How to Simplify and Customize Your Aging Options

Life is full of options. Every day we make choices, large and small. Some choices are trivial and minor, while other choices will have a huge impact on the rest of our lives. Decisions regarding our care as we get older fall into the latter category. Decisions like, “Where will we live?”, “Who will take care of us?”, and “How will we pay for it?” are questions we all should be asking and answering long before the need arises so that we will have a plan in place when the time comes.

To help you put this plan in place, the Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council is proud to present the 4th Annual Aging in Place Symposium, “How to Simplify and Customize your Aging Options”. The symposium will be held on October 17th from 5-7:30 pm in Fitzpatrick Hall at the Jefferson Center located at 541 Luck Ave in Roanoke. Admission is free and refreshments will be provided. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from gifted speakers on healthcare, housing, legal considerations, and regional and state planning for the coming age wave. Bring your questions and concerns for the panel discussion. Experts in various fields relating to aging in place will be on hand to answer your questions and help allay your fears. You will leave with new tools in your toolbox and resources in hand to plan a better later life for you or a loved one.
The Symposium is being hosted as part of National Aging in Place Week. Events will be held all over the country during the week of October 15-21 to help raise awareness of and find resources to successfully age in place. Our symposium will help seniors and their caregivers make and implement a plan to successfully stay in the home of their choice throughout the course of their lives. A panel discussion will bring experts from the fields of housing, health and wellness, personal finance, transportation, and community and social interaction together in one place. Bring your questions with you to ask our panel of experts. Where else can you get free answers to all your legal, medical, and other aging in place questions all in one place?

In the past, many people have chosen to ignore their changing needs as they grew older. Oftentimes, decisions about housing and healthcare options in later life were made in crisis mode after a traumatic life event such as a fall. This in turn has led to less than optimal outcomes. The Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council intends to change all of that. Our goal is to give people the resources to make plans early and encourage people to do so. Attending this Symposium is a great place to start. We will have planning guides available for attendees to begin the process of planning for a better later life.
If you would like to register for the event, please call 800-422-8482 or visit www.carilionclinic.org/calendar. Don’t let this opportunity to plan for a better future pass you by and please patronize our sponsors who have made this event possible. Here’s to your future and a better later life.

Age out Loud!

May is Older Americans Month. Since 1963, Older Americans Month has been a time to celebrate and focus on the accomplishments, the contributions, and the inspiring stories of those of us who have lived a long life. It is a time to give extra attention to the fact that growing older is something to be embraced and enjoyed, not looked at with dread and trepidation. This year’s theme, “Age Out Loud”, emphasizes the ways older adults are living their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages.
To age out loud means to shed the stereotypes of what getting older means. Your age is just a number. Don’t let it dictate what you can do. Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Older Americans have the benefit of a lifetime of wisdom, and often have more time and financial resources at their disposal to take part in activities that were difficult or impossible to undertake earlier in their lives. Is there something you have always wanted to do, but never had the time, or the money, or the nerve? Maybe everyone told you it was a crazy idea. Maybe it is time to go out on a limb and do the thing you have always wanted to do but never thought you could. Is there somewhere you have always wanted to go, but never have been able to? My grandmother made three trips to Australia alone after she retired, including flights over the outback in a tiny single engine plane, and visiting the aborigines. It was something she had always wanted to do, so she did it. What have you always wanted to do?
People are living longer than ever before and many people are healthy and fit into their eighties, nineties, and beyond. With so much emphasis put on trying to preserve youth, I think it is important to highlight the advantages of having lived a long life. With long life comes experience, knowledge, and wisdom. Think of all the things you have learned in the course of your life. Continuing to learn new things throughout your life keeps your brain healthy and remaining active keeps your body healthy. If there is something you are passionate about, look for ways to get involved with and organization or group that advocates for the area you care about. Lots of church and civic groups would love to have your help. Young people need the influence of older people in their lives to be able to reap the benefit of their years of wisdom. I believe that one of the greatest advantages of aging in place or aging in community is keeping the wisdom and perspective of older people available to our young people. I think all of us loose a great deal when our seniors are isolated in age restricted communities.
I recommend that all of you take the occasion of Older Americans Month to “Age Out Loud” and encourage others to do the same. Share this article with someone who needs a new perspective on aging. Step outside your comfort zone and undertake something you have always wanted to do but didn’t think you could. Let’s change the way we think about aging. Embrace life and look at each day as a new opportunity to experience life. Each day of our life is a gift from God and how we live it is our gift to him. Thank you for reading Housing Matters and live each day to the fullest!

