elderly man sitting at table
Home Accessibility, Home Improvement

Disabled or Elderly? The Best Ways to Start Retrofitting Your Home

Of the 25 million homeowners that are 65 years and older today, the Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that 44% have some need for home accessibility features due to disability or difficulty using components of the home. Here’s how to best go about retrofitting your home.

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Baby Boomers, a generation four times larger than their predecessor that was born before the end of the World War II, are 70 million strong and have made an oversized impact at every phase of their lives. Today, Boomers are making tough decisions about living arrangements for their Golden Years.

Three out of four of Boomers plan to stay in their current homes rather than move to a retirement community or rent a retirement home. Known as “aging in place”, elderly Boomers are creating a huge demand for renovations, ranging from walk-in baths to stair lifts and medical alert security systems. Of the 25 million homeowners that are 65 years and older today, the Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that 44% have some need for home accessibility features due to disability or difficulty using components of the home, such as kitchen or bathroom facilities.

Costs of Making a Home Accessible

Below is a list of remodeling projects to retrofit a home to make doorways, bathrooms, kitchens and second floors accessible. The estimates of prices and costs are rough and vary widely by location.

Cost of retrofitting for accessibility
Project Price Range to
Avg. Cost to
Walk-in Tub or Shower $3,000 to $15,000 $5,000
Ramp Installation at Entrance $874 to $1,751 $1,113
Widen an Entry Door $200 to $7,000 $800
Stair Lift Installation $3,000 to $20,000 $8,000
Install Entry Handrails $700 to $1,200 $8,000
Install an Elevator $33,000 to $100,000 $50,000
Install Lever Taps on Faucets $154 to $332 $220
Widen Hallways w/out Structural Changes $800 to $1,400 $1,100
Widen Hallways with Structural Changes $30,000 to $40,000 $35,000
Replace 10 Windows $5,500 to $10,500 $8,000
Remodel Bathroom $2,500 to $24,800 $14,000
Kitchen Countertop Height Adjustment $15,000 to $20,000 $18,000
*Prices vary by location. Source: retirementliving.com

Not many elderly homeowners and homeowners with disabled members can afford all these improvements.  However, nationwide, homeowners spend an average of $6,292 to make their homes accessible.

Sources of Assistance

Fortunately, homeowners can turn to several sources to get help with the costs of retrofitting.

Financial Help

  1. FHA Section 203(k) loans. The Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) loan is a single, long term, fixed or adjustable rate loan that covers both the acquisition and rehabilitation of a property.  It enables homebuyers and homeowners to finance both the purchase (or refinancing) of a house and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage or to finance the rehabilitation of their existing home. The cost of the rehabilitation must be at least $5,000, but the total value of the property must still fall within the FHA mortgage limit for the area.
  2. Fannie Mae Homestyle and Freddie Mac CHOICERenovation Mortgages.  These loans offer low interest rates and can be used to purchase and renovate.  FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans are available from approved lenders.
  3. VA Home Loan Program. Qualified veterans can purchase or refinance a home that needs alteration and repair with a VA renovation loan. Veterans can take advantage of older homes while using their earned VA loan benefit. Veterans who are disabled as a result of a service-related injury or illness may be eligible for compensation.
  4. VA Home Remote Monitoring, also known as Care Coordination/Home Telehealth, is a service that allows a veteran’s physician or nurse to monitor the veteran’s medical condition remotely using home monitoring equipment.
  5. Medicaid. Medicaid programs are state-specific; they can also be condition-specific and age-specific. Go here to find a list of states that have Medicaid programs that include some level of assistance for home modifications.
  6. USDA’s Single-Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants program provides loans to very-low-income homeowners living in rural areas to repair, improve or modernize their homes or grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards. 


Centers for Independent Living support community living and independence for people with disabilities.  Programs provide tools such as wheelchairs, resources, and support for integrating people with disabilities fully into their communities to promote equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect.  Here is a list of CIL across the nation.

State and Local Resources. To find state Agencies on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, Title VI Native American Aging Programs, Aging and Disability Resources Centers, and aging information and referral programs use the Eldercare Locator. It also includes special purpose information and assistance resources for legal services, elder abuse prevention, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Many non-profits and other organizations offer assistance in the form of financial aid or volunteer labor to help seniors with home modifications. One of the best known is Rebuilding Together (originally called Christmas in April) which offers three programs: Safe at Home, Heroes at Home and National Rebuilding Day.

Comfort Keepers and Visiting Angels are franchises providing in-home care.


AARP’s article on “aging friendly” improvements has 21 easy and inexpensive ideas for making your home safer and accessible.

Home modifications to age in place fact sheet from AARP is a good list of options.

The AARP Archive has a wealth of articles on aging in place from AARP’s magazine.

Better Homes and Gardens and Easter Seals have exhaustive lists of modifications and renovations.


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Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

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