specification 446-85
• Has capacity to handle both push and pull forces
• Non slip grip glows in the dark

You can find this product online at various retailers.  It costs approximately $40/handle.


Here's a link to a video showing how it is to be installed:

  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC

S Florida Event: Annual Friendship Walk

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (494)

The Friendship Walk
Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
9:15 am - 1:00 pm
Pines Trails Park
10555 Trails End
Parkland, FL  33076

The Friendship Walk is an annual vehicle for volunteers, families and friends of The Friendship Circle of North Broward & South Palm Beach Florida to raise community awareness and much needed funds for programs benefiting individuals with special needs and their families. The Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization founded in 2003, has a refreshing approach to helping families of children with special needs. More than 400 volunteers bring the spirit of true friendship and unconditional acceptance to the hundreds of children who participate in over a dozen weekly recreational, social and education programs, as well as summer and winter camps. 

The May 3rd 3k walk kicks off with an inspirational Opening Ceremony, followed by the walk through the park. Following there is a family friendly,action packed Carnival & Fair with rides, activities, food, games, live entertainment until 1 PM. This fun filled event is attended by a broad cross-section of people who come together to demonstrate their solidarity and support for the work done by the Friendship Circle. 

For more information, to donate, or to register for the event,  please go to

We hope to see you there!

Susan Luxenberg, Owner
HomeSmart LLC

10 Common Home Barriers that Challenge Aging in Place, Part 1

Posted on April 15, 2015 at 6:18 PM Comments comments (4788)
The longer I am involved in helping people remain in their homes as they age, the clearer the repeating issues become.  I have found that there are 10 barriers within a home that consistently challenge everyone as they get older.  These barriers wind up causing safety issues because as we age our ability to maneuver safely around them diminishes.  

In the next few blogs I am going to address all 10 issues.  This, Part 1, will tackle the top three:

1.  STEPS AND STAIRS - This refers to both exterior and interior steps. In a perfectly designed home for aging- in-place there would be no stairs or steps anywhere. In Florida many single story homes, while designed for retirees, were designed with changes in floor level. Consequently,there might be a step or two from dining to living room or steps down leading from an entrance hall to the rest of the house.  With aging comes deterioration of our vision and depth perception making these areas particularly unsafe.

The solution for both singular steps and flights of stairs are railings, stair treads that delineate stair edges, and upgraded lighting.  You'll see in the pictures below some examples of these solutions that include battery operated lighting particularly useful for stairs, and colored stair treads which work well on exterior stairs - both inexpensive solutions to major issues.  




                                         STAIR TREADS


For those who can no longer manage stairs at all, in addition to standard portable sutcase ramps there are numerous threshold ramps that are lightweight, some of which adjustable so they can adapt to 1 - 4 steps, and can be easily moved from front to side or back doorways.





2. NARROW DOORWAYS - For a doorway to be accessible and comfortable to get through while in a wheelchair or using a walker or when helped by a companion, it needs to be at least 32" wide.  Many interior doorways would fail that test!  In Florida we face a common issue of 24" bathroom doors.  Once one can no longer walk through a doorway unaided, a 24" doorway is extremely uncomfortable if not impossible to maneuver.  
The obvious fix is to enlarge the doorway by cutting the wall so as to widen the door opening then install a new door, preferably a pocket door which allows for complete access.   Keep in mind that to do so may also require shifting the vanity location which is often located adjacent to the bathroom door, so while this may be the only option available it is also a costly one.  An inexpensive option which may prove helpful is to swap the existing door hinges with swing away ones. These will allow for an additional 4" of clearance when getting through a doorway since these hinges allow the door to swing clear of the jamb and set it tight to the wall.  The pictures below show both options.








3. TOILETING- Why oh why were standard toilets designed at the height they are?  One does not have to be old to have difficulty standing up or sitting down on them.  Just ask anyone with a bad back or a knee injury how comfortable those efforts are. The CDC has released a study showing that 75% of falls in adults over the age of 85 occur in the home and of those falls 52% occur in the bathroom around toileting.  

