Are you thinking about the idea of “aging in place?” Well, it’s a pretty important decision, and the first thing you need to do is check if your current home can be adjusted to fit your needs as you get older. Let’s break it down for you.
As we all get older, we face this choice: do we stay in our own homes or move to a senior living community? Nowadays, more and more families are choosing to stick with their homes, and they call it “aging in place.”
Aging in place can mean different things to different people. We will summarize by saying that The National Institute on Aging says essentially it involves residing safely, independently, and comfortably in your own home and community, regardless of your age, income, or abilities. Additionally, it pertains to remaining in your home as you age, with guidance on locating local resources to support this choice.
Realistically, aging in place means deciding to stay in your current home as you age and then making changes to your home to make it as safe and easy to move around.
Once you have made up your mind that you want to age in place, you’ve got to think about whether your current home is up for the challenge. Multiple floor homes or homes with narrow hallways that are tough to make wider, might not be so friendly to the changes you need for aging in place. In those cases, it might be a good idea to consider moving to a place that’s easier to modify well in advance of actually needing them. It can make the whole aging in place transition a lot smoother and less stressful.
Selecting the Ideal Location for Aging in Place
As you ponder the decision of whether to stay and improve your current home or venture out in search of a new one better suited to your aging-in-place needs, consider these crucial questions.
First and foremost, how do you feel about your current neighborhood? Many seniors hesitate to leave their familiar surroundings due to their strong connections with the community, their doctors, and even their favorite grocery store. These ties to the community are very important.
However, if you find that your current location doesn’t provide you with the security and sense of connection you desire with neighbors and loved ones, it may be worth exploring other areas. “It might be time to consider a change of scenery where you can check all the boxes that are most important to you,” advises Gwinn Volen of The Volen Group at Keller Williams Luxury International.
Now, let’s turn our attention to your current home. If it needs extensive renovations to meet aging-in-place requirements but your budget is tight, you might want to think about selling your current home and purchasing one that’s already equipped with the essential aging-in-place features. According to Volen, “This could even result in a profit that you can allocate towards future needs.”
If you’re leaning towards finding a new property, consider exploring newly constructed homes. Many of these modern builds feature more spacious and open floor plans, designed to accommodate aging-in-place. Furthermore, a growing number of builders are incorporating specific features catering to seniors, signifying an increasing acknowledgment of the aging population’s demands within the housing market.
Volen notes, “We’ve noticed that builders are really stepping up their game, proactively addressing people’s future needs and providing homes that cater to those requirements. It’s becoming more common these days.”
Finally, when you’re house-hunting, ensure you communicate your requirements to your real estate agent. This way, they can assist you in exploring the full range of aging-friendly homes available in the market.
Aging in Place Factors to Keep In Mind
Once you’ve figured out whether your current home can be tweaked to match your aging needs or you’ve discovered a new place that’s a perfect fit for aging gracefully, it’s time to focus on something crucial: reducing the risks that come with getting older, particularly the risk of taking a tumble. Our experts have some handy advice on which rooms and features you should keep in mind as you get your home ready for the golden years.
Let’s talk bathrooms! They can be a real danger zone when it comes to slips and falls, mainly because they’re always damp, and those surfaces can get pretty slippery. So, when you’re thinking about making your home more age-friendly, this is where you should start.
First, the lighting in bathrooms is often not so great, which can make things even riskier, in addition to the steam from a hot shower potentially making the floors slippery. To tackle these bathroom risks, think about installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. They’re a game-changer for stability and balance. For those steamy floors, consider installing some heat light bulbs and proper exhaust fan in the bathroom to help combat slippery floors.
Let’s shed some light on another crucial aspect: lighting. It might not seem like a big deal, but poor lighting can lead to at-home accidents and falls. It makes it hard to move around your house and even whip up a meal in the kitchen.
If you’ve decided to age in place, prioritizing adequate lighting is a must. Older homes often lack sufficient natural light and can become dim, leading to increased risk of accidents due to poor visibility. An easy solution is to add some extra overhead lights. Think about brightening up your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Add night lights for good measure in case you wake up in the middle of the night. It’s a simple fix that can make a big difference in keeping your home safe and navigable as you age.
Getting Around the House
Now, let’s talk about some other potential hurdles you might come across in your home. We’re talking about those narrow hallways and doorways. Many older homes were designed with these tight spaces, which can be quite a challenge if you ever need a wheelchair or walker. On the flip side, newer homes usually come with wider doorways and staircases.
Another thing to consider is how many stories your home has. If you’re constantly dealing with stairs, it might be worth thinking about moving your bedroom to the main floor or finding a ranch-style home where everything’s on a single level.
Now, even if you’re in a single-level home, you still need to be mindful of some tricky spots. Watch out for steps into places like the garage or onto a porch or entryway. And there can also be tricky transitions between rooms with different types of flooring. Here’s a super easy tip to make your home more aging-in-place friendly: no area rugs. They can be major trip hazards.
And here’s a freebie to keep your home safe: declutter. Yep, clearing out decorative plants, side tables, and all those larger floor items can really open up space for you to move around safely.
Technology at Home
Whether you decide to stay in your current place or make a move, diving into the world of home technology can be a fantastic way to boost your independence while making life more convenient. These days, you can make your lights, heating and cooling systems, and safety features like locks and home security gadgets all smart and automated. The nice part is, both new and older homes can easily handle these upgrades, and they won’t break the bank.
But there’s room for creativity here too. Seniors living at home can set up home cameras that allow their children or caretakers to keep an eye on the property and themselves as well. It used to be we needed a Life Alert if you had fallen and couldn’t get up but those days are behind us thanks to today’s technology.
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About the Author
Jenn Heller is the Operations Manager for The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, a top real estate team in Ponte Vedra Beach. Jenn has over 18 years experience in Real Estate all in Ponte Vedra Beach, she is an Atlantic Beach resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a book worm, and loves sports, dogs and the beach.