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One of the main questions facing Americans today concerns housing needs as we get older. Specifically, it’s about the decision as to whether or not we’ll be able to stay in our current residence and community as the years go on. According to the AARP, 77% of adults age 50 and older intend to stay in their own homes as long as possible.1 Often, the memories associated with our house and being comfortable in that familiar environment are the leading factors in wanting to stay put.

But here’s the reality: Even if you’re determined to age in place, work needs to be done.

 

A Home for a Lifetime

How will you continue living in your home safely and independently? When we’re younger, most of us take for granted our ability to do daily house cleaning, maintenance, and basic repairs—even home modifications. Forward-thinkers understand our homes as they appear today are most likely not ones that can sustain us into the future.

Incorporating universal design principles—a framework used to create a more functional living environment—into our modifications can greatly increase accessibility. These changes include widening hallways, creating single-floor living spaces, and adding safety modifications to accommodate medical equipment, walkers, and wheelchairs.

 

Work to Be Done

A 2019 survey found that 52% of baby boomer homeowners surveyed don’t plan on moving from their current homes as they age.2 Nine in 10 boomers were looking to renovate their homes, a sign that they were planning on staying and not moving. 2 The bathroom and kitchen—often areas most in need of updates for aging in place—came out as the top two rooms many of us plan to tackle.

If you’re planning on renovating, incorporate age-friendly design modifications. These modifications (listed below) can range from minor to major, depending on your needs.

 

Top Trends for Aging in Place

Here are the leading requests contractors hear when working with clients to upgrade their existing homes for longevity.

Throughout the house

  • Level the home’s entry way
  • Main living on a single story, including full bath
  • Good lighting, including night lighting
  • Replace light switches with rocker switches and install lighted switch plates
  • Enlarge doorways and hallways to 36 inches to accommodate a wheelchair

In the bedroom

  • Reduce the need to use the steps by shifting the bedroom to the main floor
  • Mount handles on beds to help with getting in and out
  • Install a closet storage system that makes things easy to reach
  • Light colored paint on the walls to minimize shadows

In the bathroom

  • Grab bars near the toilet and in the shower/bathtub
  • If stand-up shower is used in main bath, it should be curbless and minimum of 36-inches wide
  • Toilet two and half inches higher than standard toilet
  • Nonslip flooring
  • Handheld shower head

In the kitchen

  • Rugs securely affixed to the floor to avoid slipping
  • Install near the toilet and in the shower/bathtub since these surfaces get slippery
  • Build a full bathroom on the main floor
  • Install a no-threshold shower
  • Install lower toilet seats

 

A Helping Hand

Understanding that modifications need to be made and working out the associated costs is one thing. Finding the right professionals to assist with those renovations is another. It’s often not easy to track down the most qualified contractors. You can begin by searching for qualified professionals through The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. The NAHB developed CAPS to teach the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential in what’s becoming one of the fastest-growing segments of the residential remodeling industry. CAPS-certified professionals can be a trusted ally in your quest to age in place. To find one in your area, visit nahb.org/nahb-community/nahb-directories for more information.

 

Locate Trusted Service Providers

Preparing to age in place is about more than just home modifications. As we get older, our ability to do work around the house ourselves also may lessen. Household repairs, services, and ongoing maintenance are often overlooked in our retirement planning. We might need a helping hand to complete these activities. Locating the right local businesses that specialize in the services can be a key strategy in helping accomplish some of these daily activities.

It’s important to factor the expense of these home assistance services into their financial plan.

  • House cleaning
  • Home maintenance & basic repairs
  • Lawn care & landscaping
  • Grocery shopping & delivery
  • Laundry
  • Home modifications
  • In-home medical services & devices
  • Heavy lifting
  • Organizing & decluttering

 

Envision Your Future Quality of Life

When you consider retirement planning, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. The first thing that comes to mind is probably, “How much money will I need?” But whatever that amount may be, your finances are only part of the equation for a meaningful retirement. We need to adopt an integrated and holistic approach to prepare ourselves to live longer and well in our homes. Identifying the necessary steps to maintain our home may be just as critical to aging independently as the health of our retirement savings. Your financial professional can help integrate these issues into a comprehensive planning discussion to make planning to age in place more tangible for you and your family. Interested in learning more MIT AgeLab insights on aging? Visit hartfordfunds.com/agewell today for additional info.


About the Author:
Author Headshot

Director, MIT AgeLab

Next Steps

1 Find a local CAPS professional and ask to meet with them. In addition to helping you understand and prioritize the housing needs of aging clients, you can introduce them to clients who may need a personalized aging-in-place plan.
2 Start building a network of trusted service providers for house cleaners, lawn care and landscaping, grocery shopping and delivery, and home maintenance.

 

More on Living Well in Retirement >

Financial Professionals Next Steps

1 Download or order this article.
2 This article is related to our popular Quality of Life module. Click here to access additional content to share.

The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.

1 2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Ages 18-Plus, AARP, 7/19

 2The Hartford, “Remodeling Today for a Better Tomorrow,” The Hartford, 07/15,www.thehartford.com
 

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