The Importance of Planning

There is an old adage that says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This adage holds true in the area of planning for later life, whether it be for ourselves or our loved ones. Many people engage in retirement planning in the sense that they endeavor to set aside money to live on after their working lives come to an end. Relatively few people, however, carry this planning to the next logical step and plan for the other aspects of living a better later life. In addition to having the funds to pay for our needs and our wants after we retire, I believe that it is important to plan for our housing needs, our healthcare needs, our transportation needs, and our community and social interaction needs. As the new chairman of the Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council, my goal is to provide tools and resources to help people in this planning process.
Granted, if your plan is to move into a Continuing Care Retirement Community or other senior housing community, many of these needs will be provided for you by the community. However, my research shows that upwards of 90% of people would prefer to remain in their own homes as they age. Aging in place gives you the right to make your own decisions about most of the topics regarding your care, but you will also carry the responsibility for the outcomes of these decisions. You won’t be alone however. By 2030 the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to be over 70 million, nearly twice the number that there were just a few years ago. The fastest growing segment of the population, those over the age of 85, is increasing at the rate of 3,000 per day. I would strongly encourage each and every one of you who is even considering aging in place to begin to put together a plan for a better later life.
Your plan should include housing, healthcare, personal finance, transportation, and community and social interaction. Your plan should answer the following questions about your later life. Where will I live? Who will take care of me? How will I pay for it? If all of this seems a little overwhelming and you would like some help, the aging in place council has a 20 page planning guide that will help you walk through a questionnaire to help you assess your needs, then prioritize and summarize these needs to help you get them met. Members of the council can help you with a wide variety of goods and services to help you successfully age in place. Just give us a call at 540-339-7891 or send us an email at westernandcentralvirginia@ageinplace.org. We would be more than happy to help you plan for a better later life.
In addition, as always, if you need help building a new home that will meet your changing needs as you age, remodeling to adapt your current home, or consulting to help decide which option is a better choice for you, please get in touch with me. You can reach me at 540-384-2064 or cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com. Whether you are in the market for a new home, a major addition, a bathroom remodel, or a few grab bars to help prevent falls, Senior Remodeling Experts is your trusted source for a lifespan design home for a lifetime of living. Please let me know if I can help. And thank you for reading Housing Matters.

Planning for a Better Later Life

January marks the beginning of a new year. It is a time when people often resolve to make changes in their lives. Traditionally these resolutions are not very long lived, falling by the wayside weeks, days, or even hours after they are embarked upon. I think that this is because they are most often things that we would like to do, not things that we have actually resolved to do. I suggest that rather than making New Years resolutions to do certain things in our lives, we make plans to do them instead. Planning is a powerful tool to accomplish great things in our lives. It has been said that if we fail to plan, we are actually planning to fail.
I am going to talk in particular about planning a better later life. Many people are hesitant to think about getting older and the challenges it brings, preferring instead to stick their heads in the sand. When the first attempt to make adaptations for later life occurs after a fall or other crisis, there is no time for planning, only reaction. The vast majority of Americans, when questioned, state that they would prefer to live out their days in their own homes. This idea, also known as Aging in Place, is an idea whose time has come. A number of us here in the Roanoke Valley and beyond belong to the Western and Central Virginia Chapter of the National Aging in Place Council. As part of its ongoing effort to help people successfully age in place, the council has developed a planning guide to help people work through the steps to planning a better later life. The guide covers the five core areas that are essential to successful aging in place which are:

