A Guide to Buying a Home to Age-in-Place
If asked about major life changes, most people would probably think of their younger days. While some older citizens are settled since their decades of work and raising children are far behind them, others make significant lifestyle decisions in their golden years, including where they will live if their current home is no longer suitable.
The home they purchased many years earlier might have cumbersome stairs that they struggle to climb, a yard that’s difficult to maintain or more rooms than necessary. Its location may not be suitable either because it’s too noisy and busy or too far from anywhere.
During this time, some seniors seriously consider aging in place. This term refers to older people who choose to live independently in their own homes as they age, rather than entering a residential care community, such as assisted living. A University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted in 2022 asked a sample of seniors nationwide about their preferences regarding aging in place. This study found that 88% of 50-80-year-olds think it’s important to remain in their homes for as long as they safely can.
This guide considers several aspects of aging in place, including the best location to age in place, what seniors should look for in a new home and which professionals can make relocating easier. It also covers several options for buying a home and finding ways to pay for it.
Where Should You Age in Place?
Aging in place can mean different things to different seniors. For some, it means continuing to live in their existing home, often the place where they raised their kids. For others, it means relocating to a new home that’s more suitable for their current and future needs. This frequently, but not always, means downsizing and relocating, sometimes to another city or state. The following section looks at what seniors should consider about aging in place. It also compares two popular options: senior apartments and retirement communities.
Things to Consider About Environment When Aging in Place
Environment is possibly the most important factor when choosing somewhere suitable to age in place. What was once the right home, city or state may no longer be suitable for the older you. For example, you might expect that at some point you’ll no longer be able to drive, making traveling more complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, you should consider what your ideal environment will look like as you age. If you’re fortunate, your current location will satisfy your needs, but if it doesn’t, you may wish to consider relocating. Some things you should think of include:
- Health Care Access: It should be easy for you to get to your doctor or nearest hospital and for medical professionals to come to you in good time.
- Neighborhood Safety: Neighborhoods evolve over time. The one you moved into may not feel as safe as it did. Comparing it with the place you’re thinking of moving to may be worthwhile.
- Visitors: Loneliness and social isolation can cause serious health conditions, so you should consider how frequently your loved ones can visit your home.
- Socializing: Just because you’re aging in place doesn’t mean you want to abstain from socializing. You should consider the proximity of the nearest senior center and other venues where your age group congregates, such as libraries.
- Shopping: If you reside in a rural area and can no longer drive, shopping for groceries may become a problem. Consider how close you are to convenience stores, particularly if you can’t rely on someone to help you out regularly.
- Family: Consider how easy it is for you to visit your family. Also, think about their journey times if you have an emergency.
Things to Consider About Your Personal Preferences When Aging in Place
Your environment is primarily general, but there are also factors specific to you and your lifestyle that should factor into your decision about aging in place. The following list covers some things to consider.
- Grandchildren: Many seniors are grandparents who value the time they spend with their grandchildren. Ask yourself if your current location makes it easier or more difficult to enjoy time with them. It may be that they’re too young to travel without a parent, which could greatly reduce visiting opportunities.
- Hobbies: Retired seniors often spend their free time indulging in hobbies. Is your current location a problem or a benefit? For example, someone who likes fishing may want to be close to a river or lake and won’t want to move somewhere too far from either.
- Travel: Do you expect to travel frequently to places you like? If so, use Google Maps to gauge the distance and journey times to the places you’ll visit most. Would moving somewhere else reduce the time you spend in the car enough to justify relocating?
- Home Modifications: Will your home need to be modified? Perhaps there’s a staircase that you might one day need a stairlift to ascend. If the costs of modifying your home are more expensive than moving to somewhere more senior-friendly, it may be time to consider relocating.
- Home Maintenance: Although you may not be struggling to maintain your home inside and out, what will happen as you age or if you sustain an injury? Is there someone nearby who can help regularly, or will you have to pay a company to maintain your home for you?
- In-Home Care Services: Will you need in-home care? If so, how will you pay for it? Original Medicare might pay if you need skilled nursing, but it won’t pay for an agency to help with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. To get help from Medicaid, you’ll need to satisfy the strict qualifying criteria.
Senior Apartments Versus Retirement Communities for Aging in Place
Seniors can age in place in their own homes, but there are two popular alternatives. Often marketed as 55+ communities, senior apartments and retirement communities are similar, but the differences are noticeable. The following table compares both of these options.
-Multi-unit properties where residents are restricted by age (normally 55 or 62)
-Must comply with The Fair Housing Act
-Residents rent their apartments
-Residents must be aged 55 or older (communities may have different age restrictions)
-Residents usually have the option to buy or lease their home
-Typically 1- or 2-bedroom apartments
-1-, 2- or 3-bedroom apartments
-Similar to standard rental costs for an apartment
-Some are subsidized to make them more affordable for low-income seniors
-Monthly fees vary because there are so many living options (e.g. apartments, villas, etc.) as well as community amenities.
-Monthly fees can be anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 per month due to an array of factors, such as if the senior has bought the home and the community's wow factor.
-Home and grounds maintenance fees are usually included when the home is leased. Seniors who buy usually pay additional monthly fees (up to $1,500) for these services.
Provision of Care
-Care services are uncommon because senior apartments are for relatively active adults.
-Some may provide very basic care, but don't expect it.
-On-site care services aren't standard, so you'll need to check with an individual community if you require basic levels of care.
-Residents may be able to hire an in-home care service agency (check with the community).
-Usually a clubhouse with space for social activities
-On-site shared dining
-Common interest groups
-Organized social activities
-Golf course (sometimes included in luxury communities)
Typical Lifestyle Services
-Grounds, building and apartment maintenance services