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Seniors Can Remodel for Safety

If your home is older, and you are too, your home needs a few updates to improve its safety and livability.

Elderly citizens face unique challenges in making the home a convenient and safe place to do everyday things such as bathing, cooking, and climbing stairs. The hazards of falls, scalding, and other injuries that we all face are higher for seniors, and sometimes require alterations to the physical structure of the home to improve its overall safety and condition. So what modifications should be made and how? Where do you find financing for home renovations and repairs?

Looking at possible improvements is well worth your time and trouble. Perhaps the greatest advantage to making your home a comfortable, safe haven is being able to remain in your home longer. If your home is older, and 60 percent of seniors live in homes that are 20 years older or older, chances are your home needs a few updates anyway. And research suggests that one-third to one-half of home accidents can be prevented by modifications and repairs.

Some of the typical problems that seniors encounter are:

    * Difficulty getting in and out of the shower * Slipping in the tub or shower * Difficulty turning faucet handles/doorknobs * Access to home * Inadequate heating or ventilation * Problems climbing staffs

Some possible solutions are:

    * Install grab bars, shower seals or transfer benches * Place non-skid strips or decals in the tub or shower * Replace with lever handles * Install ramps * Install insulation, storm windows and air conditioning * Install handrails for support

So how do you find financing for remodeling a bath or porch or installing safety equipment? First of all, check out grants and loan programs available at reduced rates for eligible older people from your local government or Federal sources. For example, the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) makes various grants and loans for rural, low-income elders. In addition, many cities and towns use Community Development Block Grants to help citizens maintain and upgrade their homes. And the local social services agency or energy department can tell you about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the U.S. Department of Energy, provide funds to weatherize the homes of lower income persons. Funds from the Older Americans Act Title III often can be used to modify and repair homes.

You can also shop around with local lenders and banks for Reverse Mortgages or Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM's) that allow homeowners to turn the value of their home into cash, without having to make regular loan payments. A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that lets a homeowner convert the equity into a lump sum, a stream of payments, or as a supplement to Social Security or other retirement funds. But unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, no repayment is required until the borrowers no longer use the home as their principal residence. Be extremely cautious, however, before signing up for a loan with just any lender. Look out for your own interests and don't let friends, relatives or business solicitors pressure you into taking out a loan. Here is a reliable source of information on reverse mortgages: Housing Counseling Clearinghouse: (888)466-3487

Sources used to create this article include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).