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Aging in Your Own Space

Use these remodeling ideas now to live
independently later

Outside the house

Until her parents moved in, Welliver never thought much of the four steps that led from her driveway to her back door. "It looked like nothing at all, but when you have trouble walking up stairs or are a bit unsteady, four steps becomes huge," she says. So her husband, a contractor, replaced the steps with a ramp.

"My father can drive the car up and then walk up the wood ramp. It's a nice gentle slope," says Welliver. "My dad uses a wheeling cart for the groceries and wheels it right into the house. Everything is very simple, and it's easy for him to be able to do anything that he needs to do."

Paying for it

The cost of aging-in-place remodels varies widely depending on what type of work you need to have done. An elevator is among the most expensive projects, running about $60,000, Bawden says. Chair lifts can run $6,000 and up, Richmond says. Kitchen or bath remodels vary widely depending on scope of the project and features selected.

But while a project like this might seem financially daunting, consider the alternative: A nursing home averages $84,000 a year for a private room, and assisted living will run you about $40,000 a year, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Making changes now can prepare you in case of an emergency. When Welliver's father developed a host of complications after heart valve replacement surgery, the hospital recommended he go into an assisted living facility. Welliver instead suggested her parents move in with her, but it was months before the necessary renovations could be done to create an accessible bathroom and entryway.

And if you're like Anthony's husband, an aging-in-place home can help you make a promise you've made to yourself.

"My husband says they're going to have to carry him out of this house in a box," Anthony says. "So I guess we're going to be here awhile."

Watch how a team of universal design and aging-in-place specialists created a bathroom and kitchen for the two winners of AARP's Room Makeover Contest.

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about families and health. She lives in Rockaway Beach, N.Y.

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