Significantly more Americans are choosing to age in place. According to a recent Freddie Mac report, the current home ownership rate for adults ages 81-85 is 15% higher than it was in previous generations.
It makes sense when you think about it. We’re living longer and taking better care of ourselves than our parents and grandparents were able to. If you’ve got a good thing going—nice house, good community, fulfilling relationships—why change it?
There’s really no reason to do so, in my opinion. As long as you plan ahead now for certain realities that may arise in the future, you’ll be able to stay in your home for years to come. Here are some factors to consider:
It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of maintaining your home will increase as you get older, and not just because of inflation. Think about everything you do yourself right now—lawn maintenance, house cleaning and laundry, meal preparation, etc. There may come a time when you’re no longer be able to do these things on your own.
It’s a good idea to put together a monthly budget for home maintenance that includes any services you may need help with in the future. Understand what aging in place in your current home is going to cost on a monthly and yearly basis, and plan accordingly.
Home Layout & Accessibility
I know it’s annoying to admit, but one of the biggest concerns with aging in place is physical safety. As we get older, staircases and inclines become our enemy.
A house layout with everything on one level is ideal for aging in place. Unfortunately, we live in Northern Virginia, and few single story homes exist. If you’re planning on staying put for the long haul, it’s wise to consider remodeling your home so at a minimum your bedroom, bathroom and laundry room are all on the main level.
Make sure the home has ample lighting throughout, and consider installing grab bars in the bathrooms.
You might also need to widen the main entryway, bedroom door and bathroom door to accommodate wheelchairs. The standard width is 36″ for wheelchair accessibility.
A curb-less shower or tub or walk-in tub with a water-tight door are the best options as far as safety goes. The tub surface should be non-slip.
The bathroom flooring should also be non-slip, if possible. There are certain types of tile that have a rougher surface, and are a good option. A non-slip laminate can also be a good option.
It’s also a good idea to think about exterior accessibility. A few things to consider:
- Is the walkway from the driveway to the front door reasonably flat and level?
- Are there railings to hold onto along the walkway?
- Are there steps leading up to the front door?
If getting to your front door could prove difficult down the road, it’s best to consider modifications to make your home more accessible if you want to age in place. Installing a ramp may be the best course of action.
Think about how you will go shopping and prepare meals as you get older. It may become difficult for you to physically go to the grocery store and operate kitchen appliances safely. Fortunately, there are plenty of grocery delivery services, as well as meal prep services that you can schedule and order online.
Managing your health becomes more important as you get older. You’re going to need someone to help you stay on top of everything—either a paid Care Coordinator who can arrange appointments and monitor everything for you, or a trusted family member with the time and willingness to help.
The important thing is to not be alone in this. You need someone on your side who knows what’s going on, and can be an advocate for you.
Driving becomes harder as we age. There may come a time when it’s no longer possible for us to drive ourselves around everywhere. The good news is that there has been an explosion in the number and availability of transportation options over the past few years. Services like Uber and Lyft are great options for getting around. There’s even a service called Go Go Grandparent that helps coordinate Uber and Lyft for you.
There are also public transportation services set up specifically for seniors. Here’s a list for Fairfax County and Arlington County
The whole point of aging in place is to enjoy life. Take classes, get involved in volunteering. Do the things you always said you’d do when you had more time!
If you have any questions about your home’s suitability for aging in place, or need links to resources for what I mentioned above, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to chat with you.