HUD highlights home modification as a path to age in place

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) has released a new bulletin aiming to highlight some of the issues which can be faced by older Americans choosing to age in place in their own homes in an effort to mitigate unnecessary falls and injuries.

“Outreach about senior health needs is part of National Healthy Homes Month, next month” the agency said. “NHHM is organized by OLHCHH, in collaboration with our grantees and many other stakeholders. This year’s theme is ‘A Healthy Home @ Any Age [sic],’ [which] closely aligns with senior falls prevention and improving senior care.”

Spreading awareness of such issues is meant to complement other efforts made by OLHCHH, including its recent facilitation of home modification assistance.

“In August 2021, HUD OLHCHH awarded $30 million to 32 nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and public housing authorities to make safety and functional home modifications for low-income elderly homeowners,” the bulletin reads. “These repairs are designed to allow older adults to remain in their homes, rather than have to move to nursing homes or other assisted care facilities.”

Examples of some of these home modifications highlighted by HUD include lever-handled doorknobs and faucets; non-slip slips or mats for a bathtub, shower or stairs; and grab bars and railings situated anywhere that a senior with impaired mobility could see a stability benefit with increased leverage.

The HUD OLHCHH also recently coordinated a webinar designed to bring attention to these specific issues.

“[The agency] coordinated an informative presentation by Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN, Patricia M. Davidson Health Equity and Social Justice Endowed Professor, and Director, Center on Innovative Care in Aging, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing,” the bulletin reads. “Dr. Szanton examined the challenges and opportunities for aging in community with a specific emphasis on addressing health equity.”

Over the past year, several major reverse mortgage lenders have made their own moves into the home modification space. Finance of America Companies – parent organization to leading reverse mortgage lender Finance of America Reverse (FAR) – announced the acquisition of home improvement financing option “Benji,” an offering it acquired from Renovate America, Inc.

The acquisition of Benji morphed into a new FoA vertical called Finance of America Home Improvement (FOAHI), which company leadership at the time said had major potential to interact with other verticals like Finance of America Mortgage (FAM) and FAR.

Soon afterward, current industry leader American Advisors Group (AAG) announced a partnership with home improvement community VGM Live at Home, a nationwide, collaborative membership community with services for independently owned and certified accessible home modification providers and contractors.

The accord between AAG and VGM saw the reverse mortgage lender become VGM’s official “equity solutions provider,” seemingly streamlining the path between home modification and a reverse mortgage that can be used to help finance such efforts.