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Home Improvements for Your Future

Workshops will promote safer, more accessible homes

More extensive projects can cost more than $10,000. For example, a no-step shower that a wheelchair can roll into can cost $5,000 to $8,000. People should plan ahead before embarking on modifications.

Perry Onstot, 89, learned that lesson. Onstot, who flew as a gunner in a B-24 bomber over Germany during World War II, now lives in a two-story home in Kansas City.

"I am very careful," he said. "I have canes I use to walk around the house. Falling is a big fear."

Several years ago, Onstot fell and lay on his bedroom floor for eight hours until a family member found him. His daughter, Debra Clarke of Overland Park, Kan., said she and her siblings have done what they can to keep their father in his home. This includes moving his washer and dryer from the basement to the first floor and getting a chair lift installed.

Onstot found that some modifications haven't met his needs as he has aged. For example, the walk-in tub he purchased was too small to allow him to easily turn on the shower spray.

Because of her father's situation, Clarke, 60, is already thinking ahead to her older years. She will want a smaller home that is on a single level. "You are continuously trying to think of ways of modifying [older parents'] homes so it is easier for them to live in," Clarke said. "You have to think about how you can work it so that they can stay home."

Also of interest: Making home safer. >>

DeAnn Smith is a freelance writer living in Independence, Mo.

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