LOS ANGELES – As families gather for the holidays, it may be an ideal time to talk about how to best care for your loved ones and how to make their home comfortable and safe.
According to research by AARP, about 75% of those 50 and older want to stay in their current home or community.
Home renovation expert and celebrity Ty Pennington says simple home improvements may be needed to make the home ready to age gracefully with its older residents.
“Most houses that we buy are not designed to age into, so we have to modify them,” Pennington, known for shows including “Rock the Beach” and “Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition,” tells FOX Television stations. “I want to see any kind of project finish the best way it possibly can.”
Pennington first garnered national attention as the carpenter on the home improvement series “Trading Spaces.” Later as host of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Pennington helped transform hundreds of homes.
Talk it through and be open
With more than 35 years of professional experience serving and advocating for older adults, AARP caregiving expert Amy Goyer says it’s first important to start talking with your older family members sooner than later.
“Have the conversation early,” Goyer says. “Don’t try to talk in the middle of a crisis or wait until mom fell and broke her hip. Try to talk about it beforehand, because you can make gradual changes and have multiple conversations.”
Fixing plasterboard on a ceiling. (Photo by DIY Photolibrary/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)
Pennington and Goyer note it’s important to make sure the right person are part of the conversation and to help loved ones find experts that they feel comfortable with. Plan to do a walk-through and look around now to anticipate future needs.
“Come to the conversation with a few different options of how you want to adjust things,” Goyer adds.
In addition, Pennington and Goyer advise making small changes that can still be impactful at a low cost.
This could include updating lighting in the house, adding grab bars to different areas, installing smart technology and securing rugs.
Be aware that over time, the family member’s needs and wishes may change.
Prioritize projects that help them maintain independence
Pennington says homes need to be updated in a way that gives loved ones their independence back.
“I think all of us want our loved ones to feel like their life isn’t completely over so that they still have a life,” Pennington continued. “Time is not always on our side, but I think it’s just about a better quality of life.”
It’s important for adults to start asking themself, ‘how hard is it to get into my house?’
Installing ramps and stairlifts, widening the bathroom door, or adding kitchen drawers, handrails, lower shelves, higher toilets and walk-in showers may be the accessibility features required to help them retire at home safely.
Speak honestly and prioritize the budget
The experts say it’s important to have an honest conversation, so they’re comfortable with the project and the money needed.
Amid record-high inflation, Goyer says if money is tight, reach out to local organizations for help or grants.
Goyer concluded, “Our homes can age gracefully along with us.”
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. You can learn more on updating your home at aarp.com/caregiving.