AARP surveys consistently find that older adults want to remain in their current homes and communities for as long as possible. But our needs can change as we age, and most houses and apartments are designed for young, able-bodied adults and don’t meet the needs of older residents or people with disabilities.
There are some new developments at the community level that will help provide additional housing choices for older adults and loved ones. And, if purchasing a new home is not in the cards, we have some tips and resources to help make your current home safer and more livable for people of all ages.
This past legislative session new housing bills were passed that will open up the market to new housing options that have been difficult to find in the past. Legislation to reduce barriers to building accessory dwelling units (ADU) or ‘mother-in-law’ spaces gives homeowners the ability to adapt their property to meet their current and future needs.
ADUs can fill many roles, like providing a place for an aging parent to live instead of a nursing home. They can also be used as living quarters for a caregiver or a relative who requires care or for an adult child who may need to return home after college. ADUs can also provide a steady income stream for homeowners on a fixed income.
In addition to easing the path to ADU construction, new “Missing Middle” legislation will allow for smaller housing units and multi-family housing, like duplexes, fourplexes, and cottage courts. These more modest-sized homes can be tucked into existing neighborhoods and provide a greater range of options for a greater range of incomes, households, and stages of life, including empty nesters and older folks who want to downsize and stay in their community.
Creating more affordable housing for various income levels is critical to achieving the state's housing goals. More housing options can also help family members live with or near one another to support their loved ones while still having their own space or residence.
If new housing isn’t in your future, there are plenty of tips to make your current home safer. Adapting a home for aging in place involves making modifications and adjustments to accommodate the changing needs of elderly individuals.
AARP's program, HomeFit, includes a room-to-room guide with more than 100 tips and suggestions to make a home more livable in the long run. It includes several low-cost to no-cost ideas, along with projects that will require a handyman or contractor.
Here is a list of some no-cost to low-cost modifications that are doable regardless of housing type (single-family house, apartment, mobile home, etc.) or ownership status (owner, renter).
Eliminate Tripping Hazards: Secure rugs and carpets to the floor or remove them altogether to prevent tripping. Keep the floor clutter-free and ensure cords are out of the way.
Lever-Style Door Handles: Replace doorknobs with lever-style handles, which are easier to use for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity.
Bathroom Modifications: Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower or bathtub to prevent slips and falls. Place non-slip mats inside the bathtub or shower to prevent slipping while bathing.
Proper Lighting: Improve lighting throughout the home to reduce tripping hazards. Use brighter bulbs, add task lighting, and consider motion-sensor lights in key areas.
You can learn more about housing options for caregivers and other tips to aid in your caregiving journey by visiting www.aarp.org/caregiverswa.
This story is provided by AARP Washington. Visit the AARP Washington page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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