40 ;e Costco Connection MARCH 2016
A REAL ESTATE WRINKLE
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 39
These days, many grab bars look like
pretty towel racks or elegant toilet tissue holders. A ramp into the house can be disguised
with landscaping on both sides as a gently
Tweaks such as a curbless shower with a
bench or drop-down seat, wide doorways,
levers instead of doorknobs, and nonskid
flooring are just good universal design, better
for not only walkers and wheelchairs, but baby
strollers and bikes, too. Controlling heating,
lights and doors remotely from a smartphone
or keypad works for all generations.
More availability and support
The aging of the baby boomers has
spawned Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists
(CAPS), who receive special training
through the National Association of Home
Builders. People who have earned the CAPS
designation are typically contractors, architects and interior designers who use their
training to make homes safer and more
accessible for older adults.
The fixes range in price. Grab bars cost
$50 to $250; adding handrails on a staircase
and lever handles on faucets and doors can be
less than $1,000; adding a handheld shower
can cost $300; removing a tub and replacing it
with a curved shower is $8,000 to $10,000,
while adding a walk-in shower with glass is
$12,000 to $15,000.
Also, widening a doorway is $800 to
$1,200; putting in a wheelchair ramp runs
$1,600 to $3,200; installing a stair lift is
$3,000 to $12,000. An elevator can be
Expensive, yes, but Houston CAPS contractor and Costco member Dan Bawden
urges homeowners to compare a $75,000
aging-in-place project, let’s say, with the
price of long-term care. (According to a
2015 study by Genworth, a long-term care
and insurance company, the mean cost for
one year of assisted living is $43,000, while
a year in a nursing home runs $80,300 to
Kathy and Rick Hoffman of Houston
considered moving from their ranch-style
home of 39 years because it needed changes.
After house hunting, though, they realized
many homes had two stories (steps!) and were
pricier than remodeling.
Today, after working with Bawden, “it’s
like a whole new house,” says Kathy, a retired
The work included gutting both bathrooms, getting rid of bathtubs and installing
walk-in, curbless showers with a seat and a
handheld nozzle, and adding non-institu-tional-looking grab bars, better lighting and a
higher toilet seat. They also took out the
upper cabinets (less chance of falling when
reaching) in the kitchen.
The downsizing approach
Jeannette Watling-Mills went a different
route. The 66-year-old Sarasota, Florida,
widow decided to sell her 3,000-square-foot
home and move to a place half the size. While
the new house was on one level and there
were no steps, parts of it, especially the master
bathroom, were designed so that “no way
could I age in place,” she says. After gutting
and reconfiguring that bathroom, “it’s spectacular!” she says.
She also changed her front door so it now
has a keyless entry, opening with a keypad or
remote control. When she needs to replace
kitchen appliances, Watling-Mills plans to get
a stove with front controls and create a lower
countertop “should I ever need to be on
wheels,” she says.
Even so, that perfect home for growing
older may not be so perfect. “Your place could
be age-friendly and wonderful until you can’t
drive anymore and can’t get home-care ser-
vices,” says Denver geriatrician and Costco
member Mary Tuuk. “Planning ahead for
how [and where] you’re going to age in place
is critically important.”
So, what am I going to do about my
house? I have a lot to think about. C
Sally Abrahms is an expert on baby boomers
and seniors, focusing on age 50-plus care-giving, housing and aging-in-place technology.
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