Four Award-Winning Ideas for Aging-in-Place

Most people want to continue living independently in their own home as they age into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. However, many homes aren’t designed for health issues that can come with getting older, and aging-in-place alone can be lonely and isolating. The Innovation@Home contest was launched to identify best practices for aging-in-place that take these things into account.

To identify successful age-friendly housing innovations, Grantmakers In Aging (GIA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC) launched Innovation@Home. The competition called for international age-friendly housing practices, and the response was great with entries of many different types from 15 countries.

Susan Mende, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the competition’s judges were looking for approaches and programs that could be adapted and replicated somewhere else.

Here are the winning ideas:

1. Intergenerational housing: Porto, a small city in the north of Portugal, features university and higher education institutions that attract about 70,000 students each year. Many of these students are in need of affordable living accommodations in the city to attend the universities.

Porto also boasts one of the largest aging populations in Portugal. Among these seniors, many who live alone often suffer from loneliness and isolation.

Social isolation and loneliness are big issues for seniors around the world, and they are often tied to poor health. For college students, housing can be hard-to-find and cost prohibitive. The Aconchego Program was designed to match older people (age 60 and older) who have extra room in their homes with students (ages 18 to 35) who need a place to live. The older people get companionship, while the students get free housing. Nearly 400 people have participated in the Aconchego Program, since its inception in 2004.

2. No-cost building permits to make homes safer: In Sausalito, California, 34% of its residents are over 60. However, many Sausalito homes are multi-level and built on a steep hillside, so they can be difficult for older inhabitants and can lead to falls. To help older residents avoid injuries caused by falls, Age Friendly Sausalito worked with the city of Sausalito’s Community Development department to make it easier to make homes safer for seniors who wish to age-in-place.

The Age-Friendly Home Adaptation Grant program lets Sausalito homeowners age 60 and older (or younger ones with a disability) get free or reduced-cost building permits for projects of up to $10,000 to improve the safety and accessibility of their residences. The savings are significant. For instance, for a $2,400 construction job putting in a ramp or a chairlift, you might save $800. The program has been so successful that all California cities and counties can now waive building permit fees for this purpose.

3. Home Refurbishment Program: Throughout the Barcelona region, the Home Refurbishment Program (Programa d’Arranjament d’Habitatges de la demarcació de Barcelona) provides non-structural home repairs (mostly in bathrooms and kitchens) in the homes of the most vulnerable seniors. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a broken step, a cracked tile, or a broken light that a person can’t reach that can make a big difference to being safe at home.

The Home Refurbishment Program also improves home energy efficiency and provides technology, such as assistive devices, to help residents have greater independence and a better quality of life. Nearly 10,500 people have been helped since the program began ten years ago.

An honorable mention was awarded to the CHORE Volunteer Handyman Service in Bergen County, New Jersey. Bergen Volunteers’ CHORE program helps residents age 60 and older, as well as people with disabilities, live safely in their homes by performing minor home repairs for free.

What makes this 42-year-old program remarkable is that most of the crew volunteers are retirees themselves. Some are skilled, but most just enjoy making small repairs. CHORE charges clients for parts, if the residents can afford it, but not for labor.

Since its inception, CHORE has done a couple thousand grab bars to help people maintain balance and grab onto in case of a fall. They can change light bulbs, fix banisters, and perform light electrical work and light plumbing. CHORE estimates clients save an average of $500 by using the service.

Hopefully, some of the winning entries described above will help inspire solutions for new, innovative ways to age-in-place.

Is Aging in Your Home Right for You?

As you may know, when it comes to aging-in place, everyone’s needs, lifestyle, and support systems are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why, it’s not just important to age-in-place, but to age in the right place.

For some, this might mean staying in the home and making adaptations to make the home safer. For a list of aging-in-place (also called universal design) home remodelers, please see our resources page at For others it could mean moving to an independent living community, an over-55 active adult community, or some other type of retirement community. It should mean exploring and obtaining a solid understanding of all the options available and planning ahead because things change quickly.

Planning for What Happens Down the Road

Want to age-in-place? Great. But what happens if your health severely declines in the next five years? Are you and your family prepared to deal with that?

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life. Please contact us whenever you’re ready to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-143
Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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