The solution is to replace your older standard or lowboy height toilet with a comfort height one.  Comfort height toilets are 17" high compared to 14-15" height of a standard one and those 2-3" really make a difference.   Are these toilets expensive?  Not really.  Both Kohler and American Standard offer comfort height toilets starting at about $200.  Just make sure when shopping you use the term "comfort height" and not ADA.  As soon as the salespeople hear ADA they search for an unnecessarily expensive and specifically designated toilet.

If a 17" height is still not enough, a toilet riser (basically a little platform) can be built under the toilet to bring it to a more comfortable height.  You will see pictures below of varied toilet configurations.





Another options to install a wall hung toilet, a more popular choice in Europe than in the U.S. The benefits of a wall hung toilet are that one can set the height to individual preference and cleaning under it is easy.  These toilets also take up little room in a bathroom as opposed to a floor mounted toilet which usually has a much larger footprint than the toilet bowl warrants.

Note: for those who require additional help when maneuvering on and off a toilet, wall mounted grab bars can be set on either side of the toilet on the wall behind it.  These bars function like the arms of a chair and offer great security for those with either balance issues or when transferring from wheelchair or walker to toilet seat. There are a couple different styles differing widely in price.  


                                                      TOILET ON CUSTOM BUILT FLOOR RISER

Next:  Part 2, Commonly found barriers within a home #4-6  

  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC

Home For the Holidays 2014

Posted on November 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (647)
Note:  I originally published this post a couple of years ago, but believe the information is important enough to re-post each year at holiday season.  Statistics remind us that fall prevention is key to independence as we get older, and features in a home that pose no problem when we're at our physical best often become more difficult to negotiate with aging frailties.   

It’s holiday time which means that you may be either visiting or being visited by your parents.  This is a perfect time to assess your parents’ safety and comfort whether in your home or theirs. 

I recently gave a presentation at a senior complex and spoke about safety concerns that could be found in almost every home.  That triggered a lively conversation about the problems these seniors encountered when visiting their kids:  no grab bars in the bathroom, slippery shower and tub floors, no place to sit down when showering, steps that were not clearly delineate, stairs without handrails, or poorly lit hallways or staircases.  Most of those I spoke with said that they were reluctant to ask their adult kids to make any permanent changes to their own homes or install any special equipment, etc.  I have no doubt that if their kids thought about it, they would be happy to provide their aging parents with safer, more comfortable surroundings.  And truthfully these modifications would benefit everyone in the home. 

So here’s a simple list.  None of these items are costly and all can be done quickly:
 1.    Reduce tripping hazards by removing books, shoes, laundry, and toys from stairs; 
       ensure there are clear pathways through all rooms  
2.    Install handrails on stairs and steps; bright colored tape can be applied at the edge 
       of steps and stairs to delineate floor level changes. 
3.    Increase the lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs; put bright lights over all 
       porches and walkways 
4.   Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach places so that using a step stool or 
      chair is not necessary. 
5.   Small throw rugs are a hazard.  Either remove them completely or tape them to 
      the floor with double stick tape. 
6.   Have night lights or battery operated lights in the bedroom, hallways and
7.   Apply non-slip strips or non-slip coatings in bathtubs and showers  
8.   Install grab bars in showers and tubs, appropriately anchored (no suction ones, 
9.    Purchase an inexpensive shower bench or chair which can be taken in and out of the 
      tub or shower as required.   

 After all, an injury from a fall is one the biggest dangers the over-65 population faces and one that often results in a loss of independence.  Implementing the safety measures mentioned above can substantially reduce the chance of injury to your parents and allow for a safer, happier holiday season for all.

Happy Holidays!

