Making it easier to age in place through home modifications
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I often hear from concerned members of my community who worry about the options and resources available to them and their loved ones as they grow older. As baby boomers approach retirement, we face a growing number of aging Americans who require care.

The vast majority of these seniors want to age in place—to continue to live in the community they love, in the home they’ve always known, surrounded by family and neighbors they care about.

Aging in place not only offers seniors an improved quality of life, it is fiscally sound as well, saving Americans billions in avoided costs. Empowering individuals to live at home rather than in institutional settings will yield a significant cost savings to Medicaid—and to taxpayers.

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It is not just our fiscal responsibility, but our moral responsibility to ensure every American, no matter their age or ability, has the opportunity to live out their later years however they wish—and with the support and dignity they deserve.

Simple home modifications can provide the stability needed to age confidently at home, but for too many Americans, lack of affordable and accessible alterations keep those updates out of reach. The National Association of Homebuilders reports that 80 percent of home modifications are paid for out of pocket—and the average cost of a wheelchair ramp alone can be thousands of dollars. Even the cost of small fixes can add up quickly, which strains the budgets of seniors and people with disabilities already relying on limited incomes.

The significant financial burden of modernizing homes to add ramps, railings or benches should not prevent those on limited incomes from living safely in their own homes.

While there are many existing programs to help offset these costs, the complex web of services and requirements can be difficult to understand, meaning that many programs are often not fully utilized.

That’s why I was so proud to sponsor the Senior and Disability Home Modification Assistance Initiative ActThis bipartisan legislation—which was included in the Dignity in Aging Act, passed by the House of Representatives last year to reauthorize the Older Americans Act—would work in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services to help coordinate existing programs and make information on modifications and repairs more readily available.

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What may seem like simple home modifications can be life-changing for seniors who long for the stability, comfort, and peace of mind of aging confidently in their own homes. Furthermore, investing in these modifications now helps to offset more significant costs in the future. For example, adding safety measures like handrails can help prevent a serious fall—the leading cause of injury for older adults—and avert a costly hospital visit.

This legislation, along with the reauthorization of the Older Americans Actis critical to supporting seniors in my community and across the country. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to demonstrate our unwavering support for families of all ages by taking action to pass this bill into law.

Morelle represents New York’s 25th District.