Making your home safer as you age

Courtesy of CBS Newspath

NEW YORK — At age 77, Beverly Bennett says she’s starting to struggle on the stairs at her New Jersey home.

“I want to grow older here, but I want to keep my independence.”

She recently hired contractor Ernie Macneill to help her make her house safer. That’s something he told CBS News that adults of all ages need to consider.

“We all put things off. Important things like this need to be addressed immediately.”

Older Americans have the highest rate of home-ownership in the country, but many homes are not equipped for disabilities later in life, said Chris Herbert with the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

“They need three things: no steps to get into the house, no steps to go up and down in the house, and hallways that are wide enough to navigate a wheel chair or walker. Right now, only four percent of homes have those features.”

Those modifications can be costly. Widening a doorway comes in around $2,000 while installing a chair-lift could easily cost you $15,000.

But Macneill said the smaller changes like adding an extra rail along a stairwell are more affordable.

“This would be about $400.”

A bar in the shower — $250.

He also suggested removing throw rugs, which can be a tripping hazard.

There are more than 3,000 contractors in the U.S. that are trained to modify homes to help people live there safely as they age. You can find one through the National Association of Home Builders.