• Housing
• Health and Wellness
• Personal Finance
• Transportation
• Community and Social Interaction

The planning guide contains a questionnaire in each of these categories to guide you in objectively determining what your needs, resources, and challenges are in each of these areas. I encourage you to take the time to go through these sections thoroughly, do it early, and have a family member or trusted advisor who knows you well go through it with you to get a more objective result. At the end of each section, there is room to write down your needs in that core area. At the end of the guide, there is a page to summarize your needs and make a list of your priorities in creating a living environment that will help make your later years safe, comfortable and enjoyable. Finally, there is a place to list the things you can do yourself and the things you need help with. At the Aging in Place Council we have professionals who can help you get the help you need in each of these core areas, whether you need home modifications, home care, legal advice, financial assistance, medical help, transportation, or a myriad of other services. The planning guide is available for download at my website which can be found at www.seniorremodelingexperts.com or if you would like a copy mailed to you, call me at 540-384-2064.
If I have impressed upon you the value of planning for a better later life, and you have questions, please give me a call. I will be speaking at various events throughout the coming year. Two that are coming up this month are The Greater Roanoke Home and Garden Show at the Berglund Center on January 13-15 and the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce Networking Breakfast on January 27 (contact the Chamber at 540-387-0267 for more information).

Be Thankful

Do you ever get discouraged? Of course, we all do. Things don’t go our way, we suffer aches and pains or serious health problems or people let us down. There are certainly lots of things going on the country to get discouraged about. With Thanksgiving coming up this month, how do we get ourselves in a thankful mood? I am reminded of the old hymn “Count your Blessings” written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. in 1897. Part of the song goes like this:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

If we take the time to look we will soon find that we have more to be thankful for than to be discouraged about. One thing I am thankful for is our nation’s veterans. At Solid Rock Enterprises, Inc. we have the privilege of performing home modifications for veterans to make their homes safer and more comfortable for them. Veterans Day is November 11, commemorating the armistice signed to cease hostilities in World War I. Signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it was first celebrated as Armistice Day, and later as Veterans Day to honor all American veterans. Let’s all take some time this month to thank a veteran for their service to our country. Without their sacrifice we would be living in a much different world. We are losing our World War II veterans, referred to as the greatest generation, on a daily basis. They stood up for freedom and many paid the ultimate price. A little more of that spirit would go a long way today.
I am also thankful for my family and my health. Thanksgiving is a time when families gather, sometimes for the only time all year. Slow down and take time to appreciate one another and let your family members know how much you love and appreciate them. Be thankful for health. Take time to look around your home and take care of any hazards that could lead to an accident. Falls are a serious hazard for older adults and can lead to serious injury or even death. Look around your home for loose rugs, trailing extension, cords, and clutter. Make sure you have bright, glare free lighting throughout your home. Make sure you have sturdy railings or grab bars throughout your home to hold on to. Consider adding a fall protection package particularly in the bathroom. The fall protection package consists of a tub to shower conversion, fall protection flooring and shower and bath mats, and grab bars. An investment in your safety today will pay you back in a sense of security tomorrow.
I today’s world there are many things to be upset and discouraged about. It takes effort to look for and focus on positive things. But the effort is well worth the trouble. An attitude of gratitude is often one of the biggest factors in longevity and overall health. People who acknowledge all that God has done for them live longer, happier lives. Take time to think about all you have to be thankful for and share it with others this month as we celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. Look for ways to brighten someone’s day. You’ll be glad you did. Thank you for reading “Housing Matters” and please let me know if there are topics you would like me to discuss. You can reach me by phone at (540) 384-2064 or by email at cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com

