You’ve spent your whole adult life working toward your retirement. You’ve finally got the time to enjoy the home and family you created for yourself. But age is taking its toll. You’re having trouble with the stairs, and the yard upkeep isn’t an easy as it t used to be. You love it here. You like your neighbors and your neighborhood. All your best memories are in this house. It’s full of all the things you love best. You’ve feathered your nest, but can you stay in it?
Not Old, Yet
Most senior citizens plan to age in place, staying out of nursing homes and retirement communities, continuing to inhabit their own home for as long as they can. They report themselves satisfied with the neighborhoods and layouts of their homes, and think that technology will improve in such a fashion as to help them to continue to maintain their independence and self-sufficiency. But research suggests most have made no modifications to improve the usability and accessibility of their homes as they age.
A survey reported that baby boomers didn’t feel old enough yet to need such modifications, or that they are not disabled. But making modifications in advance can head off problems later. In fact, the time to learn that you need a 36-inch clearance for a walker or a wheelchair is not when you’re trying to get it down the hallway. The best way to make sure you can stay safely in your home is to plan for how to make it more livable. Done properly, certain improvements can not only add to the usability, but to the monetary value of your home.
Consider first the size and scope of any such project. Is your home suitable for renovation and improvement? A three-story Victorian with narrow stairs is probably less doable than a modest ranch with none. If your house will be hard to retrofit, consider downsizing to something more practical. If it’s the area you’re in love with, it doesn’t make sense to keep up a house that is too large for you. Downsizing can put money into your budget and take stress out of your life. Be sure that any home you consider moving to also has the accessibility features and safety modifications you’ll need; if it does not, you’ll need to consider that cost when making your offer.
Make sure you’re also thinking about proximity to medical care and access to easy transportation. A niche market is growing for smaller homes in good locations with more features that help older adults live independently for longer, and developers are catering to the demand.
Safety On a Budget
A large-scale retrofit can run into large-scale pricing, but even modest improvements can yield major safety enhancements. For better mobility and ease of access, widen doors and hallways. To prevent falls, install non-skid flooring surfaces in and around the home. Move frequently used kitchen items to lower cabinets, and install user-friendly smart appliances and hands-free sinks. In the bathroom, install safety bars and safety strips, and buy a shower bench. Improve lighting around the property and throughout the house and install a security system with 24-hour monitoring.
As the population demographic shifts inexorably toward the older generation, their economic impact will continue to be felt. Boomer demand has set our national tastes for a generation, creating markets for new products and ideas crafted to suit their unique tastes. Already manufacturers are anticipating their needs, offering new and better products for safer senior living. The principles of universal design -- spacious, single-story dwellings with accessible features that appeal to every age -- have become the latest home trend. It’s never been easier to live out your golden years where, and how, you choose.