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Transcript: Chat With AARP President Rob Romasco on Making Your Home a Great Place to Live

Comment From Kathy B: I don't want to move, but my house is getting really hard to get around after knee surgery. I'm feeling like it's going to only get worse. The main issue is my stairs. How do I address this?
Rob Romasco: Hi, Kathy. If moving is not an option, then you might want to consider whether you have any space on the main living level that could be converted into a bedroom and a bathroom. Another option is to look into adding a motorized stair chair.

If that's not possible, make sure the stairs having railings on both sides, are slip resistant and well lit to ensure as much safety as possible.

I’d also suggest looking for a contractor who is a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) because they are qualified to give you the best advice about what’s possible and advisable. You can find a list of CAPS professionals here.Comment From Guest: What is the best way to finance home repairs as opposed to home improvements. I need to do some basic repairs (including a new roof and a new hot water heater) but I can't afford to pay cash. If I put the work on a credit card the interest will eat me alive. Applying for a "home improvement" loan isn't an option.
Rob Romasco: It can be hard to find reliable, affordable help with home repairs. We’ve collected the names of some organizations that are dedicated to help meet the growing need for home repair services. Here are a few resources to jump-start your research.

  • Rebuilding Together is the nation's largest volunteer housing rehabilitation organization. Go to to see if there are Rebuilding Together affiliates in your state.
  • Centers for Independent Living (CIL). Many CILs may have funds available to assist in home modifications.
  • Your State Housing Finance Agency – every state has one. In North Carolina, for example, NCHFA helps low-income homeowners who need urgent repairs, accessibility modifications, comprehensive rehabilitation or energy-related home improvements by providing funds to local governments and nonprofit organizations that provide these services. NCHFA does not provide funding directly to individuals but could provide a list of the organizations they fund that provide services to individual homeowners.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Check out HUD to see if you can access loans that can help you with home ownership and repairs.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA). There are two loan guarantee programs from the Federal Housing Administration, Title 1 and 203K loans have loan size limits.

Comment From Lynn: Will adding grab bars and things like that now help me prevent my children from selling my house later?
Rob Romasco: When done well, you won't even notice that they are grab bars. If you're concerned about resale, you can also contact the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Their designers can help with product selections that look great and are practical.

Next page: What are the signs your parents need assisted living? »

Comment From Rosemary Delisi: When do you think it's time to talk about moving your parents to a retirement community? What are the signs they need assisted living or they can remain in independent living?
Rob Romasco: It's never too early to have the conversation with your parents about moving to a place to live that will better suit their needs. It is important that you let your parents lead the discussion about what's important for them in their next place to live. In terms of signs, there are a lot, and it varies by person. This Assessment Checklist can help.

There are many options for retirement living. This article about Assessing Housing Options can help you determine if a nursing home is the right option, or if there are others you can consider. You may want to check out our Care Providers Search Tool for finding assisted living facilities in your area. Best of luck to you.
Comment From Katherine: Is home-sharing an option among seniors who may be friends or family so that folks can age in place? Share expenses and company. Are there working models?

Rob Romasco: This idea of 'cohousing' is gaining popularity. There are many things to think about before you move ahead. This article from the AARP Bulletin on Elder Co-housing has some great information. Here is a related blog post on Community Caregiving in Cohousing. Thanks for bringing this up, and best of luck.
Comment From MaryAnne: I feel that I can no longer care for my mother and put her into a nursing home. Will Medicaid still take the house from me because five years have not passed? I have not worked a job since 1997 because I've been giving my life to take care of both parents and now I'm worried that me and my 18-year-old son would be left homeless. I live in the state of Georgia if that is helpful.
Rob Romasco: Wow, that's quite a challenge. If you live in the home and have been your parent's caregiver, you might actually be exempt from estate recovery. Each state has different rules, so you should discuss the details of your situation with a qualified legal professional such as those at Georgia Legal Aid. I hope this information helps. Best of luck to you.

This has been a great session with great questions. You can replay this chat event and watch the questions and answers again and then we'll post the transcript soon. I encourage you to visit us for more information at

As you can see, AARP has great resources to help you and your family live your best lives. We understand the challenges that you face, and we want you to know that you're not alone.

Thanks again for joining us.
AARP: And thank you, Rob, for all the great information today. You're right, there were a lot of fantastic questions. Wish we could have got to them all.

Thank you, everyone, for participating.

Robert Romasco is the president of AARP.

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