Back to School

Although more and more schools are now starting in August, I still think of September as the time when children go back to school. After a summer of relaxation and sleeping in, it’s time to hit the books again. And while for many of us our days of formal schooling are a distant memory, I think we all should have an attitude of lifetime learning. Learning new things keeps our minds sharp and helps maintain our youthful vigor. What new things will you endeavor to learn this back to school season? In writing Housing Matters for the last seven years, I have been constantly looking for new ideas and information to include in this column. It has helped me to keep up with new product developments and new ideas in aging in place. In many ways aging in place is a new idea and in other ways it has been around since the beginning of time. Here are a few questions to ask as you plan to learn more this fall:
· Do you plan to live in your present home for the rest of your life?
· If not, what type of home would you consider moving into?
· Are changes needed to your home to make it safe and accessible?
· If you needed someone to care for you in your home, would you know where to find them?
· If you were no longer able to drive how would you get around?
· Do you have the financial resources to pay for the care you may need?
· Are your legal documents in order?
If these questions seem overwhelming, they don’t have to be. There are resources available to help you find the answers to them. A good place to start is the Planning Guide published by the National Aging in Place Council. The guide walks you through the various categories of services you may need to successfully age in place such as housing, healthcare, transportation, financial planning, and community and social interaction. By working through the guide, you are able to put together a plan for successfully staying in your own home for as long as you choose to. As the old maxim goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The planning guide is available for download on my website at www.sre.expert or you can write to me at the address below and I will be happy to mail you a copy.
Senior Remodeling Experts
1371 Southside Dr Suite D
Salem, VA 24153

If you want to learn more, please visit me in booth #304 at the Fall Home Show at the Salem Civic Center on September 24 and 25 at the Salem Civic Center. I look forward to seeing many of my readers at the show. Let me know that you read Housing Matters and tell me what subjects you would like to see covered in the future.
Finally, as part of National Aging in Place week, the Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council will be hosting the Third Annual Aging in Place Symposium at Fitzpatrick Hall in the Jefferson Center on October 11 from 4-7. The Symposium will feature speakers, exhibits, and panel discussions about aging in place strategies. Past attendees have come away from the symposiums with a wealth of knowledge and a host of resources to help in their planning process. Refreshments will be provided. For more information look for the ad in this edition of Senior News or call me at 540-384-2064. As always, thank you for reading Housing Matters.

Are you a Planner or a procrastinator?

Are you a planner or a procrastinator? Do you view making plans to live independently in your home for years to come as smart planning or as surrender to the ravages of aging? How you answer these questions will help determine whether your actions will lead to a greater possibility of living independently throughout the course of your life or finding yourself forced into a living arrangement you have not chosen due to accident or illness. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people I talk to are resistant to the idea of having home modifications done to make their homes safer and more accessible. Many people are more open to the idea of pre paying their funeral expenses than they are to making their home safer and more accessible. Some people justify this by stating that they know that they are going to die, but they don’t know whether they will need home modifications. However, with falls being the cause of over half of all accidental deaths of adults over the age of 65 NOT modifying your home could lead to your premature death. Besides, you have automobile insurance and homeowners insurance and you don’t know whether you will need these either. (Hopefully you won’t) We plan for so many other aspects of retirement and I say that making sure our homes are ready for our retirement years is just as important as making sure that we have our financial house in order.
For most of us, our homes represent the biggest single investment we will ever make. By making sure that it doesn’t kick us out when we need it most, we should take a look at our home to determine whether it meets basic accessibility guidelines. If we find ourselves with a temporary or permanent mobility impairment would we be able to get in and out of our home and access the various areas of our home? The old adage that if you fail to plan you plan to fail certainly holds true in this case. When buying, building, or remodeling a home that will be functional throughout the course of your life, look for these features as the bare minimum requirements:
• At least one zero step entry with a 36″ wide door. This door should have a flat threshold and would ideally be protected from the weather, have lighting triggered by a motion sensor and have a package shelf and a levered handle.
• A bedroom on the main level with a 36″ wide door and room to maneuver. ( 5′ diameter open area in the floor for turning a wheelchair if necessary)
• At least one accessible bathroom on the main floor. The bathroom should have a 36″ wide door, a chair height commode, accessible or adaptable sink, a curbless shower, grab bars at all of these fixtures, and room to maneuver.
• A common area such as a living room that is accessible to all three areas already listed.
This basic level of accessibility is a little more than visitability which would allow someone who uses a wheelchair (and anyone with most other mobility impairments) to come to your house for a visit. Visitability consists of the first two items on the list and doors with at least 32″ of net clear opening. For more information on planning to stay in your home, visit my website at www.solidrockenterprises.com and download the planning guide or give us a call at 540-384-2064. We would be glad to help.

