A solid development among retirees is the desire to remain in one's home as long as possible. In fact, a recent study quoted by AARP shows 87% of those 65+ want to age in place for as long as it is safe. Even among those 10 years younger, 71% would opt to stay put. Familiarity and community ties are the biggest draws.
A single story home is almost a necessity. Certainly, your bedroom and bathroom should be on the first floor. As our knees and hips start to act up, a two or three story dwelling becomes dangerous. In addition to our joints, our balance erodes over time, making stairs a constant hazard. Adding stair lifts is expensive and not always feasible.
Doors must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. The cabinets you use every day should be low enough to reach from a sitting position. Door knobs can be replaced with level handles. Throw rugs should be eliminated since they are a serious tripping hazard. The list of changes to your home can be long, but it is important. Take a fresh look at your home and decide what would have to be modified. Have an expert check your roof, heating and cooling system, electrical, and plumbing too.
2. Does your community help seniors age in place?
When you can no longer drive, is there a bus or senior transportation system that can take you to stores and medical appointments? Would you be comfortable using a taxi or Uber-type service? Are there any tax breaks for seniors, like a freeze on property taxes? Is there an active senior center that you can use? Are health care facilities, as well as an adequate choice of doctors, within a reasonable distance?
3. Do you have options when you must move out?
Are there good nursing home facilities in your area? Is there usually a long waiting list? When it is time to make that move, you will probably not be up to a long move or a long delay. Facilities that are nearby give you the opportunity to visit them on a regular basis. As you get nearer to making that move you will know which ones have maintained their standards, quality of care, and affordability.
4. Do you like where you live?
Not only does your home have to be safe as you age, it should make you happy and be in an area you enjoy. There is no point in staying in your present home if the neighborhood is less than ideal, the closest shopping is several miles away, and the yard or living space takes constant maintenance and upkeep. If you feel more like a prisoner in your home rather than comfortable and relaxed, consider finding another place to age in place. There are enough struggles without adding unhappiness with your current home. Remember, renting instead of buying is always an option, particularly in our over-heated housing market at the moment.
For many, being close to family and friends are keys to deciding to age in place. In addition to the joy they can add to one's life, having relatives and good friends to help with life's little challenges is a blessing. Even something as simple as a drive to the doctor's office or the car repair shop is easier when someone you know is along for the ride. It makes aging in place less stressful.
Deciding to age at home for as long as possible is a choice many of us are making. If this includes you, please be sure to review the steps above. Make your decision not just emotional, but is one that will keep you safe, secure, and protected. Betty and I want to stay in our current home for another six or seven years, at which point I will be 80. We have made some of the modifications noted above, but are looking at retirement community options, too.
There are plenty of on-line resources to help you decide if this is right for you. Age in Place and Aging in Place Tips are two I found that seem like good places to start.