Helping loved ones 'age in place'

Angie's List offers advice to help seniors stay in their own homes


Seventy-eight-year-old Katie Collins is a vibrant lady, but her arthritis can get the best of her.

"It had become pretty tough to get in and out with the steps. I really didn't want to leave my home," said homeowner Katie Collins.

New handrails were a huge help, but she needed more. Her bathtub became tough to climb into, so it was replaced with a walk-in shower. Grab bars were also installed.

"Now I'm able to go into the shower. I have two seats in my shower. I can sit down and wash up real good and get up and shower myself, wash my hair, whatever," Collins said.

"For many senior citizens, being in their own home as they age can be a real benefit. It can help their well-being, and it also it can be more cost efficient than other housing options, so updating their living space for them can be really important," explained Angie's List founder Angie Hicks.

It's real important that you look at it in a holistic way of all the things that could become barriers and meet that," disability professional John Ausbrooks added.

Ausbrooks takes pride in providing products and services that allow older folks to lead an independent lifestyle. He says scooters, ramps and lift chairs can be life altering, and he remembers installing a stairway lift for one man who hadn't seen his basement in years.

"The guy came down the stairs and he just began to weep because memories came flooding back to him. So it was a very moving experience – still is, many years later – to see the guy experience the memories that he had probably thought he was never going to see again," Ausbrooks said.

Collins feels that same joy every time she showers or easily manages her steps.

"I'm just happy, honey, because I never had anything like that before," she said. "And it's so nice and convenient. I don't have to worry about, like I said, falling anymore because everything is just convenient, and I'm grateful!"

When modifying a home for safety, Angie's List recommends working with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist who has specific training in home modifications for the elderly. If cost is an issue, she suggests contacting the local agency on aging, which may have programs to help.

Remodeling to age in place can include:

  • Installing grab bars
  • Widening doorways to accommodate a walker/wheelchair
  • Eliminating steps or curbs from entryways
  • Replacing slippery floor materials
  • Installing pull-out kitchen cabinets
  • Replacement of traditional bathtubs with walk-in shower/tub
  • Installation of vanities to allow wheelchair room
  • A dishwasher that minimizes the need to bend

Other things to consider:

  • Talk to a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS): Its important homeowners who do need to make special modifications find a company with the training and know-how to identify the best changes to make. Certified Aging in Place Specialists are specially trained through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to work with senior citizens and those needing specific modifications by proactively addressing safety and accessibility issues in the home.
  • Communicate your ideas: Explain what modifications you want done to your home. Even rough ideas on paper are better than nothing at all.
  • What are the costs? Aging-in-place project costs can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Cost can vary depending on the scope of the project and quality of products used. If you anticipate being in your home at least 5 or 10 years, the cost of modifying may be lower compared to the cost of moving into an assisted living facility – explore all your options before deciding whether to move or remodel.
  • Be proactive, not reactive: Before the need arises is the best time to consider aging-in-place design. For any remodeling project, it is a good idea to look at what changes can be put in place now that will support aging-in-place, even if you are years away from needing it.