The time has come

My name is Chris Moore. I am the Director of Education for the Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council. I have been involved in construction in one form or another for thirty years and have owned my contracting business for fifteen. I have been actively involved in promoting Aging in Place issues for about eight years. I am passionate about people having the right, the availability, and the resources to remain in the home of their choice throughout the course of their lives. I don’t think that it is too strong of an opinion to state that the idea of the ability to stay in our own homes is as foundational to our way of life as these words from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” If any of you have spent much time listening to someone who feels that circumstances are forcing them out of the home that they love into some sort of living arrangement that they detest, then you have seen someone struggling with the core issues of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Studies show that more seniors fear being admitted to a nursing home than fear death. The ability to live independently on one’s own terms is really at the very heart of who we are as people. What these people desire is what we call Aging in Place. Aging in place is commonly defined as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level. Aging in Place is simply the idea that we can continue living in the home we are comfortable in throughout the course of our lives rather than be forced to move somewhere else because of the consequences of aging or disability. I don’t particularly like the term Aging in Place because it seems to suggest that there is a certain point in our lives when we start aging and at that point, when most people move, we decide to stay put instead. However, we will continue to use it until someone comes up with a better term. There are some who advocate using the term living in place to indicate the idea that it is a lifelong process. Whatever we call it, our challenge as advocates is to make the “place” as conducive as possible to the process of continuing to live there throughout the course of our lives.

My interest in Aging in Place began in earnest when my mother’s health began to decline. My parents had been living in Arizona for quite a few years. When she began to have health issues, they moved back to the area to be closer to family. Like most family caregivers, we found ourselves in a caregiving role quite suddenly. Being a contractor, I knew how to build a ramp for getting in and out of the house and to install some grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent falls, but I really didn’t know what other kinds of modifications to make, nor did I have any idea what other products and services my mother might need or where to find them.

Since that time I have become a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, a Certified Environmental Access Consultant, earned an Executive Certificate in Home Modification, and performed dozens of home modifications and consulted with hundreds of family members and caregivers who had grave concerns about their loved one’s safety. Throughout these experiences I have found that my experience of suddenly finding myself in a caregiving role is typical. Most people simply do not anticipate that they may become the primary caregiver for a parent, a spouse, or other loved one, who to some degree, is now unable to care for themselves. Whether the need is sudden such as from a fall or accident or the knowledge of the need is sudden because it has been kept hidden due to embarrassment or not wanting to bother anyone, the result is the same. Suddenly you are a caregiver. Now what?

When you suddenly find yourself in a caregiving role there are really two issues at play and it is at the point that the two issues intersect that the adjustment must be made. One issue is the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual ability of the individual with regard to mobility, sight, hearing, balance, range of motion, cognition, memory, well being, overall health, etc. This issue generally falls into the jurisdiction of a health care practitioner, such as a doctor, nurse, or occupational, physical, or speech therapist, counselor, pastor, or minister among others. The other issue is the built environment with regard to obstacles to activities of daily living. These obstacles can include stairs, raised thresholds, narrow doorways and hallways, slippery floors, poor lighting, inaccessible bathrooms, doorknobs that are difficult to turn, and a host of other fixtures found in a typical home. These items generally fall into the realm of architects, interior designers, contractors, builders, and remodelers. However it is at the point that these two issues meet that is critically important to the individual struggling to live in their home. That is why it is so important to have professionals from different disciplines at the table in order for us to offer real world solutions to people trying to age in place in our community. A home that is perfectly suited to someone with one type of disability would be totally inappropriate for someone with a different type of disability. The solution must meet the need. As an example as long as I am wearing these glasses, I can read my notes. The minute I take them off, I have become visually handicapped. The long term approach is to build homes that we can all live in comfortably for our entire lifespan. I have read studies that show that only 15% of us go through our entire lives without facing a temporary or permanent mobility impairment at some point during our lives. So why are we building homes that at best inconvenience 85% of the population and at worst or uninhabitable for many. We should be building homes that contain features that are usable by people of all ages to the greatest degree possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design. This is known as Universal Design. I also like to call it Lifespan Design, a term coined by Wally Dutcher, the world’s longest living quadriplegic, and in my opinion, the foremost authority on the subject. Until Universal Design becomes the rule rather than the exception, we are faced with a choice when an individual’s abilities and their home are no longer a match.

