Ask Ray: Not selling your home? Use these tips to age in place

About 10,000 baby boomers retire each day. Some are downsizing and moving to sunnier places.  But a significant number of baby boomers are shunning the traditional patterns of retirement.  There’s an emerging trend for boomers over the age of 55 who are opting not to retire, but instead embark on a new career.

Perhaps the most-reported new trend among boomers is they aren’t selling and downsizing into condos, as experts had predicted.  A key reason for homeowners staying put for a longer period, according to the National Association of Realtors, is because of inadequate levels of new home construction over the past decade.

For many boomers, staying put has to do with the high cost of housing.

“The seniors aren’t turning over homes as fast as they used to,” says Dowell Myers, a professor of Urban Planning and Demography at the University of Southern California.  “To turn it over, they’ll have to have a landing place.”

Instead, many boomers are deciding to stay put, and making renovations so they can age-in-place.

According to a recent survey from,  72 percent of homeowners 55 and older said their home fits their current needs. If you’re among those staying-put, you may want to consider some simple improvements to make your home more functional and livable.

Here are six tips that will help you age-in-place.

1. Stairs?  Add a stair lift chair.  Less expensive than an elevator, a stair lift allows you to go up and down stairs easily.  The cost runs $4,000 to $6,000.

2. Install a curbless shower.  A curbless shower allows you to walk into your shower without stepping over a big threshold.  It’s also an advantage in the future, when you might need help with bathing. The cost can run from $8,000 to $12,000, depending on the type and quality of shower.

3. Add grab bars to your bathroom.  Your bathroom needs to be safe. Grab bars give you extra support and will hold your weight.  Your bathroom doesn’t need to look like a hospital room. New decorative bars may double as towel racks.  Cost runs $1,000 or less.

4. Update your kitchen drawer pulls.  It seems like a small thing, but aging and arthritic hands find grasping small handles painful.  Installing larger pulls with an open loop will make your kitchen more accessible and convenient.  Cost is minimal, $200 to $500.

5. Add brighter lighting.  Your vision declines as you age, so installing brighter lights should be on the top of your list. Consider installing recessed can lights in the kitchen, bath,  over tables and where you read.  Moderate cost of $100 to $200 per fixture.

6. Eliminate door thresholds.  As you get older, a threshold can often be an impediment, especially if you are using a wheelchair. Remove the raised threshold and eliminate a big tripping hazard.  Modest cost, $500.

When the majority of home owners feel their needs are being met by their current home, there is nothing compelling them to put their home on the market. In a recent survey by AARP, 73-percent of people over 45 plan to stay in their homes until age 81 or older. If you’re planning to age-in-place, making a few simple modifications will improve the comfort and livability of your home.

For help, contact a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) — who has completed a program developed by the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP.  They can help you create a prioritized to-do list suited to your needs and budget (to search by zip code, visit the NAHB website at

RAY AKERS is a licensed Realtor for Akers & Cargill Properties in Seattle. Send your questions to or call 206-722-4444