Jane Earl was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 26, a week before her wedding. “I will continue to get weaker, I am destined to be in a wheelchair,” she said. “How do I have the best quality of life from a wheelchair?” That question led her to a concept known as universal design, which aims to create accessible, welcoming spaces for all.
Home modifications can help delay institutional care, creating benefits for the individual, the taxpayer and the healthcare system.
Universal, or accessible, design is a growing trend in the home building and remodeling industries as the baby-boomer population continues to age and people with disabilities wish to live as independently as possible in their homes, while not sacrificing style for functionality.
Provides training and education to develop and support skilled, educated and networked professionals who can respond to the increasing demand for home modification services; and act as an information clearinghouse on home modification to equip professionals and consumers with a comprehensive inventory of resources | Fall Prevention Center of Excellence | The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
AARP’s Home Safety Checklist can help you identify and address various hazards around your home. Every year in the United States, nearly one-third of people age-65+ experience a fall. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. More than half of all fall injuries among older people occur inside the home, and an additional 23 percent happen outside, but near the home.
Johns Hopkin’s CAPABLE study is reaching out to 800 low-income residents of Baltimore to gather data on whether simple interventions can allow people to remain in their homes longer. The CAPABLE project – which stands for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders – was created by Sarah Szanton, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, and focuses on simple home modifications and strategies for completing activities of daily living.
The research project will bring handymen, occupational therapists and nurses to residents’ homes in order to investigate their needs and create custom interventions. The cost is about $4,000 per participant, while the average cost for nursing home care in the U.S. is $6,700 a month. Keeping people in their homes longer can have huge economic benefit and healthcare benefits, which is why the study is being funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services along with the National Institutes of Health.
In Virginia, the City of Alexandria is offering home improvement programs to help residents enhance the safety and comfort of their homes. The Home Rehabilitation loan program is administered through the city’s housing office, and is the largest program offered. It is funded by the Federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs, and designed to help low income Alexandria families complete costly home repairs.
Another program offered is the Rental Accessibility Modification program. This program is also administered by the housing office and allows low income families in rental units to take advantage of home improvement grants of up to $50,000.
This fact sheet produced by Kansas State University provides an overview of easy and inexpensive home modifications that can aid older adults planning to age in place. Simple modifications like adding grab bars and removing throw rugs can help to increase safety within the home. Other suggestions include; adding lighting to stairs and hallways, rearranging dishes in easier to reach storage, raising beds so that they are easier to get into and out of, and adding motion sensors at exterior doors.
An article in the Washington Post highlighted the important benefits of aging-in-place, undertaking home modifications, and joining a “Village” group. The article profiles Bill Cousins, 88, who realized that he was having trouble moving around his home. Cousins installed an elevator, increased the maneuvering space in his kitchen, added a ramp to the back of the house, and lowered light switches to an accessible location. Cousins also joined a “Village” group run mainly by volunteers who help him by providing concierge services, such as as taking him to doctor’s appointments and checking in on him from time to time.