The traditional approach at this point is to place your loved one in a facility of some kind such as an assisted living or nursing home. While this approach may work for some, many people are embracing a different approach, remaining in their homes by making modifications to the home and bringing services into the home as needed. In other words, Aging in Place. Aging in Place means receiving the care you need in the familiar surroundings of your own home. Studies show that up to 90% of those surveyed prefer to remain in their own homes when given a choice. The challenge of the Aging in Place model is that all of the services required to successfully age in place must be coordinated and brought into the home environment. These services include such areas as health care, legal services, financial planning, medication management, help with activities of daily living, meal preparation, home maintenance, shopping, errands, and a host of other activities. In order for the benefits of aging in place such as lower costs, happier residents, and better healthcare outcomes to be available to our senior population, someone has to step up to the plate and screen and coordinate these services in a way that makes it easier for those needing these services to readily access them instead of those who suddenly find themselves as caregivers feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn.

That’s where the Aging in Place Council comes in. We are a group of service providers and concerned citizens who have a heart to see that members of our community have the opportunity and the resources to live gracefully in the home of their choice as long as they choose to. We don’t like the idea of people being forced out of their homes because they cannot access the resources they need in order to stay there. In addition, we are willing to do something about it. If you can recognize this need, and would like to be part of the solution, we would like to have you join us. You see, the broader our coalition and the stronger our voice, the more we can get done.

And trust me, there is a lot to do. We are only just seeing the tip of the iceberg. With 10,000 people turning 65 each and every day and 3,000 people a day turning 85, our society is aging rapidly. By the year 2050, the number of Americans over 65 is projected to be nearly 90 million, twice the number as there were in 2010, and over 20% of the population. We clearly need a new paradigm to care for this rapidly growing segment of our population. Yet in some ways, it is not new at all. Until about seventy five years ago, everyone took care of their extended family as a matter of course and no one really even considered doing anything else. It was just what you did. As our society became more mobile, and families were often spread all over the country, retirement communities increasingly became the norm. However as the baby boomers age, the sheer number of seniors, the rising cost of health care, and the more independent streak of the baby boomers make that model increasingly obsolete. I read somewhere that even if the number of facilities doubled in the next twenty years there wouldn’t be enough room. So seniors are going to be staying home because they choose to, for cost saving reasons, or because there is nowhere else to go, but they WILL be staying home. So what now?

I, along with the other members of this chapter, and members of other chapters of the National Aging in Place Council all over this country believe that it is up to us to step up and form the coalition that will create the infrastructure that will help care for our seniors in their homes. We are rapidly losing members of what has been called the greatest generation. Those hearty souls who endured the great depression, fought, and bled, and died during World War Two to protect the world from tyranny and sacrificed to build the freedom and prosperity that we have a tendency to take for granted today. It is time for us to give back. We are here today because we want to make a difference in our community. We have a passion to help seniors stay in the homes they love. We want to help the family caregivers who care for them access the resources to make their jobs just a little bit easier. Won’t you join us to help those who have gone before us to successfully age in place?

