Personalized advice: If you want more personalized help, consider getting a professional in-home assessment with an occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist, or OT, can evaluate the challenges and shortcomings of your home, make modification recommendations and refer you to products and services to help you make improvements. Ask your doctor for a referral to an OT in your area. Your local Area Agency on Aging (call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for contact information) also can help you find nearby therapists.
Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by your doctor. However, they will not cover the physical upgrades to the home.
Another good option is to contact a builder who’s a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. He or she can suggest ways to modify your home that will fit your needs and budget. To find one, go to the National Association of Home Builders website at nahb.org/hireacaps, where you can search by state and zip code.
Home modifications ideas: There are dozens of small, simple things you can do to make your home more user-friendly as you age, such as securing throw rugs with double-sided tape to avoid tripping, installing brighter full-spectrum bulbs in existing light fixtures to improve visibility and adding grab bars to the bathroom for support. There are also a number of bigger, more extensive projects like installing a stair-lift or elevator for multi-floor access and replacing the tub with a walk-in shower for easier entry and exit.
To get a list of more senior-friendly home improvement ideas and illustrations, see the National Aging in Place Council website at ageinplace.org — click on “Practical Advice,” then on “Making Your Home Senior Friendly.”
Another good resource that’s loaded with tips and universal design ideas is the “AARP Guide to Revitalizing Your Home.” It’s available in bookstores nationwide as well as online at sites like amazon.com for around $16.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.