Remodeling for accessibility

While remodeling a home to make it more age friendly can seem like an easy option for some, it can be expensive for others.

“The cost is always contingent on what the existing structure looks like and how much work needs to be done,” Joanne Theunissen, chair of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) remodelers, told HHCN.

If you plan to make these modifications, make sure that you find someone that has aging in place building experience, she added.

“A lot of this can be done in stages — sometimes there are just small things you want to do like add a few grab bars and enlarge a few doorways,” Theunissen said. “But, if things [change] for you … it is a good idea to have a plan in place. What happens with a lot of people is they treat aging in place with a sort of Band-Aid mentality. They go in and they add a ramp, but in two years when they need a deeper dive, they rip out what they did to do new stuff. If you stage it right, you shouldn’t have to do that.”

Washington, D.C.-based NAHB is a trade association that was founded in the 1940s.  It has over 700 state and local members, about one-third are home builders and remodelers. Each year, NAHB members construct about 80% of the new homes built in the U.S.

NAHB offers a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) program for builders. It is a three-part designation program.

There have been some federal efforts to aid in this growing problem.

The Senior Accessible Housing Act was introduced to the House in March 2017 by Rep. Charlie Crist, a democrat from Florida, and was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, but the bill has not moved from committee since then. The Senior Accessible Housing Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow a nonrefundable personal tax credit, up to $30,000, for seniors modifying their homes to enhance their ability to remain living safely and independently.

While the local efforts are helpful and positive, state, nonprofit and federal help is necessary, as local programs cannot keep up with the need for affordable housing, Parham noted. For Maine, specifically, it is more than 10,000 units behind what the state needs to house its seniors, she added.

“I am heartened by efforts by municipalities and volunteers [that are] starting to address this issue at a very local level,” Parham said. “However, we are going to need state leadership on this issue.”

Written by Kaitlyn Mattson

As seen in SRES Association Newsletter