How can we accomplish this goal? First and foremost we must educate the public. Over the last eight years, as I have spoken to people about Aging in Place, some of the common reactions I have gotten from people have been, “I have never heard of such a thing!”, or “I wish I knew about that a year or two ago when my grandmother (or father or mother) was living.” As more people become aware of the idea of Aging in Place the more the demand will grow. When demand grows, the supply will grow to fill it. Secondly, we need to recruit service providers who have a heart to help seniors stay in their homes and who will treat them with dignity and respect. We need to help train and educate people to provide care for our seniors in their homes. Third, we need to organize our services and present them to the public in a way that makes it easy for people who suddenly find themselves in the role of caregivers to find reputable and reliable service providers.

The need is great, the challenge is large, but the reward is even larger. Both personally and professionally, the opportunity to be part of the solution to the needs of our aging population is a tremendous opportunity. Please consider joining our chapter and become part of the solution that will honor the lives and contributions of those who have gone before us by helping them live their golden years with dignity, safety, and comfort.

There is a tipping point coming. One morning in the not too distant future, we as a society will wake up and realize that we have a senior housing crisis in this country. I am planning on being prepared to be part of the solution on that day. Won’t you join me?

(This is the transcript of a talk given by Chris Moore on March 24, 2016 to the Western and Central Virginia Aging in Place Council)

 

The Peter Pan Dilemma

All of us are getting older. It is a fact many want to ignore, but it is true. As we get older, various things don’t work as well as they once did. Things like eyesight, hearing, balance, and mobility all tend to decline as we age. I don’t say this to bring up a sore subject or ruin anyone’s day, but simply because as a home modification contractor and aging in place specialist, my job is to help as many people as possible remain independently in their own homes as long as they choose to. This goal is made more difficult because the homes most of us live in were not designed for people with any declines in their abilities. In short, they were designed and built for people who never grow old. That is why they are often referred to as “Peter Pan Housing”. The doorways and hallways are too narrow, there are too many stairs, the bathrooms are too small, etc. The list goes on and on. The Peter Pan Dilemma is what to do about the ever increasing number of seniors who are trying to live safely and comfortably in these homes. There are 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each and every day in this country and 3,000 a day turning 85. With upwards of 90% of people stating that they prefer to remain in their homes as they age and the vast majority of them living in Peter Pan Housing, how will we possibly manage?

The long term solution is to build more Universal Design (also called Lifespan Design) housing. These are homes that are designed and built to accommodate people of all ages and abilities without the need for modification. Homes built with zero step entries, wider hallways and doorways, curbless showers and grab bars in bathrooms, lower light switches and higher outlets, bright glare free lighting, and more open space will serve the needs not only of seniors but of people at all stages of life. As more and more people understand the benefits of this approach, the marketplace will respond by meeting this need. Here in Virginia, there is a Livable Homes Tax Credit that gives you a $5,000 credit against your State Income Taxes if you build or buy a new home that has certain accessibility features such as zero step entries, accessible bathrooms, and wider doorways included. (The credit is also available for remodeling an existing home to include these features). There is also a voluntary certification for builders who build accessible homes. This program is called Easy Living Homes and you can find a list of Certified Builders on their website. Any home certified as an Easy living Home will automatically qualify for the tax credit.

That covers the long term solution, but what about the short term solutions?  Home Modifications to make homes safer and more accessible is a big part of our work at Senior Remodeling Experts. We get calls all the time from family members of seniors who are experiencing mobility issues and fear losing their independence. Many have fallen and been hospitalized and are trying to figure out how they can safely return to the homes they love and feel comfortable in. We perform home assessments which measure the homes features and compare them with the present and future needs of the resident. Depending on the needs of the client, we can assess for Safety, Balance, Fall Prevention, and Wheelchair Accessibility. Taking into account budgetary as well as aesthetic considerations, we are able to provide a list of recommended home modifications to adapt the home to make it more accessible, safer, and more comfortable. Common home modifications include grab bars, wider doorways, ramps, non-slip and fall protection flooring, curbless showers, tub cuts, roll under sinks, accessible appliances, and accessible storage. We also offer Remote Activity Monitoring that will alert a family member or caregiver if a pre programmed event suggests that there might be a concern. If you live outside of Southwest Virginia and need a contractor to perform home modifications at your home or the home of a loved one, you can search for contractors who hold the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation in the CAPS Directory. The CAPS training teaches contractors, therapists, real estate agents, and anyone who is interested how to understand the housing needs of those who wish to remain permanently in their homes as well as the technical and business management skills to make it a reality. For anyone interested in receiving this valuable training, I will be teaching the require classes at the Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association on May 11, 12, and 13.

