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Home Modifications: Use, Cost, and Interactions with Functioning Among Near-elderly and Older Adults

Publication Date
Oct 9, 2008

This report analyzes new data from an experimental module to the 2006 Health and Retirement Study on assistive home features for near-elderly and older adults. In 2006, two-thirds of the population born in 1953 or earlier (ages 52 and older) had one or more assistive home features, about one-third added at least one of these features, and 40% used at least one feature in the last 30 days. The most common assistive home features included railings at the home entrance (36.2%), followed by grab bars in shower/tub (30.3%) and a seat for the shower/tub (27.3%). Among those who added features, roughly 9% reported no out-of-pocket payments, one-third less than $100, another third from $100 up to $500, 10% from $500 up to $1000 and the remaining 10% over $1000. Only 6% of respondents who added features could not reported an amount in broad brackets. A very low percentage — about 6% — reported that insurance or government programs paid some of the cost. In logistic regression models that included demographic, economic, health, and housing-related factors, significant predictors (direction of association by outcome shown parenthetically) included: age (+existence, +addition, +use), having another adult in the household (-use), home ownership (+addition), Medicare DI (+existence, +addition, +use), and long-term care insurance (+existence). Few health-related factors predicted the existence or addition of assistive home features; however, respondents with high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and lower body limitations were more likely to use such features. One in four near-elderly and older adults is at risk for a home modification, that is, has a mobility limitation and an unmodified barrier at the entry to their home, inside their home, or in the bathroom (either shower/bath area or toilet area). Adults receiving Medicare through the Disability Insurance program have elevated chances of being at risk for a home modification. Findings offer policy makers several new insights into the role of assistive home features in the daily lives of near-elderly and older adults. [41 PDF pages]

People with Disabilities | Older Adults