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Home Accessibility Resources

COVID-19's Impact on Accessibility Home Improvements

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, many are struggling with sudden changes in their day-to-day life and future plans. The alarming rise of cases throughout the United States has affected those of all ages, but long term care facilities and senior living facilities have been hit quite hard.

In a recent 2021 Modernize survey, we found 57 percent of homeowners said their timeline for aging in place home improvements was impacted by COVID-19. As the numbers of COVID-19 deaths and illnesses rise at unprecedented rates, many individuals are taking a harder look at their choices concerning long term care, senior living, or aging in place.

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Long Term Care Facilities Suffering in the Pandemic

Long term care facilities have seen a great deal of suffering and loss during this pandemic. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, by November 2020 more than 100,000 long term care residents and staff around the country had died of complications of COVID-19. Some states are suffering more than others: In Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, deaths from COVID-19 in long term care facilities account for 70% of pandemic-related deaths in each state. Nationwide, 40 percent of all deaths related to COVID-19 happened in long term care facilities.

Those numbers are sobering and might push individuals to choose in-home care or modifying their home for aging in place rather than opting for long-term care facilities. The move to aging in place was already becoming a trend as occupancy in senior housing has hit a 15-year low. According to Bloomberg, occupancy dropped by 2.8 percentage points in the second quarter, which is the largest quarterly drop since record-keeping began in 2005.

In addition, the cost of living in a senior care facility has been going up over the years, and now sits at an average of $4,000 per month. Given that most mortgages are much less than that, and home modifications are usually a one-time expense, aging in place seems the less expensive option for most families.

Aging in place is defined as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The baby boomers are reaching their golden years, and currently, about 13 percent of Americans are over the age of 65. By 2030, the Pew Research Center predicts about 18 percent of the population will be 65 or older.

With such a large chunk of the population needing more healthcare as they age, the demand for assisted living and long term care will go up, but so will the demand for the products, services, and modifications that allow for aging in place. The National Council on Aging found that nine out of 10 older adults plan to continue living in their home for the next five to 10 years. According to an AARP study, 36 percent of older adults plan to modify their home to accommodate their needs as they age.

The market is poised to meet the demand this will generate. Architects, designers, contractors, and vendors are all ready to jump on the modification requests; according to Business Insider, the home care market in the United States is expected to reach $225 billion by 2024.

The Benefits of Aging in Place

The benefits of aging in one’s own home were clear well before the emergence of COVID-19. Aging in place is not only more comfortable, but it gives family and friends more access to the elderly loved one, especially during times like the current pandemic. A person might be safer from viruses and other harmful pathogens when at home rather than in a communal setting.

Staying in your own community helps maintain a strong social network that was likely already solid, as well as provides health benefits, such as a lower rate of cognitive decline. It helps keep someone independent for longer, which can lead to improved mental health.

It’s obviously much more affordable than the $4,000 per month for the average long term care facility, even with paying for in-home care on a regular basis. Aging in place can help reduce medical spending as well. According to The Urban Institute, for every dollar invested in home modification, the result is $1.50 in reduced medical costs for those aged 75 or older.

Are You Ready to Make Your Home More Accessible?

Aging in place is only possible with the right modifications to make the home safe and accessible. We have created a free checklist to help homeowners review home improvement options. You can also find a graphic version here.

These modifications might be as simple as adding grab bars in the bathroom, non-slip flooring throughout the house, and better lighting. Or it might be more complex, such as installing a stairlift, widening the doorways to accommodate a wheelchair, and adding a walk-in tub. No matter the modification, Modernize can help you find the local contractor who can work with you to create a home that is safe, secure, and ready to accommodate you or an aging loved one for years to come.

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