Should Home Modifications Be Part of Our Retirement Plan? Back »

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As adults look toward the future to envision how they will spend their golden years, they think about spending time with family or enjoying well-earned leisure. They often envision spending those years in the home where they raised their children and spent their working years.

One in five houses in South Dakota was built prior to 1940. Rural areas have higher rates of these homes (26% compared to 14.1% in more urban areas). This is important to consider as we plan for our retirement because older homes were not often constructed with accessibility in mind. Accessibility refers to the ability to enter and use a building and its features by people with disabilities.

Features of homes that pose challenges for people with disabilities:

  • Multilevel
  • Steps to enter building
  • Narrow doors and halls
  • Electrical outlets placed near the floor
  • Small bathrooms
  • Poor lighting
  • Laundry room in the basement
  • Lack of bedroom on main floor
  • Split level
  • Round door knobs

Age and disease are two different processes, however, older age does increase the chance of developing chronic disease or disability. Adults who experience these challenges may find it difficult to remain in their home with modifying it.

Home modifications are an essential component of any retirement plan. We are often concerned that home modifications will make our homes look like a nursing home. Nothing could be further from the truth. Modern contractors are very skilled at making home modifications for accessibility while maintaining visual appeal. In fact, grab bars can be disguised as towel rods or toilet paper dispensers. The key is to evaluate our homes prior to the need for modification and include the cost of modifications in our retirement plans.

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