How to make your home more accessible

Holly Thomas / 31 March 2015

Holly Thomas looks at the things you can do to make your home more accessible and considers the various ways to fund them.

As we all grow older it might be necessary to make some changes at home to make it easier to get around.

You may need to make a few adaptations to your home to simplify your life or to assist an elderly relative that is coming to live with you.

It could be simple changes to start with, such as fitting lever taps in the kitchen, or hand rails around the place, or more major adaptations that could include installing a downstairs shower room, widening doorways, or even lowering the work tops in your kitchen.

Here are a few things you can do to modify your home to meet changing needs…

1. Install ramps, rails and stairlifts to help you move around your house.

2. Widen doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and walking frames.

3. Add lever taps to wash basins as they are easier to operate.

4. Change door knobs to lever handles as these are easier to use.

5. Resit sockets and switches at a convenient height.

6. Change the layout of your house. If you are unable to manage the stairs, do you have room to move your bed downstairs? Is a toilet easily accessible from where you sleep?

7. Declutter so it is easier to move around. Pay particular attention to the areas you use most, removing rugs and things you could trip on.

8. Don’t neglect the outside of your home. Ensure you have bright lighting, widen pathways and clear shrubs and clutter to ensure you have a nice clear route in and out of your home.

9. For peace of mind, you could install a personal alarm so you can summon help if you need it.

How to pay

Government funding and grants

There is financial assistance available from local authorities depending on where you live, that can help with the cost. Your local authority in England will normally provide you with disability equipment and small adaptations costing less than £1,000 free of charge, as long as you’ve been assessed as needing it and you are eligible.

You may have to pay towards disability equipment and minor adaptations if you live in Wales, but the amount you’re asked to pay must be reasonable and based on your financial circumstances.

If you live in Scotland, your local council will usually provide you with essential equipment or adaptations costing less than £1,500, free of charge.

For major adaptations to make your home accessible, you will normally have to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant, paid by your local authority up to a maximum of £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales.

Equity release

Older people who are cash poor often use the value of their homes to help pay for home improvements.

Equity release is a popular way to fund spending in retirement when income and savings are limited. Rising house prices also mean that homeowners have a growing pool of equity at their disposal and can still keep a large proportion of the value of their house intact.

More people are turning to equity release as a way to raise cash in retirement, according to recent figures from the Equity Release Council. The total value of equity release lending reached almost £1.4 billion in 2014 - the largest annual figure since records began in 1992, exceeding the previous high of £1.21 billion in 2007, by 14%.

Of course, equity release is not right for everyone. There are charges to consider, that eat into your equity, and other options to explore. Don’t forget to consider what your local authority might offer for essential home adaptations as outlined above.

Read our guide to equity release

Is Equity Release right for you? Find out more here

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.