Why Aging in Place Remodeling is a “CRISIS Buy”

A man and woman laying in bed smiling for the camera.

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.

~John F. Kennedy, former U.S. President


Aging in Place

I was asked recently why I call aging in place a “Crisis Buy?” I first encountered the term at an American Society on Aging Conference several years ago in Chicago. The then acting President and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care was giving a keynote and he mentioned the term–it stuck. Rarely do older adults prepare for aging in place remodeling, in fact, as far back as 2011, a study conducted by the Office of Policy Development and Research’s Multidisciplinary Research Team, suggested that the majority of U.S. homes are not fully accessible:

Although approximately one-third of units have Level 1 accessibility features (see below) and are potentially modifiable, fewer than 5 percent of units have the features needed to accommodate a person with moderate mobility difficulties. The percentage of wheelchair-accessible units is even smaller; less than 1 percent of all units are equipped with features that would allow a wheelchair user to live independently. The researchers did note that some households might be misreporting features, which could result in underreporting some accessibility elements.

Level 1: Potentially modifiable. Homes in this category have some essential accessibility features but would not be fully accessible without further modifications, including the following:

  • Step-less entry into the dwelling from the exterior.
  • A bathroom on the entry levelor the presence of an elevator in the unit.
  • A bedroom on the entry levelor the presence of an elevator in the unit.

Level 2: Livable for individuals with moderate mobility difficulties. Homes in this category have a minimum level of accessibility that allows a person with moderate mobility difficulties to live in the home. Level 2 homes include all the features of Level 1 homes as well as additional features, including the following:

  • No steps between roomsorrails/grab bars along all steps.
  • An accessible bathroom with grab bars.

Level 3: Wheelchair accessible.Homes in this category have a minimum level of accessibility sufficient for a wheelchair user to live in the home and prepare his or her own meals. This group includes all the features in levels 1 and 2, and additional features, including the following:

  • Extra-wide doors or hallways.
  • No steps between rooms.
  • Door handles instead of doorknobs.
  • Sink handles or levers instead of knobs.
  • Wheelchair-accessible electrical switches, electrical outlets, and climate controls.
  • Wheelchair-accessible kitchen countertops, kitchen cabinets, and other kitchen features.

(Accessibility of America’s Housing Stock: Analysis of the 2011 American Housing Survey).

Fear of Aging

Much of this lack of planning architecturally for the future is caused by gerontophobia (other causes are noted such as lacking financial means, the knowledge and or, other resources), or the fear of aging. So much so, that aging-in-place remodeling is considered not as a preventive, but so often as a post-emergency/s “come to Jesus moment” decision. Sadly, a fall can put quick end to life as it once was for the older adult. Paradoxically, the fear of aging + lack of planning = secondary agers; which actually speeds up the aging process and potentially death…

How to Hire a CAPS Remodeler for Aging in Place

Tip1– Verify the remodeler has the appropriate license(s) in your state; look for online reviews.

Tip2– Look for professional designations such as a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS).

Tip3– Get at least three written estimates of the work to be done based on a set of plans and specifications.

Tip4– Select a professional remodeler with experience in your type of project, ask for testimonials from past clients/contacts.

Tip5– Determine how much money you should budget for the project before you begin.

Tip6– Ask how the remodeling will impact the energy efficiency of your home. – Communicate your ideas: Explain what updates/repairs you want done to your home. Even rough ideas on paper are better than nothing at all.

Tip7– Don’t hire anyone who gives you a post office box with no street address or uses only an answering service as a point of contact and ask for references.

Tip8– Never pay the entire cost of your project up front. Base payment on targeted completion dates and make sure your contract contains a termination clause, should the contractor fail to meet expectations.

Tip9–Make sure before they enter your home all the COVID-19 Precautions are taken by them and you.

Don’t wait until it is a crisis, choices then are narrowed and hurried–never optimal…

Good Luck!


Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS)

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