Aging in place: Is it for you?

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Because there is “no place like home,” aging in place may have many benefits: it can cost less if you own your home, slow advancement of memory loss by maintaining your social network and help improve your self-determination. Staying in your own home can support a healthier and safer living environment. But it doesn’t happen easily or without planning. Consider these primary factors as part of a successful retirement:

  1. Financial readiness and affordability. Nearly a third of older households spent more than 30% of their income on housing, Harvard University Joint Center reported in 2014. That’s a potentially significant obstacle to aging in place. By 2035, as many as half of older, cost-burdened households will spend more than 50% of their income on housing. In addition, 51% of older workers have saved less than $50,000 for retirement.
  2. Disability accommodations. By 2035, stairs, traditional bathroom layouts, and narrow doors and hallways may pose challenges for 17 million older houses inhabited by someone with a mobility disability, a 77% increase from today, according to HUJC. Yet only 3.5% of U.S. homes offer a zero-step entrance, single-floor living, and wider doorways and hallways to accommodate a wheelchair.
  3. Remodeling costs. If improvements (ramps, better lighting, etc.) are needed to age in place, consider average renovation costs range from $50,000-$200,000. But there is some hope that Medicare Advantage programs in the future may cover some costs.
  4. Alternative housing. To accommodate stretched budgets and limited resources, some options exist for housing, including home sharing, multigenerational living, village concepts and independent living. They, too, require universal design features to promote a safe, comfortable and livable environment.
  5. Long-term care. Insurance stats show someone turning 65 today has about a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care over their lifetime. While one-third may never need such care, 20% will need it for longer than five years. On average, people need long term care services for three years. In the Phoenix area, three years of assisted living costs between $141,255 and $169,725 with long-term nursing care about $295,650. That cost is projected to be $533,976 in 2040!
  6. Home care costs. Need a home health aide? One will cost about $62,920 locally in 2022, Genworth estimates. Volunteer support services, however, might help extend the years spent at home and reduce the amount of institutional care that might be needed.
  7. Family considerations. Do family members live near you? Can they assist with your care? Can you live with them? How do you reassure your family you are safe and living well if they don’t live nearby?
  8. Not for everybody. Not all people should age in place. The goal is to thrive in places and communities that are best — in the moment. There can be many other exciting options for some. The point is the living-at-home option can be a better solution for many if they are prepared for it.

Ron Smith is an aging-in-place advocate, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and a Certified Living in Place Professional.

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This column was first published in the February edition of InMaricopa magazine.