But before you invest in a home-improvement project, consider your potential buyers with this fact in mind: More than 3.5 million baby boomers turn 55 each year, according to the U.S. Census. Since people aged 45 to 64 make up more than a quarter of today's U.S. population, there's a good chance you'll be selling to someone in this age group. Will your home appeal to them?
Your chances will be better if your home has "aging in place" design features that make it easier for older adults to live on their own longer. These modifications are the fastest-growing segment of the home remodeling industry, says the National Association of Home Builders. Because they range from simple fixes to full-scale renovations, making aging-in-place changes can suit any budget.
Best of all, this type of project not only improves a home's resale value for the future, it also increases its safety and comfort for all residents right now.
Add a bath where none exists
Adding a bathroom on the main living level is a smart strategy to appeal to older adults, says national home safety expert Meri-K Appy. "Falls are the leading cause of home injury deaths, and older adults are at greatest risk for them," she says. "Eliminating the need to use stairs and reducing the distance to a bathroom can be a great safety advantage."
A new bath is also a sound investment. This one improvement was shown to return more than 53 percent of its cost at resale in the Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value Report.
A macerating toilet system is a good way to lower the cost of adding a bath, says Otis Dardy, owner of Dardy Construction in Conyers, Ga. Dardy recently used macerating, or up flush, technology to install a full bathroom in a home that lacked below-floor plumbing drainage. With conventional plumbing fixtures, Dardy would have had to dig through the concrete, creating a costly and time-consuming mess. Instead, he used Saniflo up flush technology, which allows you to add plumbing to any room in your home, even the basement, without having to break up the floor.
Macerating plumbing systems pump waste and water from a toilet - as well as a sink, shower, wet bar, even a washing machine - upward through small diameter piping.
Before Dardy knew about macerating plumbing systems, many of his customers who wanted a bathroom couldn't afford the cost of creating new drainage. "I can save them a ton of money now," he says. "It will also work if you want to convert a walk-in closet into a powder room."
Looking for more ways to update a bathroom with aging adults in mind? Put a telephone line in the bathroom. You may also want to install grab bars in and near tubs and showers while adding a hand-held showerhead. It not only makes bathing easier, but it also helps when it's time to wash a pet or clean the tub. Use low, open shelving, and place nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to improve illumination and reduce falls.
If you're doing a kitchen remodel, consider using nonslip flooring. Some designers recommend cork tiles, which have the added advantage of being environmentally friendly.
To make your kitchen workspace more user-friendly, vary the height of your countertop areas to accommodate both standing and seated cooks, and don't forget to install bright task lighting. Always choose appliances with controls that are easy to read and easy to use.
Push/pull levers are a must for kitchen faucets, and installing thermostatic and anti-scald devices can reduce hot-water burn injuries.
If you're replacing windows, make sure the hardware is easy to operate. Installing a new entry door? Choose a low-maintenance alternative to wood. All stairways inside and out should have two handrails and bright overhead lighting.
Less-expensive improvements include replacing doorknobs with handles that are easier to open and putting D-shaped pulls on drawers and cabinets. Replace any dim bulbs with bright overhead lighting.