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The costs of aging in place remodeling

What to expect when you consider aging in place remodels for your home

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by David Chandler, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
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According to an AARP survey, most older adults want to live in their own homes as long as possible, despite the fact that many of these homes and communities aren’t built for an older population. Therefore, more people invest in aging in place features for their homes than those from previous generations.

Depending on the level of care you need, aging in place can be an expensive prospect. If you just want to make a few modifications around the house, there are low-cost upgrades that you can do yourself. High-end aging in place upgrades, however, can be a lot of work and usually require hiring a professional to do the job. This article focuses on three high-impact upgrades: entryways, bathrooms and lift and elevators.

welcome mat at front door

Entryways

To make your home more accommodating for aging in place, one place to start is the entryway. Widening doorways, removing steps and adding ramps are all valuable upgrades, especially if you are going to be using a wheelchair. Here are some of the price points for these remodel projects.

  • Widen doorways: You can widen your doors for easier access if you have a wheelchair or power chair. Even if you don’t have a wheelchair, a wider doorway will decrease your chance of injury by running into a door frame. Materials and labor can cost anywhere from $300–$800 for your front door. However, prices can vary widely if you need to widen entire sections of your house. Make sure you get an accurate quote from your installers before you commit to the project.
  • Step-free entrance: Many houses have a high threshold that require you to step up or over before you enter. Even a few shallow steps can be troublesome, so consider installing a small ramp for $500–$1,000 or lowering the door and resizing the entrance for about $1,000. Of course, like widening doorways, your specific needs may require more extensive remodeling that could cost up to $4,000.
  • Ramps: You can add indoor and outdoor ramps to your home to get rid of your need for steps. Ramps can cost anywhere from $400 for a pre-made short ramp up to your front door to $3,000 for custom large ramps that go from your driveway to your home’s threshold.

You should know...
Widening doorways can be a potential problem if you find out that you need to make larger structural changes to your home. The front door or back door are usually safer and cheaper to widen than hallways or interior doors. Hallways often have support beams that you need to keep your house standing. Remodeling a home down to the foundation can often cost you $20,000–$40,000. If that’s the case, you may be better off considering moving to a home that’s already modified for aging in place.

big white bathtub

Bathroom features

Statistically, most home accidents happen in the bathroom. Slippery floors and a lack of places to steady yourself can lead to a nasty spill.

  • Walk-in tubs: Installing a walk-in bathtub can help minimize risk of falls. You can buy and install a basic soaking walk-in tub for around $1,500. If you’re going to invest in a walk-in tub, you may want to look at more than just the basic models. A feature-rich, deluxe walk-in bathtub with aerotherapy and hydrotherapy jets can massage away aches and pains. These usually retail around $5,000. For a more complete discussion of walk-in tubs, visit our Walk-in Bathtubs buyers guide.
  • Walk-in shower: Walk-in showers remove the step-in or tub wall to let you simply walk right in and have a seat for better accessibility. These showers are especially useful if you have a wheelchair and need to move straight into the shower. Shower remodels can cost $1,500-$2,000, depending on the features you choose.
  • Complete bathroom remodel: Remodeling your entire bathroom for aging in place involves more than just the tub. Lowering the sink and countertops for wheelchair access, installing slip-resistant flooring, adding a walk-in shower and widening the doors can all cost upwards of $8,000–$25,000.

You should know...
A spacious bathroom is a safe bathroom. With more room to move around, you’re less likely to turn and bump into a fixture like a cabinet, wardrobe or large sink. When you’re planning your bathroom remodel, pay close attention to how you’ll use space and try to keep fixtures more than three feet from each other.

man in wheelchair in a kitchen

Lifts and elevators

High-end aging in place upgrades involve extensive changes to your home. These fixtures maximize comfort and accessibility but can be harder to price. The cost of labor and materials for upgrades like ramps, lifts and complete room remodels will vary widely depending on the layout of your home.

  • Stairlift: If you live in a two-story house, you can install a stairlift to help you get up and down the stairs. You can buy and install a basic model stairlift yourself for about $1,800–$2,000. Most stairlifts with professional installation will cost about $5,000. The longer and more complicated your staircase is, the more expensive the lift will be. Check out our buyers guide to learn more about stairlift options.
  • Wheelchair lifts: Wheelchair lifts can make any home wheelchair accessible. Putting a wheelchair lift inside or outside your home will cost around $5,000.
  • Dumbwaiters and valets: Even if you can use the stairs or have a stairlift, you could still have trouble carrying items upstairs. Dumbwaiters or valets are platform and pulley systems that can carry these items for you. Install a dumbwaiter or valet for about $2,000–$4,000.
  • Elevators: If your house has two floors or more, you could install a full-size elevator. These are mostly found in large homes, and they’re some of the most expensive single-item upgrades you can purchase. For deluxe indoor elevators, you could pay up to $15,000.

You should know...
Lifts tend to take up a good bit of real estate. Consult with a professional to get a layout of your house before you commit to adding a lift. If it makes your home too cramped, it may not be worth the upgrade.

older couple sitting and going over financial documents

Financial assistance for home remodels

Most home remodels aren’t cheap. If you need financial aid, there are many sources that can help you modify your home to make it safe for aging in place.

  • Medicare benefits: Unfortunately, medicare and the majority of other private insurance providers don’t cover the cost of home remodels. In very rare cases, Medicare may pay for assistive technology devices if they’re required for medical reasons and prescribed by a doctor. Additionally, Medicare Part B will pay for an occupational therapist to evaluate your home and make suggestions about improvements.
  • Medicaid HCBS waivers: Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers give financial aid to qualified individuals to help them avoid living in a nursing home. In many states, they pay for home remodels because they increase a person’s chance of aging in place. Check out your state's eligibility requirements on Paying for Senior Care’s website.
  • Veteran programs: The VA offers home modification financial assistance in the form of multiple grants. Veterans can also take advantage of the Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services program. This program offers financial aid to keep veterans living in their own homes. Read more about veteran programs and grants on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
  • Non-Medicaid government assistance: Government programs like The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have programs that help seniors with home remodels. HUD offers home improvement loans, and the Department of Agriculture offers grants, all geared towards helping people stay out of nursing homes. Not all states offer these programs. Check to see if your state is on the list of states offering assistance.

Bottom line

There’s no way to get around the expenses of aging in place, but it may still be cheaper than moving into an assisted living facility. You can also ask your health insurance company if it will help pay for your expenses; sometimes Medicare or Medicaid will help pay for your aging in place upgrades. After weighing the costs, talk with your family members or caregiver and decide which option will help you live the life you want.

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Profile picture of David Chandler, Ph.D.
by David Chandler, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

David Chandler, Ph.D., writes for the ConsumerAffairs Research team to help consumers make smart purchasing decisions. David is passionate about creating content that is useful and informative, and he devotes several hours to researching companies, industries and articles for each piece of content he writes to help consumers find what they need.