As we age, there’s truly no place like home. According to AARP, a staggering 77% of adults aged 50 and above aspire to stay in their homes for the long term. However, many individuals are postponing the necessary improvements and upgrades to their homes that would enable them to age in place comfortably. It is crucial to consider the implications and plan ahead for what it truly means to age in place. This article delves into the significance of planning and implementing home upgrades for aging in place, the potential costs involved, and the invaluable benefits it brings.

Carol Chiang, the CEO of Evolving Homes, a company specializing in personalized consulting for aging in place, highlights that her clients generally fall into three distinct categories. The first category comprises individuals who require urgent modifications following a fall or another emergency. The second category includes those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Lastly, the third category consists of proactive adults who plan ahead for their aging years. Chiang expresses her hope that more people adopt a proactive approach, as neglecting necessary modifications early on can result in greater expenses later in life.

Learn from the Experts: A Certified Planner’s Perspective

Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and physician who assists clients in preparing for retirement, advocates for early planning and upgrades to support aging in place. McClanahan herself sought the assistance of Chiang to ensure her own home is aging-friendly. By remodeling and making accommodations in their 50s and 60s, individuals can significantly enhance their ability to continue residing at home as they grow older. Consequently, one-time remodeling costs push homeowners to spend between $30,000 to $80,000, varying based on the specific project and location.

Financial Considerations and Long-Term Benefits

Though the costs of age-in-place upgrades may vary, it is vital to recognize that these expenses represent a one-time investment in a home. Curt Kiriu, an aging-in-place specialist and president of CK Independent Living Builders, emphasizes the potential for these modifications to considerably increase a property’s value. Universal design features, such as wider doorways and hallways, and step-free entry, can add up to 30% to a home’s value, especially with the aging boomer population. In contrast, annual costs for a private room in a nursing home average around $108,000. Thus, allocating funds to home upgrades provides both comfort and financial security.

Successful Home Upgrades for Aging in Place

Experts advise considering several factors to ensure successful home upgrades that support easier mobility and accessibility. Chiang advises initiating thoughts about aging in place when purchasing a first house, as it allows for long-term planning. When making upgrades, function should be prioritized alongside design. This includes incorporating features such as an accessible entry with no stairs or an easy-to-enter shower. Even if homeowners eventually move, creating these spaces benefits potential future residents. Kiriu reinforces the significance of accessible entries, asserting that the bathroom should not be the sole focus of modifications.

Professional help can guide homeowners in implementing the necessary changes specific to their circumstances. Certified aging-in-place specialists, like those designated by the National Association of Home Builders, or occupational and physical therapists, can provide valuable insights. Assessments involve watching individuals traverse their homes to identify potential difficulties. By observing where one may touch the walls for support, a specialist can determine suitable locations for installations like grab bars. Another effective upgrade often advised is replacing a bathtub with a curbless shower, ensuring easy access in and out.

The cost of bathroom and other home upgrades may vary depending on factors such as unexpected damages that surface during renovations, older homes requiring additional code-related work, and location. Despite the potential costs involved, it is crucial to remember the long-term financial benefits and the value these upgrades bring to a property. Thomas West, a senior partner at Signature Estate and Investment Advisors, highlights the importance of decluttering as a cost-free measure that significantly enhances accessibility and safety.

Planning Your Financial Future

In conjunction with home upgrades, it is equally important to implement a solid financial plan for aging in place. Planning should begin as early as possible and incorporate an understanding of the associated logistics and costs. McClanahan emphasizes the need for a contingency plan when a person’s condition no longer allows them to stay at home. Factors such as the cost of care and the number of hours of in-home care required should guide decision-making. Ultimately, visiting local care communities and developing a shortlist of suitable options can serve as a valuable backup plan.

Aging in place requires careful planning, home upgrades, and a solid financial strategy. Proactive steps taken to make the necessary modifications for accessibility and mobility can empower individuals to remain in their homes comfortably as they age. Despite the initial costs, the long-term benefits, increased property value, and potential financial savings make aging in place an investment worth considering. By envisioning the future and taking action in the present, individuals can create a safe and accessible environment that allows them to enjoy the comforts of home throughout their golden years.


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