Susan Luxenberg, Pres.
HomeSmart LLC

Recent Questions: The value of accessibility improvements

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 4:57 PM Comments comments (936)
Question:  Will modifying my bathroom negatively affect my home’s value?

Answer: Actually, modifying your bathroom to make it safer and more accessible will improve the value of your home.  Many of the past solutions for accessibility were pretty institutional in design but today there are numerous alternatives that not only function to improve safety and comfort but also enhance the look of the space. The manufacturers are all aware that there are 77 million Baby Boomers who are looking to the future and demanding high end products to make their homes safe as well as beautiful.  Furthermore, this generation of Boomers is becoming educated in the concept of universal design – looking to create spaces that are comfortable for all users regardless of their physical abilities.  Think about it, if your bathroom – or for that matter any room in your home -  functions well for a wide range of users, young/old, short/tall, wheelchair bound or not, it becomes more desirable to a wider range of purchasers when it comes time for you to sell.
Question: My husband and I (both of us in our early 80’s) live in a two story home and it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to climb the stairs to our bedroom. We do not want to leave this house but want to remain here for as long as possible. Can you explain both stair lifts and home elevators and whether either one is a practical solution for us? 

Answer: When deciding how best to adapt your current home both physical and financial considerations are key.  And since I do not know your particular situation or what your preferred type of housing would be if moving, I can only review the features, some pros and cons, and costs of both options and leave it to you to determine what might work best for your situation.

A stair lift is a motorized chair on a track that carries a person up and down the stairs. Stair lifts are typically attached directly to the stair treads, not the walls, so installation can be accomplished in under a day with minimal disruption to the house. In addition to quick installation, stair lifts can easily be removed when they are no longer needed.  Many companies purchase used lifts, then refurbish and re-sell them, so it is possible to recuperate some of the equipment costs when you are no longer in need of the lift.
Stair lift solutions are available for types of stair configurations - inside and outside - and can be battery operated, A/C operated, or A/C operated with battery backup. Each requires a grounded electrical outlet positioned near the unit to power it or to recharge the battery.

The cost of a stair lift is substantially less than a home elevator. Cost depends on simplicity – the simpler the unit, the straighter the stairway, the lower the cost.  A new stair lift installed on a simple, straight stair should cost under $4,000. Used ones will cost less. Pricing depends largely on the drive mechanism selected, the options you choose, for example battery-backup, remote controls, upholstered seat, etc., the length of the track (number of stairs it will travel), and the type of stairway on which it will be used. There are companies that will rent them which might make sense if needing for a vacation or seasonal home.

Stair lifts do have ongoing costs and regularly scheduled maintenance is recommended along with annual replacement of the battery (battery-operated units).
A home elevator is the better option for someone who is unable, or would have great difficulty transferring into a stair lift chair. A home elevator is a significantly more expensive option than a stair lift and one that can be difficult to incorporate into an existing home.

In order to install a home elevator, you need to find space for the elevator shaft. The first way to locate usable space is to look for downstairs closets,pantries, or powder rooms with clear floor space above on the second floor that can be incorporated into the shaft.  If none of that is available, a shaft could be built by taking space from an existing downstairs room and space from the corresponding room above to use for the elevator shaft.  This is a definitely a major (read expensive) remodeling project all one its own and very disruptive.  If there is no interior space available, an exterior shaft could be built with doorways to the interior cut into the exterior wall. 

Costs of home elevators vary significantly based on the number of floors spanned, the structural requirements for the shaft, electrical requirements, and the size and features of the elevator itself. Lower-end residential elevators begin around $15,000 and can cost upwards of $100,000 for more sophisticated or decorative models.

Home elevators require regular inspection and repairs and their maintenance costs are higher than those of a stair lift.

When it comes to deciding what makes the most sense for you, as with any modification for aging in place, you will need to weigh the emotional, physical and financial costs of moving as compared to the cost of the renovation and the value it brings as regards your comfort, safety and independence. 

  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC