If you are like most Americans, you want to continue living in your current home and community as long as you can. But are you and your home a "good fit"? Will you be able to enjoy your home and will it continue to meet your needs as your lifestyle and abilities change?
It’s always better to plan ahead rather than wait for a crisis. Unfortunately, most people don’t discuss or think about the livability of their home until something happens, such as managing a broken leg in a house full of stairs. Usually, the crisis makes it obvious they are living in a place that might need some modifications to make it work for them.
Summer and fall, before the winter frost sets in, are the ideal time to make home improvements. Here are eight simple questions to get you thinking about whether your home meets your current - and future - livability needs.
1. Is there at least one step-free entrance into the home?
2. Are the doorways and hallways wide enough for a wheelchair to pass?
3. Do the doorknobs and faucets have lever handles, which are easier to use than rounded knobs?
4. Are there grab bars in the bathroom, or has the wall been reinforced so they can be added?
5. Does the bathtub or shower have a non-slip surface?
6. Can light switches, electrical outlets and thermostats easily be reached, even from a seated position?
7. Are there secure handrails on both sides of stairways?
While some of these improvements, like widening doorframes, might require major repairs, many solutions can be as easy and low-cost as adding an inexpensive floor mat to provide a non-slip bathroom surface, or installing lever handles.
To get a complete assessment of your home, enlist the help of an occupational therapist or a home modification professional who has earned the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation.
To find a home modification professional in your area, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association (http://www.aota.org/) or the National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org). Get more home tips from AARP’s Home Fit Guide, to order, call 1-888-OUR-AARP and ask for Stock #D18959.
Amy Levner is the Home and Community manager for AARP educati@on & outreach.