Spring Cleaning the Reverse Mortgage Way / Part 2:
Helping Seniors Acknowledge The Aging Process
There may be more elders on the planet than ever before in history, but that doesn’t mean they feel their years — or that they want to acknowledge the aging process.
One of the greatest challenges today’s Boomers face is persuading Mom and Dad that their beloved house could benefit from some simple modifications which will make their home safe as well as comfortable as their needs change. And this is where a reverse mortgage advisor can help.
Age Proofing The Home For Seniors
From the perspective of reverse mortgage professionals, a HECM — especially a HECM for purchase (see Spring Cleaning the Reverse Mortgage Way/Part 1 ) — is only viable if the house ages well with its inhabitants. While many seniors may chafe at the thought that their independence is being compromised, in truth, life is full of “safety features”; we simply take them for granted.
Consider driving. Imagine how difficult it would be to drive with no traffic lights at busy intersections. Think about a pedestrian trying to cross a thoroughfare without a “Walk” sign. There are a huge number of traffic laws we obey because they help keep us safe.
Also, most new parents take every measure to “baby-proof” their home in order to avert a potentially life-threatening tragedy, such as an infant swallowing a button or a curious toddler sticking a finger in an electrical socket.
So now the kids want to return the favor, helping their parents to “age-proof” their house so their loved ones can age in place with ease and grace.
Home Modification Tips For Seniors
As their reverse mortgage advisor, you might suggest some simple modifications that can make a big difference. These features, part of what’s known as the barrier-free concept of “universal design,” can affordably retrofit a senior’s home for greater safety and peace of mind:
- Grab bars, especially in the shower/bathtub
- Hand rails. People can slip at any age and take a bad tumble; in the elderly, this can result in a broken hip or worse.
- Ramps can be installed temporarily if someone needs to use a wheelchair for a short time.
- Door widening to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, four-pronged canes
- Low thresholds to avoid tripping, and to make it easier to navigate with assistive devices (walkers, canes, etc.)
- Kitchen and bathroom modifications to make cabinets easier to reach, floors less slippery.
The National Association of Home Builders can help you locate a Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) for your client. The best bet: if possible, appeal to your client’s children, who will want to help their parents maintain their lifestyle without changing their address. One simple yet provocative question that makes safety more appealing: “Isn’t it worth making a few simple adaptations now, to prevent a possible fractured hip someday?”
Age-proofing a senior’s house is one of the easiest, most affordable steps they can take to ensure that their reverse mortgage will be a worthwhile investment for a long time to come.