Retrofitting a Home for Aging in Place

Home is where the heart lives regardless of age. The thought of leaving a place can be difficult, especially if an elderly parent has spent years in one place.


Today, more and more families are choosing to help elderly parents age in place when circumstances and health still allow. Familiarity is only one factor. The rising cost of assisted living care and healthcare expenses in general play a significant role when considering short- and long-term care.


When evaluating a parent’s ability to age in place you’ll need to consider the physical space, financial impact, and health implications. Can your parents age in comfort and safety without moving? Even if the surroundings aren’t ideal, a few retrofits may make the home even better suited to their needs.


When helping parents retrofit a home for aging in place, consider the following to help you get started.



How is the Overall Financial Picture?

Money dictates choices in life, and it’s no different for parents who choose to age in place. First, assess the overall household finances and expenses. Do they have enough fixed income to afford the current living situation? Is there an immediate need to cut expenses due to an emergency or ongoing health issue?


Review the household budget and income to decide what exactly you can afford to change. If needed, you can also reach out to a family financial advisor or benefits administrator for further advice. Online resources can also provide guidance about financial planning and how to pay for care.


If not, how will the family handle the transition to a new place? With many decisions to be made, your primary care team can offer guidance about in-home care options and primary care services.



Evaluate the Existing Living Arrangements

Begin by thinking about the bigger picture, including: 


  • Access to the house, including driveway, parking, and walkways
  • Entrance size
  • Stairs
  • Current bedroom or sleeping areas
  • Bathroom access and amenities


Imagine yourself with a limitation like a broken leg or poor vision. What obstacles do you immediately recognize?


Remember that lack of stamina, strength, and mobility affect most everyone with age. Keeping these realities in mind can be a helpful framework when trying to objectively view the home and risks.


Preventing falls should remain a priority. A fall can injure or even jeopardize an independent living situation.




Bathrooms present one of the biggest challenges to aging in place. The ideal situation is having a full bathroom in the main living area or floor. Retrofitting a bathroom for elderly parents can involve minor or major changes, including:


  • Installing a walk-in shower or tub
  • Installing handrails or grab bars
  • Placing a shower seat in the bathtub or shower
  • Reorganizing personal items for easier access
  • Using a toilet seat riser which can be an easy, temporary solution for low toilets



General Safety Considerations

Small changes can increase safety and livability. Aging in place home modifications may be as minor as:


  • Removing any rugs that are trip hazards
  • Installing carpet over hard surfaces in high traffic areas
  • Buying phones that are senior-friendly
  • Installing more lighting
  • Keeping a walker by the bed to aid stability during the night
  • Keep rooms open and clutter free to avoid tripping or falling



Consult a Professional

If you’re feeling unprepared for the task at hand, consider consulting with a professional who can conduct a home safety study. 


Organizations like Age Safe connect families with resources and other organizations working specifically with senior adults.


A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, or CAPS, is trained through the National Association of Homebuilders to retrofit homes for the elderly. With their experience, they can offer advice and guidance about helping elderly parents age in place for years to come.