Understanding Your Options for Aging in Place
Alonzo is a 74 year old United States Army veteran who served in Vietnam. His daughter Nikki reached out to us last year to explore options for her father to remain living at home with his family as he ages, with special attention needed to accommodate for certain disabilities. We worked closely with Nikki and her family to develop a proposal to add on to their existing home with modifications to the living space for safety and ease of use. The result is a charming, comfortable, accessible new space in familiar surroundings.
Aging in place is a term we are hearing more often as families like Alonzo’s make efforts to keep senior parents either in their own homes, or in the homes of close relatives. The pandemic has greatly intensified this need, given the heightened risk of contracting life-threatening illness in retirement or nursing home facilities. If you are like the majority of Americans you want to continue living at home in a familiar environment throughout your maturing years. Aging-in-place means living in your home safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level. It addresses the need to remodel existing homes and design new homes, so that people can age in place and not have to move to assisted-living facilities as they age. Since the vast majority of homes we live in are not well designed for this, a movement in residential construction has sprung up to meet this new consumer demand.
To properly age in place, you should create a budget, discuss options with your family, connect with home health services and identify necessary home modification projects. It requires careful planning, research, and coordination.
Consider the following checklist:
Steps to Take to Age in Place (Checklist)*
- Evaluate your current financial resources.
- Create a short- and long-term budget.
- Consider meeting with a financial advisor or money coach.
- Talk with your family about how much support they can provide you.
- Identify necessary home modification projects and get professional estimates for the work.
- Assess your health in retirement and consider how your needs may change in the future.
- Come to terms with changes in your level of independence.
- See what services your health insurance will pay for.
- Learn about estate planning and speak with a lawyer to draft important documents such as a will and power of attorney.
- Explore available nonprofit and government resources in your area.
- Consider your transportation options if you can no longer drive.
- Put a contingency plan in place if future circumstances make it impossible for you to remain in your home.
You can analyze the costs of staying home versus moving to a community-care setting. If there is no mortgage on a house, for example, there may be funding in the home equity to pay for a home assessment and modifications that can help a homeowner stay there. 41percent of homes owned by people aged 55 to 69 were mortgage-free in 2017, according to a data analysis from Zillow. The number rises to 68 percent for adults 70 and older.
On the flip side, the national median cost of an assisted living facility in 2020 was $51,600 a year. A private room in a nursing home was more than double, with a median national cost of $105,850 per year. (Source: Genworth Financial)
Many seniors dread the idea of expensive institutionalized care, especially those who own their own home outright. For this reason, they may choose to start with a few common and relatively simple home modifications.
Common Aging in Place Home Modifications*
- Installing nonslip flooring, especially in the bathroom.
- Widening doorways and hallways for wheelchairs or scooters.
- Installing a walk-in tub or shower.
- Building ramps.
- Installing grab bars and grips in the bathroom.
- Creating a bedroom on the first floor.
- Adding brighter lighting fixtures.
While staying in the family home is ideal, it isn’t always realistic. Most homes can be adapted for aging residents, but certain situations make remodeling difficult and expensive. This might include a multistory home without a bathroom on the first floor, or a home where access is difficult from the outside, such as one with a very long driveway.
You may consider a “granny flat” or “in-law quarters” — a separate, self-contained living unit with its own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom located on the same property as your children’s house. Only about 7 percent of people have an auxiliary dwelling unit, but according to a 2018 AARP survey, 1 in 3 people would consider building one on their property.
Another option is finishing a walk-in basement or adding a modest addition to provide comfortable and easily accessible space in your children’s home.
This link provides an extensive and thought-provoking reference guide for home modifications to consider when aging in place is the goal (courtesy of National Association of Homebuilders).
*adapted from RetireGuide.Com