The demographics of America are shifting. By 2030, one of every five people in the U.S. will be 65 or older.1 By 2035, the number of adults older than 65 will be greater than the number of children under 18. Every day, older adults make important choices about where they can live their best life. As a Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP), I assist older adults and their families in untangling the web related to downsizing. These discussions often revolve around a future move to a more carefree life in a condo or senior community. Other times, seniors have every intention of remaining in their homes indefinitely. If this describes you, developing a realistic and proactive plan will set you up for success.
First, evaluate your home's layout. Things like removing walls, widening doorways, and adding ramps can go a long way toward making a home accessible. Even stairs can be managed by installing a semi-permanent stairlift. Consult with a builder who specializes in aging in place and determine if the costs associated with these updates are within your financial means.
If so, the key is to make these changes before they are needed. Home renovations are both messy and stressful. Recovering from a fall is NOT the time to have a contractor banging around in your home.
You’ll also want to stay ahead of home repairs, especially those that pose a safety hazard. Maybe your spouse handled all the home repairs and has since passed. Consider investing $400 - $600 in a professional home inspection that includes a written report. It will give you a good idea of items that could pose a future problem.
If the cost of an inspection is holding you back, check out free options. Reach out to our local Grand Rapids (if this is online, you shouldn’t assume all readers will be local) nonprofits such as Disability Advocates or Home Repair Services. Home Repair Services offers free home inspections for seniors. They also perform major home repairs or renovations at reduced rates for those who qualify. Their inspection program is extremely popular so expect a wait.
Next, develop relationships with licensed contractors beforeyou need them. Every homeowner should have a plumber, electrician, HVAC person, and a handyman they know and trust. Murphy’s law will make sure things always break at the worst possible time. Having a reliable team on speed dial is a must.
Simple changes such as removing small rugs, modifying floor transitions, and placing no-slip strips on floor areas that get slippery will reduce trip hazards. Bathrooms, which are notorious for falls, should have grab bars in multiple places. Additional items like adjustable bath seats and stability poles will allow for safe access to bathtubs or showers. Even things like the placement of light switches and faucet handles should be evaluated for comfort and accessibility.
Lastly, get a handle on clutter. Extra items and papers on floors or surfaces create deadly hazards. One fall could be devastating. Enlisting the help of a trusted friend or hiring a professional organizer can be a game-changer.
Safety is no accident. The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” speaks volumes when it comes to aging in place. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you a starting point to make your home a safe place for years to come.
1.AARP Livable Communities
Not sure where to start? Set up a meeting where we can discuss how you can safely remain in your home.
By Laura Kelso
I hear this question often. With many Americans reaching retirement age, the decision of whether to remain in the family home is one of significant debate. The answer is complicated and can only be found by asking more questions.
More than 75% of Americans over 50 desire to stay in their current home.1 The reality, however, is that a much larger number of adults end up moving at some point. Planning NOW for a future move that may never happen is a wise choice. Here is why.
The Reality Gap
I like to think of this as more of an “optimist gap” vs. a “reality gap.” My children understand this explicitly. Each time I tell them, “I’ll be done working in 5 minutes,” or “this project is going to be a piece of cake,” I am not purposely trying to lie to them. When I say it, I honestly believe it to be the truth. Every. Single. Time. I think this is the same for many older adults. The homes they live in have served them well for decades. They rocked babies there, doled out advice to growing children, and hosted numerous holidays. It is the essence of comfort. The question then becomes, “Is Aging in Place a realistic option for ME?”
Questions To Ask
1. Do I still really love living in my home, or just the idea of it? Do I have children, neighbors, or friends close by who could assist in the case of an emergency?
2. How does my spouse feel? Often one spouse is ready to move, and the other is not.
3. Is the layout of my home conducive to aging in place? Necessities such as a full bath and laundry on the main level and the ability to accommodate a walker or wheelchair are imperative to safe living.
4. If my home does not currently have those things, is it possible to renovate? If so, are the changes economically feasible?
5. Am I caring for my home the same way I have in the past? Are there expensive repairs such as a new roof or furnace that I have been putting off? What could happen if I continue to procrastinate?
6. Am I keeping up with routine maintenance? Do I enjoy fixing things and keeping up my garden, or has it become a burden? If so, can I hire someone?
7. How do my kids feel? While this is not the MOST important question to ask, it is a legitimate one. If I had to move or passed unexpectedly, am I leaving others with a mess?
What To Do Now
1. Learn your options. Smaller home, a condo, senior community? Current city or somewhere new?
2. Know your numbers. Qualified realtors, senior housing advisors, and financial advisors can help you evaluate your financial plan.
3. Know lead times.Houses take time to prep and sell. Some communities have long waiting lists. Be realistic and plan accordingly.
4. Make a tentative plan. A real estate plan is like insurance. You may never need to use it, but not having one can be devastating.
5. Organize your paperwork. Wills, trusts, surveys, loan numbers, and insurance details are often needed and may require an update before closing.
6. Understand real estate. Markets fluctuate every 7-10 years and have now been strong for over five years. If delaying a move puts you at risk to enter a market where your home might take months or years to sell (remember 2008?), does that affect your plan today?
These questions and ideas just scratch the surface. They are a great place to start discussions with your spouse or friends or to contemplate quietly. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that life can change in an instant. Developing a plan for an uncertain future can lessen stress and help you enjoy today.
Not sure where to start? Set up a meeting where we can discuss your unique goals and situation.