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By Liza Horvath


Safely Aging In-Place


Years ago, when Sandy and Tom were looking for a new home, it was the architecturally beautiful circular staircase and 20-foot atrium that made them fall in love with the house they eventually purchased. Sandy and Tom, along with 92 percent of other American homeowners age 50 or older, plan to stay in their homes for a lifetime and "age-in-place."

With so many Americans wishing to stay in their homes throughout the golden years, an entire cottage industry has evolved to work with seniors in identifying, adapting and retrofitting existing homes to accommodate the changing needs of aging owners.

Obvious changes that can be made to homes so they are more senior-friendly include making hallways wider to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, placing grab bars near the toilets and bath and redesigning kitchens so a senior can sit while preparing meals. Less obvious but perhaps equally as important are modifications such as levered doorknobs which are easier to open than round knobs, movable showerheads for those who are more comfortable sitting to bathe or walk-in bathtubs, ramps instead of steps and the elimination or leveling of door thresholds.

Physical changes to the space are important but also consider some of the adaptive technology now available to keep seniors safe at home. Door alarms, SOS buttons, medical alert wrist bands, electronic medication dispensers and reminders, and monitors that will alert families if a senior's activities have changed can be brought in over time, as needed. If a senior develops Alzheimer's or dementia and is at risk of wandering off or becoming lost, Project Lifesaver — offered through the Monterey County Sheriffs Office, provides the services of the Search and Rescue Team to locate seniors. More information about Project Lifesaver can be found at www.MontereySAR.org or by calling 647-7702.

The National Association of Home Builders in partnership with the AARP has developed a certification program to train and regulate professionals who are providing home modification services to seniors. The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) learn strategies to help seniors live safely — and stay in their homes longer. The professionals certified through this program working in our area can be found at www.aarp.org.

Our own American Institute of Architects of Monterey Bay is also seeking ways to support seniors in their efforts to stay in their homes. The organization is hosting a Residential Age-in-Place presentation by Jan Garrett, attorney and disability activist, on Aug. 22 — more details including time and place can be obtained by calling 372-6527 or by email at AIAMB@sbcglobal.net. At this lively and entertaining presentation participants will learn practical tips for making private homes accessible and comfortable — without breaking the bank.

Sandy and Tom still have their beautiful atrium but have now engaged the services of a professional to keep the landscape beautiful and the windows clean. Overall they are optimistic that they will be staying in their much-loved home for many years to come.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com










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