“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
—George Augustus Moore, Irish novelist
Even after going on a wonderful trip or vacation, I’m always happy to return to my own community, my house, my bed. I imagine many of you feel the same way. Our homes are a place where we feel safe and comfortable; we’ve designed and decorated them to meet our individual tastes and lifestyle. And we’ve created countless fond memories there.
This is a big part of why a majority of seniors say they want to remain in their current home as they age. In fact, according to research by AARP, 76 percent of seniors (adults age 50 and over) say they want to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and 77 percent would like to stay in their current community. Some surveys have put the figure of those who want to “age in place” even higher — at nearly 90 percent.
Hopes versus realities
Clearly, a large majority of older people would prefer to stay put in their current living situation rather than relocate to a retirement community such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community).
But here’s an interesting twist. That same AARP study also found that just 59 percent of seniors expect that they actually will be able to stay in their current community — be that in their current home (46 percent) or in a different home within that community (13 percent). One reason for this may be the recognition that their current home would not be conducive to the potential need for age-related design changes.
The survey found that about one-third of respondents said their current home would need “major modifications” in order to accommodate their changing needs as they age. Examples might include things like installation of ramps to allow wheelchair access or a walk-in bathtub/shower. Rather than investing in such upgrades or accommodations, about one-quarter of survey respondents age 50 and over said they would have to plan to relocate to a new area and home altogether should their care or mobility needs evolve.
So, how do seniors reconcile their desire to remain in their existing community and home with the realization that they may have to consider modifications to their home to meet their age-related care and safety needs? It can be a difficult decision to make — one that will potentially impact your finances, your family, and your quality of life.
Considerations for remaining in your home
Regardless of whether you plan to remain in your current home — possibly making modifications as you grow older — or you decide to be proactive and move to a CCRC or other senior living community before such concerns become an issue, the heart of the matter is that people naturally want to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.
In order for those who aim to remain in their existing home to do this, it is advisable to plan ahead for potential changes in your health or mobility, and even have a back-up plan in place should you determine that you need to change course with your plan. Making such decisions proactively — before any major issues arise — can help you avoid unnecessary stress and urgency down the road.
Here are 10 important questions to ask yourself if you plan to remain in your current home as you age.
- Might you need to modify your home at some point in order to accommodate changes in your mobility?
- Who will maintain your home — both the inside and the outside — if you are no longer able to?
- Especially if your mobility declines, how do you plan to stay socially active and avoid loneliness, which can have a number of negative health effects?
- Should you have a medical and emergency alert system installed for safety? If so, which one is the best option for your situation?
- Who will help with your day-to-day needs (bathing, dressing, using the toilet, etc.) if you are no longer able to care for yourself? Do you have nearby loved ones who would be willing and able to help, or will you need to hire a part-time or full-time caregiver?
- If you plan to rely on family caregivers, have you thought about the potential emotional, physical, and financial stress your care may have on them?
- If you plan to hire in-home caregivers, who will manage the screening/ hiring process and then coordinate the weekly schedule for your care?
- Who will oversee your paid caregivers to help ensure you are receiving quality care, free of abuse or neglect?
- How will you pay for things like home modifications, assistance with interior and exterior maintenance, alert systems, and potentially paid in-home caregivers, should the need arise?
- If a time eventually comes when you no longer can receive the level of care you need in your home, where will you go to receive such care, and who will coordinate that process for you?
Important issues to ponder
Seeing these important questions all at one time might feel a little overwhelming, but they are all topics you should consider if you plan to remain in your current home as your grow older.
By consulting with your loved ones and determining the answers to these questions now, you not only will have a solid plan in place to make staying in your home more feasible, but importantly, you also will have a contingency plan, just in case things don’t go as you expect.
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