Many homes just aren't made for older people with mobility problems. A bad hip or other issue that restricts movement can make even the most comfortable home seem inhospitable.
For example, houses often have 32-inch interior doorways that are not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Those are referred to as knuckle-scrapers by accessibility advocates.
If you or your older loved ones are determined not move into assisted living or other type of senior facility but would rather stay at home, will it need to be equipped for aging in place? And how do you do that in a way that's attractive and will maintain the home's value?
Some modifications can hurt value
Many modifications for those who are aging or living with a disability would likely have to be undone before the home could ever be sold.
That's no trouble with temporary features, such as grab bars in bathrooms and showers. They could be removed easily when preparing to put an accessible home on the market.
More of a challenge would be having to dismantle a massive wooden entry ramp on the front of a home. A ramp that's invaluable for a resident who's unable to walk upstairs could be a huge turnoff for young buyers later on.
A modification is most likely to hurt resale value if the house doesn't function or flow as well because of the alteration, says Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate's HomeCity.com.
The home's location also plays a role. A wheelchair ramp would be a plus in Florida, Arizona and other states that draw a lot of retirees.
Universal design elements can help
A way to be certain of maintaining the home's value is by altering it with "universal design" features. In other words, changes that make the place more accessible and safe for everyone.
High kitchen islands and counters are difficult to sit at not only for people in wheelchairs but also for pregnant women and kids. A redesign that lowers the counters eliminates these problems and can make the kitchen seem sleeker and more modern.
And, any owner might appreciate having a ground-floor bedroom, a wide front door, pull handles instead of doorknobs, or light switches that have been lowered from the standard height.
Other popular universal design elements include: rubber, nonslip strips on the floor of the bathroom or shower; hand-held shower heads; night lights throughout the home; and hardwood floors instead of carpeting.
When done well and part of an overall vision for the home, universal design can attract buyers — not drive them away.
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