Current Trends - Aging in Place - Episode 61
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode of Legal Tea! Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in current time, that is pertinent to my little estate and elder law world. So, on today’s episode, I stumbled upon an article talking about “aging in place” which is a term of art for people who are getting older and rather than moving into independent living … assisted living … or nursing home … they’d prefer to grow old and remain in their home for as long as possible. I mean, THAT, of course, is what most people want, right? I mean, not many people are throwing their arms up to volunteer to move into a long-term care community, but to promote the idea of being ABLE to age in place, this article I stumbled upon, which by the way is a Yahoo Life article written by Nafeesah Allen, talks about things you can do NOW to making “aging in place” more likely than not.
Also, beyond this article by Ms. Allen, I also reached out to grab some commentary from my friend and professional partner, Lisa McCoy, a real estate professional in the Indy-area, to chime in on this “aging in place” topic, too. She provides some interesting, very real feedback, so listen closely!
Okay, let’s dive in – there are five things to consider and/or do to prepare yourself to have a shot at “aging in place” – let’s just go through them one-by-one. Kicking things off with…
1. The Dreaded Stairs
To no one’s surprise, right? As we age, our stability and balance gets a little … off sometimes and we’re more apt to fall. With stairs involved, that just makes the danger level drastically increase. So, as the article shares, while a one story ranch-style home is not always the most visually-appealing, it’s definitely going to take having lots of stairs out of the equation. (In my field, I’ve heard clients tell me that they haven’t been to their second story in a long time – and cleaning up there? Kiss that idea goodbye!) Another thing to consider on this topic is not even stairs INSIDE, but stairs OUTSIDE. What if it’s a one story ranch-style house, but it sits on top of a big hill with lots of incline and/or stairs? Whether those stairs are inside or outside, they could be problematic.
Now, say you absolutely love your house and it’s not a one story ranch, perhaps you get some quotes on installing a chair lift or while it sounds a little fancy dancy, installing an elevator is not out of the question. (Side note: I know that sounds crazy, but these types of elevators in homes are not the big, large ones you see in a hotel!) In fact, the article explains that a lady by the name of Robin Wilson, who does sustainable design work, has seen many clients “repurpose a coat closet” to make room for an elevator. She even shared that there are even some that merely plug into a regular electric outlet. Whoa!
Before we shift to the next topic, Lisa McCoy shared, “There are so many renovations that can be made in a multi-level home to make it more compatible for the owner. Living or dining rooms can be converted into bedrooms and half baths can be expanded into full baths, so the owner never has to traverse steps. A renovation can sometimes be more cost-efficient than a multi-year lease in a retirement community.” She’s right! Say you don’t have or can’t get a ranch style home, there are definitely things you can do to a multi-level home to set yourself up for success!
I think this is extra important to note because as Lisa shared (and I knew), ranch-style homes are a hot commodity, I tell you! Lisa explained, “Because of the high demand for ranch-style houses, we typically see ranches sell at a premium price. Though, the challenge with a traditional ranch that was built a few decades earlier, is that it was not built with seniors in mind. Typically, the doorways are narrow and the bathrooms cannot accommodate wheelchairs very easily. Even if you can afford a ranch, you may still have to make some renovations to help a loved one age in place.” All valid, valid points. Maybe this is a reason to possibly consider a 55+ community with NEWER ranch-style homes that may combat what Lisa mentions.
Alrighty, on to the next thing to consider …
2. Get Those Lights to Shine Nice and Bright
This sounds, kind of, obvious, but how many times have you walked into an older person’s house and it’s been … dark? For whatever reason, I remember my grandparents’ house often being dark. Maybe it was the type of light fixtures, too, that didn’t blast out really bright light. Well anyway, brighten up those houses, friends, because when it’s dark, you’re more prone to not see something and fall. And you know what happens when you fall? Well, sometimes you break something and the amount of clients I hear they fall, break a hip, and can’t return home … is startling.
Make sure there is plenty of lighting inside and outside – add lamps, check out skylights, or even things like motion sensor lighting for places like closets and hallways. Then, outside, make sure there are well-lit paths … especially ones you routinely use. You could check out solar lights or again, lights that are on a motion sensor.
