If you’re thinking ahead to retirement, chances are you’ll check your 401(k)s and IRAs to see if they’ll generate a sustainable income stream. You may also spend some time figuring out the most advantageous Social Security claiming strategy.

But there is another, smart but less obvious way to prepare: getting your home ready for old age. An AARP survey found that nearly 90 percent of people age 65 or older want to stay put in their current home, a trend often referred to as aging in place. Yet a 2015 study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that less than half of homeowners above the age of 55 who plan to remodel or renovate in the next three years are focused on making their homes friendly for their golden years.

That could be a mistake.

Financial Benefits

“The time to do renovation projects that will help you age comfortably in your home is when you don’t yet need those features,” says housing design expert Marianne Cusato, who prepared the HomeAdvisor Aging in Place report. “If you wait until something happens it ends up costing you more, and the work done often looks like it was quickly done.”

Steve Hoffacker, a certified age in place specialist, notes that making a home more age friendly “doesn’t have to be a major undertaking.” On his short-list of lower cost, potentially do-it-yourself projects, are swapping out all doorknobs for levers ($20 or so per knob) installing sensor faucets (combined cost for kitchen and main bathroom around $500) adding a pull-down seat in the shower (about $100 to $300) and installing a few grab bars in the bathroom as well ($25 to $50), though you may have to pay more for a handyman to attach the bar to wall studs.)

Even an expensive project can pay off if it delays or makes unnecessary the need to move later on. For example, HomeAdvisor reports that the average cost to remodel a bathroom is about $9,300 (though it can run $20,000 on the high end.) That’s undeniable a serious chunk of change, but keep in mind that the median national cost for assisted living this year is more than $40,000.

Moreover, if you anticipate a big-ticket renovation, such as creating a master suite on the first floor, qualifying for a home equity line of credit or home equity loan is typically easier when you are still working. If you want until you only have retirement income it may be harder to qualify, says Brendan Coughlin, president of consumer lending at Citizens Bank.

Today’s low interest rates and solid home values also make it an advantageous time to borrow to cover the cost of home remodeling. That said, Coughlin recommends carefully thinking through “what is affordable, not just can I get approved.” Ideally, any renovation borrowing should be paid off prior to retirement.

And if you're over 60 years old, Washington may eventually provide a financial assist. The Senior Housing Accessible Housing Act introduced in May would provide a non-refundable tax credit of up to $30,000 for homeowners at least 60 years old who tackle specific projects such as widening doorway entrances, installing non-slip floors, and installing ramps.

To find someone who specializes in helping you with your home, you can consult the National Association of Home Builders. The organization provides a directory of more than 3,000 home remodeling pros that have completed the coursework to be a certified aging in place specialist.

Plan to Age in Place

Here are some ideas on how to integrate a smart age-in-place design:

Upgrade appliances with an older you in mind. Over the coming years as you replace appliances, look for designs that work well if your mobility and dexterity declines. For example, kitchen and bathroom faucets triggered by motion sensors are easier to operate than manually moving a lever or handle. If you’re remodeling, you can minimize the need to bend with a wall oven and a separate stovetop range rather than a pull down oven. A comfort-height toilet, which sit about 17 to 19 inches high, or about two or three inches higher than usual, makes it easier to use.

Weave age-friendly design into current projects. “If you’re contemplating a kitchen or bathroom renovation, or you’re pulling down walls to create an open living space, it’s a perfect opportunity to layer in features that can be a big help later on,” says Cusato. For example, kitchen drawers that pull out, rather than cabinets you must reach into are more age-friendly. If you’ve got a major bathroom remodel in your sights, Cusato recommends designing in a 36-inch wide door entry to make the room more accessible if you require assistance, or use a walker or wheelchair in the future. If you’re not willing to add full-on grab bars into the current design, at the very least have the blocking (studs) put in place during your current renovation so if you do eventually decide to add this valuable safety feature, installation will be a snap and not require re-opening the wall.

Work within your budget and space. If the ideal age-in-place home remodeling project is not practical or cost effective for you, have a Plan B. According to HomeAdvisor, installing a chairlift along an existing stairwell can run less than $6,000. And while it has become gospel that a no-threshold (step) shower is smart, that only makes sense if you have enough space so that the shower water will not splatter and become a tripping hazard outside the shower area.

Moreover, Steve Hoffacker, a certified age in place specialist and instructor, notes that making a home more age friendly “doesn’t have to be a major undertaking.” On his short-list of lower cost, potentially do-it-yourself home remodeling projects, are swapping out all doorknobs for levers, installing sensor faucets and adding a pull-down seat in the shower.

Make an easy entry to your home. According to Harvard’s Age in Place study, less than half of America’s homes have at least one no-step entry into the home. While you could wait and install a ramp if the need arises, Hoffacker says they aren’t particularly attractive, and they advertise that someone living there has limited mobility, which could be a security risk. His advice: If you have a two or three step entry, consider a landscaping project that includes a gently inclined walkway that eliminates the need for stairs.