Financial Advice for Retirement, Social Security, IRAs and Estate Planning

Aging In Place: How to Stay In Your Home As Long As Possible

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Do you want to stay in your home for as long as possible?

If you do, here’s a plan I recommend to all my subscribers…

Most older Americans say they want to stay in their homes, or age in place, for as long as they can. An AARP survey in 2015 said almost 90% of those age 65 or older want to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

That’s understandable. Most of us prefer the familiar surroundings and memories of our homes to a new, unfamiliar place.

But wishing doesn’t make it so.

Too many older Americans believe once they’ve decided they want to stay in their homes, the issue is settled and they can move on to other matters.

The truth is very different. If you want to stay in your home for the long haul, you need to plan and prepare.

You should aspire to more than living in the same home. You should want to stay there safely and independently. You should stay there only if you can maintain a reasonable quality of life at a reasonable cost.

To stay in your current home, you’ll want to plan and prepare now. Too many people defer the important decisions about aging because they think it’s too early.

Often, when people wait to take action on these matters, when the time comes, they no longer are able to do what needs to be done… or don’t even recognize the need for change.

Here are the key steps to aging in place, and staying in your home as long as you can:

Weigh the finances.

There are financial advantages and disadvantages to staying where you are. Give them an honest assessment and balancing.

You should do this in writing, because the decision needs to be re-evaluated every year or two so you can determine if the balance has changed.

Many people believe aging in place is less expensive.

Of course, there are one-time fees for leaving your home, such as selling and moving expenses, and the costs of entering the new home or community. It also is true there are sizeable fees for living in continuing care retirement communities or assisted living facilities.

But staying in your home might not be cheap. Yes, the home might be paid for, but there are continuing expenses.

Many people overlook the long-term expenses: maintenance, repairs and upgrades needed to maintain a home’s value and function. Your home likely is one of your most valuable assets. You should want that value to be there if you need the equity, or to leave as a legacy for your heirs.

Over time, you’re likely to need to hire people to do things you no longer can, such as repairs, cleaning, cooking and even personal assistance. That increases the cost of staying at home. Of course, real estate taxes are likely to increase every year.

Once all the factors are considered, the cost of aging in place isn’t as cost-effective as many people initially think.

Also, the cost of staying in your home is likely to increase over time. If it’s economical to stay in your home now, it might not be in a few years.

That’s why you need to re-evaluate regularly and watch for when the tipping point is approaching.

Maintaining social connections.

Cost isn’t the most important factor. Perhaps the most important factor in aging well is having social interaction and connections.

Research shows that a major problem for older Americans is social isolation. Lack of personal contact and connections leads to depression and loneliness.

People deteriorate faster both mentally and physically when their social connections are reduced. Older people who are active socially tend to be happier and healthier.

If you want to age in place, will you be able to establish and maintain social contacts? Do you have close friends and relatives nearby?

If so, will they remain there and will you be able to see them regularly? Will you be able to establish new relationships as people you know move or pass away?

Consider that at some point you won’t be able to drive or won’t want to drive regularly. Night vision naturally deteriorates, and many people avoid driving after dark as they age. What will happen to your social connections at that point?

It might not be a problem if there is reliable alternate transportation available. Often, those living outside of urban areas find being able to drive is essential to maintaining quality of life.

Technology can help somewhat in maintaining social connections. But you need a certain amount of in-person contact with people close to you that technology can’t completely replace.

Social connections are one reason people give for wanting to age in place. They cite nearby family, longtime friends, their faith community, clubs and similar contacts.

But keep in mind that you often can stay in the same general community and maintain those contacts without staying in the same home. You might be able to shift to a nearby living unit, such as a condo, that’s better suited for the older you.

One of the advantages of apartment-style independent living, or assisted living communities, is social connections are more frequent and easier to make.

You don’t have to leave the building to meet people, and there are a lot of people to meet.

A range of activities is on the calendar. You only have to choose those that interest you.

Who will help you? 

Transportation and other services you take for granted today require some thought. You need to go to medical appointments, buy groceries and other essentials, run errands and simply get out of the house.

There might be public services to help you, and there also might be non-profit groups set up to meet these needs.

Some communities have various networks in place to help their older residents with these services.

Innovative concepts implemented in different localities include the “village” concept and naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs).

Details vary, but in general one or more non-profit groups in the area serve as a clearinghouse to match providers to those with needs. Often there are fees for their services.

The idea is you have the benefits of a retirement community without moving.

What’s probably most important is that you have one or more people you trust who can monitor your quality of life.

It helps to have people you trust around you… who will tell you when living on your own has reduced your quality of life… and that it’s time to consider another arrangement.

Next week: 3 more tips to aging in place: Planning the Transition, Preparing Your Home, and How to Review & Update.

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