Is your retirement about aging in place?
When I ask that question, I sometimes get the exotic answers like Fiji or Bali, or the fantasy ones like Paris or Florence, but all too often the answer is, “I just want to stay home in my own place.” If that is your answer, you may need to figure out how to do that both financially and practically.
Do you have an aging in place plan for you and your home?
The financial realities may involve replacing, updating, or renovating what you do have now. The costs need to be assessed and compared to the alternatives. Many folks are counting on home sales and downsizing to help with their retirement plans. However, some are finding that does not always work very well depending on the local market and the availability of suitable housing. Take a look at your options and the supports in your community. Take the long view. I have seen too many people have to buy and sell often as they did not anticipate the changes they would experience. I have also seen many who stayed home well beyond a safe time. Stuff happens from a broken bone to arthritis to a health crisis that leaves you experiencing a sense of vulnerability and helplessness. Take a look at your home in a cold clear light to see if this is a safe and cost-effective place for you to be as you age.
Related article: Your home is your focal point in retirement
Home is where the heart is
If you google “Aging in place”, you will get a flood of information. These will include lists of non-toxic, natural materials, suggestions for step-free access to home entries, doors 36 inches wide and extra-wide hallways, one-floor living, easy use lever handles, and slip-free floors. There will be a reference to easy access switches, thermostats, and electrical outlets as well as higher toilets seats and walk-in showers with seats and grab bars. That is just the start and it is major work to refit a house for what is called Universal Design. This helps people live safely in their own homes. It suggests an open floor plan, and dishwashers and fridges with pull out drawers, for example. You want accident prevention for things like falls, and easy to get to and use water, power, and heat. Check out the Home Renovation Tax Credit before you get started. By the time you have done all the research, it may feel like you may have to build another house!
Two books I would recommend highly are The Perfect Home for a Long Lifeby Lyndsay Green and Unassisted Living: Ageless Homes for Later Life by Wid Chapman and Jeffery Rosenfeld. As Ms. Green points out, “Home modifications are not merely nice to have. In a medical crisis, they can mean the difference between home care and institutional care.” The architect and gerontologist team of Wid and Jeffery have plans for beautifully designed “places where people will be living on their own, usually with people they love and enjoy, with the expectation of longer, healthier lives.” Where we live often defines how we live and so getting those ducks in a row now counts a great deal down the road.
So where do you want to live and how do you want to live? How can you prepare now to optimize your future at home? Have you done some of the work already? Where do you need to start?