Who Is Aging in Place & What Are the Most Popular Remodeling Projects?

As seniors get older, they aren’t able to do the things they used to do with ease. Climbing stairs becomes more difficult. Some seniors may be confined to a wheelchair after surgery or as the result of chronic illness. Overall mobility declines, making the physical layout of many standard homes hard to navigate.

In terms of remodeling, aging in place is the trend of modifying the family home to meet these mobility challenges so that seniors don’t have to sell the home they love and move away from a community they’ve known for decades. It is a cost-effective solution that provides assurances and stability, both of which can greatly improve quality of life.

 

Who Is Aging in Place?

The number of Americans considered “senior” — i.e., those 65 and older — is expected to almost double in the years between 2018 and 2060, rising from 52 to 95 million.

Due to the shifting demographics nationwide, some entire communities are “aging in place,” particularly in the North and Midwest, regions younger folk are abandoning for better job prospects in the South and Southwest.

The exact number of Americans who intend to make modifications to their homes in order to age in place, however, is hard to quantify. That is partly because the term aging itself can be elusive. There is no specific age at which a given person can consider themselves “old”; exercise, dietary habits, occupation, and genetics all play a role in keeping seniors active.

Thus, many seniors don’t think of themselves as needing aging in place remodeling — even as they intuitively focus their remodeling projects on accommodating age-related changes. For instance, they may turn a downstairs powder room into a full bath, saying that they want to add resale value to their home. It’s an aging in place remodel that hasn’t been characterized as such.

According to data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), however, aging in place is a steadily growing trend, with the share of NAHB remodelers involved in such projects climbing from roughly 60 percent in 2004 to 77 percent in 2019. Moreover, a small but growing number of contractors say that most of their customers understand what aging in place modifications entail.

AARP conducted a survey in 2018, revealing that, of the 63 percent of seniors who own their home, about a third anticipate the need for aging in place modifications. Although another 24 percent say they plan to relocate instead, the potential market size for aging in place remodeling is in the tens of millions.

 

What Are the Main Features of Aging in Place Remodeling?

The most sought-after remodels tend to be isolated upgrades to the entire home. Modifications have also simplified, as explained by our own President Dan Bawden when commenting on a NAHB survey as Chair of the NAHB in 2017:

“Low-cost, simple modifications to help people be safer and more comfortable in their homes, such as installing grab bars and higher toilets, continue to be the most popular aging-in-place remodeling projects.”

2017 NAHB Remodelers Chair Dan Bawden, CAPS, CGP, CGR, GMB & President of Legal Eagle Contractors

 

The most popular requests were not modifications that rely heavily on technology. According to NAHB, the remodels that are on the rise since 2013 are as follows:

  • Adding task lighting.
  • Installing curbless showers.
  • Installing grab bars.
  • Putting in slip-free flooring.
  • Widening doorways to accommodate wheelchair access.

The NAHB has a broader view of what constitutes aging in place remodeling. That vision begins with outdoor landscaping and a home exterior that is easy to maintain — vinyl or brick, as opposed to wood — and considers factors like the width of hallways, the amount of bevel on thresholds, and the door height in garages.

Some of the features the NAHB considers part of a comprehensive aging in place remodel include:

  • Easy to operate hardware on doors and windows.
  • Installing doors that have at least 32 inches of clearance.
  • Having an entry door sidelight or lower peep hole and placing the doorbell in an accessible location.
  • Installing a sensor light positioned to illuminate the front door keyhole.
  • Making sure there is adequate turn space (five foot by five foot) in bathrooms.
  • Eliminating any step downs on the main floor of the house, including a step down on to the exterior deck.
  • Installing cabinetry that is several inches lower than standard.
  • Considering open shelving for often used items.
  • Making sure an electric cooktop has sensor lights indicating when the surface is still hot.

HomeAdvisor recommends that aging in place remodeling be addressed early on as a holistic approach that homeowners can approach one step at a time, making the process seem less overwhelming. This approach also has the advantage of staggering the associated costs.

 

Some Conclusions

Contractors throughout the United States, but particularly in regions where there are large populations of seniors, should redouble their efforts to discuss aging in place as a cost effective alternative to downsizing or moving into assisted living. The market size for this type of remodeling project is in the millions, and efforts to frame aging in place remodeling in a comprehensive way are bound to be rewarding to contractor and homeowner alike.

For the 55+ year old homeowner considering aging in place remodeling, a holistic approach, where one anticipates the changes that are essential in order to continue living independently from the onset, is preferable. This approach lets the homeowner gradually make modifications in the order that they need them most, while keeping the big picture in mind.

Because a holistic approach takes into consideration the original design of the home, it is also the most cost-effective aging in place remodeling approach, one that cuts down on the possibility of duplicate projects — for instance, installing and reinstalling lighting or cabinetry as the dimensions of a room or hallway change.

 

About Legal Eagle Contractors

An award-winning remodeling company, Legal Eagle Contractors has proudly served the Houston metropolitan area for over 40 years. We’ve received the Better Business Bureau award for Excellence nine years in a row, and the Greater Houston Builders Association twice distinguished us with the title, Houston Remodeler of the Year. These commendations reflect our dedication to all aspects of the home remodeling process.

We are a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and a member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which ensures that experienced contractors will oversee your project and that the materials we use will be of the highest quality.

Please contact us to see how we can help you age in place gracefully. Our phone number is 713-723-8850.

 

Article reviewed by Dan Bawden, CAPS, GMB, CGR, CGP, and President of Legal Eagle Contractors.

 


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