Do you want to stay in your home for the rest of your life? If you answered yes, you are in good company. A recent National Council of Aging study showed that 75% of people over the age of 60 would prefer to remain in their own home as they age.¹ If your wish is to stay, you should first ask “Is my home set up so I can safely live here as long as I want?” You will probably need to make modifications to your home to allow you to age in place. The first step is to find a contractor to help you determine which ones to make. We recommend working with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (or CAPS) with customized training by the National Association of Home Builders. Below are some of the top home modifications that you should consider:
- A floor plan that allows you to put a bedroom, bath, and laundry on the first floor.
- At least one zero-step entrance.
- Wide doorways for a wheelchair (at least 36 inches) to be able to turn into from a hallway.
- A no lip shower with a seat and an adjustable shower head that can easily accommodate a wheelchair or a walker.
- Easy to reach outlets.
- Lever door handles to compensate for possible decrease in grip strength.
- Kitchen cabinets with pull out drawers to easily get things.
- Non-skid flooring throughout the house including baths and showers.
- Technology such as motion lights in hallways and cameras at floor level so family members can check on you online.
In addition to making modifications to your home, you should determine if you have the following:
- Easy access to amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and medical facilities.
- Helpers to provide upkeep on your home. Lawns need to be mowed, gutters need to be cleaned, houses need painting, snow needs to be removed. Put together a plan and analyze how much it will cost if you hire people to take care of tasks you currently do yourself.
- Transportation to doctor appointments, the grocery store, and for running errands. If you do not have family nearby, does your city or town have resources that can help? For example, the town of Brookline, MA has a program in place where high school students grocery shop for seniors who cannot get out. You should also become familiar with using ride services such as Uber or Lyft.
- Ability to maintain your social contacts. It has been proven that remaining social is important for your mental health as you age. Does your town or city have a robust social program for seniors? Is it easy for you to get there or do they provide transportation?
- Availability and willingness of family members to help. If you plan to rely on them, do they know this? Who will be their back-up if they cannot do something?
It is an exciting time to be in the Boston area and think about aging in place. The MIT Age Lab led by Joseph Coughlin is helping businesses and governments to innovate and provide better solutions to people as they age (i.e. such as driverless cars). Social and support groups such as Wellesley Neighbors and Beacon Hill Village are enabling seniors to stay social, active, and most importantly, support one another as they increasingly choose to age in place.
If you wish to talk to a professional about this topic or others, please reach out to the experienced financial advisors at Wingate Wealth Advisors. We would be happy to help you think through your options and make informed decisions that are best for you and your situation.
¹ National Council on Aging (2015). United States of Aging Survey.
Written by Debra McDonald, Financial Advisor at Wingate Wealth Advisors