Home Adaptations for Independent Living


Important Considerations When Purchasing a Home

Posted on August 23, 2021 at 2:20 PM

Knowing that the air in your home is safe and conducive to aging in place can give you peace of mind. Because seniors often have compromised lungs and immune systems, indoor air quality should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing a home. Elderly people are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollutants because they spend more time indoors and may already have compromised respiratory systems or underlying health conditions. Further, you want a home where you could reside long-term with minimal repairs or maintenance to maintain that great air quality.

So what are some of the things you should be mindful of when buying a home to age in?


Checking for asbestos in the home is crucial if you’re buying a home built before the 1980’s and planning on any renovations or additions to make the space more livable. The material is likely to be in homes from this time and is easily disturbed during any demolitions or renovations. Asbestos can cause lung and respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma and should be removed from the home by professionals.


Whether you’re considering buying a newly built or vintage home, prioritize radon testing. This should be done by a professional on every floor you plan to live on, especially the basement, since radon gas comes up through the ground. Radon is a carcinogenic radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. However, if the home has elevated levels of radon, don’t panic. Instead work with a radon contractor to seal the foundation and mitigate levels.


If the home you’re looking at was built before 1978, there’s a good chance it has lead paint or lead plumbing. Exposure to this material can cause lead poisoning and is especially dangerous to elderly folks because of the symptoms. Before purchasing your home, it’s important to test for any remaining lead products . If any lead is found, it should be removed prior to moving in.


Some pressed wood products such as particle board and hardwood or permanent press fabrics such as curtains or sofas may contain formaldehyde, which can cause lung, throat, and nose irritation or cancer. The best way to prevent high levels of formaldehyde is to simply air out or wash any new products that have a high VOC (volatile organic compound) level. If the home has newly installed cabinets or paneling, air out the house before moving in.


Oil and gas furnaces, wood and coal stoves, and anything else gas or oil powered produces carbon monoxide, which causes low oxygen in blood and is extremely dangerous. While homes must have a monitoring system, it’s advisable to have the heating system inspected before purchasing a home. During the inspection, ask them to ensure the heating system is properly vented to the outdoors and have them point out the alarm to you.


While mold isn’t as dangerous as some of the toxins mentioned above, it still poses a threat. Mold tends to grow in dark, damp places, but could be anywhere in a home. Because mold causes irritation of the lungs, throat, nose, skin, and eyes, it’s crucial to check for and clean out any mold before moving into a new home. This is especially important for seniors who have compromised lungs, asthma, or other breathing problems.


Choose a home that doesn’t use a wood burning stove, instead opt for a traditional furnace, pellet stove, or any other alternative. Smoke from wood burning stoves emits particle pollution, carbon monoxide, nitrate oxides, VOCs, benzene, formaldehyde, and various other carcinogens. These emissions can cause a variety of heart and lung conditions and aggravate existing conditions present in the elderly.


Carpets can trap various asthma triggers and pollutants such as tobacco smoke, dust, dust mites, dander, and mold. Since carpets are surfaces that are disturbed often by mere foot traffic, the pollutants are constantly being re-released into the air. If possible, choose a home with little to no carpeting, and instead opt for hardwood or tile flooring. Further, new carpets are often installed with VOCs, chemical irritants that seep into the air.


While it’s crucial to ensure your home doesn’t have any of the toxins mentioned above, it’s still important to air out your house. Look for a home with many well insulated windows, this way you can be warm in the winter, but always have the option of fresh air and sunlight.


Vulnerable populations like the elderly need clean air because of their e.levated risk for lung and heart problems. Advocate for yourself and your loved ones armed with information about indoor air quality. Although a lot can cause indoor air pollution and lead to new health conditions or worsen existing ones, knowing what to look for and ask about is the first step. Communicate with the home inspector and voice your concerns during the buying process. Ask them about the specific pollutants you’re worried about and have them walk you through air quality measures in the home.

 Asking the hard questions now will let you breathe easy in your new home.

Susan Luxenberg

HomeSmart LLC

Categories: Homes for a Lifetime

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