The Washington Post

Editor’s column: Getting ready to age in place

In these dog days of summer, are you thinking about what you’ll need do to get your home ready for the winter?

If you’re like me, not hardly.

Bill Cousins demostrates the lift he uses to get in and out of his home. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

If many of us aren’t planning a few months ahead for home maintenance issues, chances are we aren’t preparing several years into the future for the time when we will be elderly, less physically able and find that our homes can no longer accommodate us. Our cover story this week focuses on the growing “aging-in-place” movement, which aims to help older people modify their homes — with elevators, shallower stairs, handrails, etc. — allowing them to remain there rather than relocating to assisted-living facilities.

Freelance writer Susan Straight highlights 88-year-old Bill Cousins, who began modifying his Cape Cod in the District’s Chevy Chase neighborhood about seven years ago when he began having trouble walking up his stairs. Cousins, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, decided to plan ahead because he knew his ability to walk would diminish.

Over a period of five years, he installed ramps and an elevator and lowered his oven so he could operate it in a wheelchair.

But aging-in-place advocates want homeowners to begin preparing for their senior years even earlier. “People don’t plan in advance,” Louis Tenenbaum, a consultant and remodeler specializing in aging-in-place design, told Susan.

“When the time comes, it’s hard to get any remodeling done quickly enough and get it done well,” he added. “If you have a shower you can get in without lifting your feet, you can stay in your house longer than if you only have a tub or a shower with a curb.”

Other experts, quoted in previous aging-in-place columns by Katherine Salant, have said that young homeowners could prepare by creating closets  in places that could later be converted into an elevator.

What do you think about the aging-in-place movement? When do you think is a good age to begin thinking about home modifications and what kind of renovations would make your home more user-friendly for you as you age?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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