And now on to the third thing to consider …
3. Prepare to be Different Heights
I’m sure you’re like, “What in the world do you mean by that?” Well, what I mean is quite literally different heights. As we age, sometimes our balance and physical capabilities shift, right? So, it’s possible that we have to start using a wheelchair – or even a walker or cane, which oftentimes means that it’d sure be easier to not have to stretch to get something, stand on our tiptoes to get something, etc. So, experts in this community suggest equipping yourself with adjustable things like sinks (that can raise up and down, which whoooo knew existed?) or desks, if you enjoy reading.
Then, on to your bed, according to this Yahoo Life article, it’s wise to add step stools with handrails near beds (and closets, too). The article mentions that the recommended height for a bed is 21 inches tall as “it is the optimal height for ease of getting in and out.” Things by your bed, too, like a nightstand should be relatively easy to reach from your bed – that way, you don’t feel like you’re having to do some yoga pose to reach your glass of water, reach for your glasses, etc. and jeopardize rolling/falling out!
On to the next thing to discuss…
4. Prepare the Bathroom
The article explains that many accidents happen in the bathroom, so one should ensure their bathroom supports this general idea of aging in place. I mean, how many times have you almost slipped in the shower … tripped getting out of the tub … etc. So, it makes sense. Because of this, there are a few things you can consider revising in your bathroom such as installing a “curbless” shower (aka, nothing to step over) because not only will this prevent or deter tripping, it will also be way easier if you get around in a wheelchair or walker. With a curbless shower, your options merely “open up” – heck, you may be able to get yourself into the shower or you could maybe even bring your wheelchair/walker in the shower!
Though, back to the little things that you may not be thinking of … the shower flooring, make it non-slip or even make the shower appliances, like the knobs, appropriate height if you’re in a wheelchair. So perhaps make them a bit lower than you think … that way, in case you are confined to a wheelchair, you’re not having to get up out of your wheelchair and risking anything bad happening. Also, something else handy to do would be to select a shower head that is a hand wand/sprayer kind, so if you needed to remain sitting for a majority of the shower, you could grab the hand wand and do it yourself without having to stand up.
Lastly, on this “bathroom” topic – put lots of grab bars. By the toilet. In the shower. Just do it. Okay, and on to the last thing to consider on the topic, aging in place…
5. Tech Up Your Home
Okay, okay – I know technology and growing older seems to be at odds with one another. Though, those that embrace technology and utilize it to support aging in place will probably come out ahead. Hear me out… A few things the article mentions are … did you even know (because I didn’t!) that now there is flooring that can alert appropriate individuals if someone falls – or it can even be triggered to turn on the lights when there is feet on the floor. The article name drops Shaw Floor’s who came out with SensFloor technology to make this so. How very cool! The article also mentions investing in things like automatic shut-offs for, say, a stove – that simply prevents accidents to occur while cooking.
All in all, that wraps up what the article shares as possible, recommended changes you can implement in your home to set yourself up to be able to successfully “age in place.” As the costs related to long-term care, like assisted living and nursing homes, continue to rise, this topic will likely become more and more popular. Along these lines, it’d be prudent of me, as an elder law attorney, to mention the ability to access governmental benefits, like Medicaid, to pay for things like home health care. So, what that means is if you begin to age in place at home, something happens and you need an extra set of hands/need some help, home health care assistance could be a thing you look into – and Medicaid could help pay for those services. That way, you’re not paying out of pocket.
One last quick thing that Lisa McCoy mentioned to me was that if you have any concerns about a loved one that is getting older and trying to stay at home, a good place to start here in Indiana is the Central Indiana Council on Aging – they have a ton of resources. (I agree with Lisa!) She said that even outside of Indiana, there is a whole network of building contractors that specialize in building or renovating homes for seniors to age in place … Certified Aging in Place Specialists (commonly called CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders. There’s also a designation a realtor can get called a Senior Real Estate Specialist – another helpful tidbit. Oh, by the way, you can find Lisa’s information in the source links for this episode – she’s a wonderful person, professional, and realtor!
Alrighty, next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about the famous singer, Naomi Judd, and what has happened so far following her passing earlier this year, in 2022. Even though the estate is very newly-opened, there are already several things you can learn estate planning-wise from what’s been going on, so tune in next Tuesday, Legal Tea Listeners, to hear all about it. Talk to you then and stay well!
https://mccoymovesyou.com/ (Lisa McCoy’s Website)