By 2060, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to reach 95 million—nearly doubling the 52 million as reported in 2018. What’s more, these seniors will make up 23% of the total US population1. Attributed to the large generation of Baby Boomers, the current growth of the population ages 65 and older is proving to be the most unprecedented surge in US history.
As these Baby Boomers have gone through each major stage of life, they have brought both challenges and opportunities to the economy and infrastructure – and, most recently, as they’ve come of age, even retirement.
Back in the early 2000s, we all heard about the concept of “downsizing” and how retiring seniors were looking forward to moving into smaller homes and retirement communities. But over the last decade, as these Boomers have started to reach retirement age, this concept has shifted—this time to “aging in place.” And with 90% of today’s seniors reporting that they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible2, it’s safe to say that the aging in place movement is upon us—and its huge.
To these Baby Boomers, the opportunity to stay in their homes where they’ve built numerous memories and grown comfortable could sound perfect. However, the reality is that most homes are not designed to accommodate the needs of aging seniors. But there is good news: by making some modifications around the house, you can implement the necessary changes to stay in your home well into advanced age.
So, where do you get started? You’ll want to begin by going through your home, taking “inventory” of what changes could be made. Keep an eye on the following considerations.
While we all want to think we’re safe in the comfort of our own homes, it’s important to remember that falls are the leading injury among seniors—and can happen anywhere. And with an estimated 3 million seniors hospitalized annually due to a fall3, it can certainly happen to anyone. With this in mind, safety measures need to be taken in every room of the home to mitigate the risk. This means clearing walkways of any potential tripping hazards and having plenty of space to navigate about the home. As you go through every room, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Is there anything in the room that could pose a potential safety hazard?
- Are there any rugs, cables, cords, or wires that can be tripped over?
- Can you/will you be able to move around and perform everyday tasks freely and safely?
- Will you be able to access a phone should you need assistance or in the event of an emergency?
When it comes to aging in place, some of the most important modifications that will need to be made involve improving accessibility. If mobility is an issue or becomes one later on, you’ll still need to be able to fully access and move about the home. There are several modifications that can be made proactively to prepare a home for aging in place. Such changes include widening doorframes and doorways, clearing spaces for a wheelchair or walker to pass through if needed, lowering countertop heights for a kitchen sink and cabinets, and installing grab bars on shower walls.
These are just some of the many modifications that could be implemented to make a home aging in place ready. Consider the following questions as you enter each room of your home:
- Is everything in the room accessible (without the use of a step stool, or other aid)?
- Is it easy and unobstructed to reach all light switches, doors, cabinets, and outlets?
- Can you/will you be able to get items in and out of the room and perform other necessary and/or desired tasks here?
- Throughout the room, what are some things that could be adapted to make them easier for you to use or access?
Location is Key
As the old saying goes, “there’s no place like home;” and for seniors opting to age in place, this is most certainly the case. In many cases, seniors want to truly live out and enjoy the property where they’ve spent years investing their time and money, celebrating holidays, and creating family traditions and fond memories. And while the physical locations of the homes are likely at the heart of many of these memories, it’s important to consider whether the locations themselves are conducive to successfully aging in place. When considering the location of your current home, ask yourself the following:
- Is the home in a community you love and can see yourself growing old in?
- How close is your home to family, friends, and/or loved ones who could readily step in should you require assistance or an emergency arise?
- Are there medical services, shopping, and entertainment nearby?
- Are there local recreational activities and social opportunities available to you?
Does your current home check all these boxes? With a better understanding of the safety, accessibility, and location-based factors that can help you successfully age in place, you can make the necessary modifications or changes to assure a safe and relaxing retirement.
Should you decide that aging in place is best for you, you may have concerns on how to fund your home improvement projects. A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly referred to as a reverse mortgage, could be just the solution. Available to homeowners ages 62 and older, a reverse mortgage lets you access a portion of the equity in your home to use as you wish. In fact, a reverse mortgage is designed to help older adult homeowners live more comfortably in the homes they love. And since a reverse mortgage doesn’t require monthly payments (the loan doesn’t come due until the last borrower leaves the home), you can eliminate that expense and have more cash available each month4.
For more information on a Longbridge reverse mortgage or to see how we can help you improve your income and monthly cash flow, contact us today.
4 Real estate taxes and homeowners insurance must continue to be paid, and the home must be maintained in accordance with the terms of the loan.