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


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]

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