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The vast majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes as they grow older, also known as aging in place. ABA Foundation is offering the following tips for older Americans considering this option:

Take a hard look at your finances

Arrange a meeting with a trusted family member or friend and a banker. It’s critical to understand your financial resources, how long they’ll last and what housing options are the most cost effective for you. Be sure to consider all the costs associated with aging in place, including::

  • Home modifications, home insurance and property taxes
  • Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
  • A potential home health aide to help with personal care needs

Consider a reverse mortgage

Though not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can provide monthly cash payments based on your home’s equity.

  • Shop around. Be sure to check with multiple lenders. You can use sites like www.reversemortage.org, sponsored by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, to find lenders in your area.
  • Make sure to read all loan documents carefully. There are a number of actions that could cause the loan to become due. It is imperative the borrower continues to live in the home, pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, and keep the home in good repair.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires counseling for any borrower taking out a reverse mortgage. Find an approved reserve mortgage counseling agency by visiting www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/hecm.
  • For more information on reverse mortgages, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Assess your home and determine what modifications are necessary.

While staying in your home is preferable for many, there are often design changes that must be made to ensure it’s also safe and comfortable. Adapting universal design principles can help ensure your house is suited for everyone, especially elders.

  • Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home or consider installing an outdoor ramp.
  • Update lighting inside and outside of the house so that all walkways and stairs are well lit. Clear pathways throughout house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping.
  • Utilize lever style handles for doors and faucets to ensure easy movement.
  • Ensure there are accessible switches and outlets for people of any height.
  • If a bedroom and bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing a chairlift. At a minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, or near the toilet.
  • For more information about suggested home modifications as you age, visit www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/.

Make security a priority

Older Americans are often targets for scams and other criminal behavior. Be cautious about who you allow in your home and to whom you disclose sensitive personally identifiable information.

  • Install up-to-date and easy to use locks. Make sure your front door has a peep hole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.
  • Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor, etc. Check out resources available through the Eldercare Locator

Look into community resources

If mobility is limited, look into services offered in your area. Many communities have established non-profit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost. Local area agencies on aging are good places to start.

Be prepared for possible emergencies.

  • Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
  • Consider a Personal Emergency Response System. Transmitters can be worn as a bracelet or around your neck and require the simple push of a button to send a signal to a call center.
  • Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.

Reevaluate every six months to make sure all needs are being met.

As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or more as needed, to sit down with your family or trusted friends and make sure your current living situation is still right for you.

For more information on aging in place, visit the National Institute on Aging.

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