Home modification is not the only piece in the puzzle. In order for someone to successfully age in place, it is important that they have other supports besides an accessible home. Help with transportation, activities of daily living (ADLs), healthcare, finances, and social interaction are all important aspects of an aging in place plan. The key is to start early. People often tell me, “I’m not ready for that yet!” when I have this conversation with them. I make it a point to explain to them how important it is to have these safeguards in place BEFORE you are ready for them. Otherwise you won’t have them in place when you DO need them. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For help in formulating your plan for aging in place I recommend that you download our Planning Guide which was developed by the National Aging in Place Council.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate the value of planning ahead to create a home that is safe, beautiful, and accessible for all ages and abilities. One day all homes will be built with Lifespan Design in mind. Until that day comes, make changes now to make your home or the home of a loved a lifetime. Please feel free to call us at 540-384-2064 or email me at cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com.

Deadline for Tax Credit Looming

The deadline to apply for the Livable Homes Tax Credit is February 28. If you purchased a new home or remodeled an existing home in 2015 and the new home or the remodeling involved accessibility features you could be eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 on your Virginia income taxes. If you qualify for the credit, don’t miss the deadline of February 28.

If you purchased a new home in 2015 (either newly built or converted from a non residential use) and it meets the three features of Universal Visitability or incorporates three accessibility features and meets the requirements of an existing standard, you are eligible to take the $5,000 credit. The three features of Universal Visitability are 1) at least one zero step entry into the house, 2) an accessible bathroom on the same level as the zero step entry, and 3) doorways with at least 32″ clear width and hallways and passageways with at least 36″ clear width leading from the zero step entry to the bathroom and an eating area. If all of these three features are present, there are no further requirements. If you do not have all three of these, the home must incorporate three accessibility features and meet the requirements of an existing standard. Some examples of accessibility features are:

Accessible route such as a ramp

Zero step entry

Lifts

Elevators

Zero step entrance

32″ clear width doorways

36″ clear width hallways

Accessible switches, outlets, and controls

Accessible bathrooms

Accessible and usable kitchen facilities

Grab bars

Lever handles on doors and fixtures

Sensory modifications

The requirement that you meet an existing standard is a little murkier because there are several different standards that exist that could be referenced. I have found that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), while not technically applicable to single family homes, will cover you if you are in compliance. If you have specific questions, get in touch with me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

If you retrofitted or remodeled an existing home, the project must include at least one accessibility feature and meet the requirements of an existing standard. If sensory modifications have been provided, they must be structurally integrated into the home. Sensory modifications are anything that would assist sensory disabled people such as a doorbell that activated a strobe light for a person with hearing loss. Any device must be permanently attached to the home to qualify. The credit for retrofitting an existing home is also $5,000 but is limited to 50% of the cost of the project actually incurred by the taxpayer. Please note that any costs paid through Granting Freedom, the VA, VHDA, Department of Rehabilitative Services, or any other organization would not be eligible for the credit.

For either new or existing homes, if the credit exceeds your tax liability, you may carry the credit forward for up to seven years, and if the amount of eligible credits exceeds one million dollars, each approved taxpayer will receive a pro rated amount of credit. Once you have submitted your application you will receive a tax credit certificate from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development by April 1.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have questions please call me at (540) 384-2064 or email me at cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com. You can download a copy of the guidelines and application at www.dhcd.virginia.gov/LHTC.