Although the vast majority of Americans (about 90 percent over age 65) want to stay in their homes to live out their golden years, unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. As time marches on and we age, homes that were perfectly functional to us can pose obstacles later on as our abilities decline.
Think about when you were young and could bound up and down the stairs. As you age, those steps get harder to navigate and you may eventually need railings on both sides to help you slowly climb up and down them.
Also, about 66 percent of the homes in the U.S. were built before 1980 and 40 percent were built before 1970, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These older homes were not built for the accessibility of an older adult. What’s more, the average life expectancy since 1970 has grown from 70.36 to 79.05 years. That means people are more likely to be living with diminished physical and cognitive abilities.
Interdependence: What Is It?
But it’s not just the physical aspect of living in our homes. We need to think about and plan for all that’s required to remain independent in our homes during this life stage.
Called interdependence, it’s the period between complete independence and dependent living. This is when we can still live a full life on our own but may need assistance with tasks such as administrative, organizational or even home maintenance.
“It’s the time of life most people don’t think about planning for, but could make all the difference in keeping them in their home for the long term,” says Bode Hennegan, founder and president of Life Managers and Associates.
Examine Your Home, Your Abilities and Your Finances
If you’re thinking about aging in place in your current home, there are four major considerations:
- Look Closely at Your Home: This means anticipating some of the needs you’d have five, 10 or even 20-plus years down the road. You, or a professional, needs to clear any surrounding clutter and inspect all entryways, rooms, including bathrooms, steps and handrails, along with the lighting to make sure it’s safe. If it’s not, how will you make modifications to it to make sure it’s accessible for you? Think about modifications you can make now as well as in the future. For example, can you can fit a walker or a wheelchair through the doorways? Can handrails be installed on steps? How is the lighting? Are rugs secure? What about door handles? Are they easy to open? Do you have a traditional bathtub or an easier-to-access shower?
- Think About Relinquishing Responsibilities: As you get older, you might not be able to do the housecleaning and outdoor maintenance (gutter cleaning, snow shoveling, painting, etc.) as well as driving, shopping or even basic activities of daily living — like dressing and cooking — that you used to do. Sometimes it’s not easy to ask for help but it’s imperative to have a plan for who will handle these tasks and when that might happen. Will it be a family member, a friend or a professional? At what point will you know it’s time to call them in to help?
- Understand the Costs to Staying: If you think you can stay in your home, there are additional costs you need to consider. You need to think about paying for home modifications, home maintenance, utilities, as well as the costs to ensure your physical and emotional health and any extra care that you might require. This includes the services that will fill the role as you relinquish responsibilities for certain tasks.
- Recognize the Costs to Going: On the other hand, if you choose to move, you will have to consider other costs. These could include entrance fees to Continuing Care Retirement Communities, paying for movers, real estate fees and taxes, new furniture and other items, modifications to the new home, as well as providing for your physical and emotional wellbeing and any extra care you might require in the new home or facility.
Finally, if you’re determined to stay in your home and you want to get started planning but aren’t sure how, Life Managers & Associates is here to help. Our Assess Your Home package can give you the answers you need to plan for your future. The home assessment is conducted by a National Association of Home Builders Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) who will thoroughly review the home and identify modification options to support you as you age there.
Life Managers & Associates supports older individuals as a surrogate family member with the administrative and organizational responsibilities required to age in place. As a trusted member of their team, we help families feel safe and supported – alleviating stress for all.