Last Updated on December 7, 2023 by Prakash Kolli
If you’re a longtime homebuyer thinking about growing old in your home, you’re probably familiar with the idea of aging in place. You may have mapped out your renovation projects to ensure your home is well-equipped for caring for you as you age. If so, you are not alone. A survey by AARP shows that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long term.
However, renovations are only one step to making aging in place work well for you. While aging in place is typically less expensive than paying for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Here are some things to consider:
- Have you built a community to help you when you can no longer drive or care for yourself?
- What renovations do you need to age in place successfully?
- Does your home require too much maintenance, is too expensive to renovate, is too big, or is the neighborhood isolated?
If aging in place is the right for you, utilize these four moves to help you age in place successfully.
Prepare in Advance
No one wants to think about getting older and the changes to your mobility, seeing, and hearing as you do now. By planning, you can maintain your independence longer, regardless of your health conditions. If you wait until you have a fall or an illness to start preparing for aging in place, it will be more expensive and a bigger hassle than if you plan in advance.
Before you start creating your dream home for aging in place, ensure that aging in place is right for you. Here are some questions to consider:
- By living in your current home, will you be able to see your friends and family regularly?
- Are there stairs that might present a problem if you have mobility issues?
- Who will be caring for you if you need extra help?
- Is your home safe?
If you realize that your current home is not appropriate for aging in place, you can research and plan for additional residence options. Remember that downsizing doesn’t mean that you will save money. Instead, evaluate the costs of staying where you are and the new ideal properties.
Planning involves communicating with your loved ones about your long-term care wishes. These conversions are often tricky but are essential. In a medical crisis, family members and friends can make your desired long-term decisions. If you’re married, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about how you want to age in place. If one spouse passes away, how will your long-term care vision change?
Keeping fit and healthy will increase the likelihood of successfully aging in place. In addition, strength and balance training can help prevent falls and improve your cognitive function. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine a suitable exercise program.
Take Your Time
It might feel overwhelming to look around your home and wonder how you will make it age-friendly. Fortunately, you don’t have to complete everything at once. Instead, plan to tackle projects in increments to create a safer space.
Here are some small but powerful changes you can make to your home, either by doing it yourself or hiring someone.
- Grab Bars: In the tub, shower, or whole bathroom, securely mounted bars can help avoid slips and falls.
- Good lighting: Adding ceiling fixtures, upgrading light bulbs, and installing automatic night lights can give off more light while being energy efficient.
- Rugs and mats: Putting a non-skid material underneath your rugs can prevent rugs from curling at the ends. Or consider getting rid of them entirely.
- Cords: If you have cords across the floor unorganized, it is time to tuck them away and configure them away from the main path.
Home modification costs can vary based on the material and labor costs to modify. For example, it’s estimated that making senior-friendly home modifications to your home can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. Developing a plan for home modifications can help you see how much you will need to spend and what adjustments need to be made.
A certified aging-in-place specialist can assess your home, make recommendations, and review and adjust your home renovation budget. Aging-in-place specialists are also familiar with programs and resources that can help reduce the cost of home modifications for those with low incomes.
A certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS), Patricia Wahlgren, offers continuing education classes for adults planning to age in place. Students are presented with various options for home modifications and realize that there are often ‘good,’ ‘better,’ and ‘best,’ which can help if you’re working within a limited budget. After attending Patricia’s classes, students are optimistic to realize their wish to age in place is attainable.
Patricia finds that many adults who plan to age in place don’t know where to start. Consulting with a certified aging-in-place specialist who can assess your home, make recommendations, connect you with the needed resources, and review and adjust your budget ultimately saves you time and money.
It’s critical to ensure you don’t wait too long to start planning. Having a say in the renovation ideas is crucial to being comfortable in your home.
Pro Tip: Consider where family members or live-in caregivers will stay while they take care of you. For example, if you have a two-story home, consider making the upstairs living spaces for them.
Determine your Finances
If you have lived in your home for many years, your equity in your home may be one of your most significant assets—homeowners 62 and older living on record home equity levels- as much as $27.8 trillion.
Here are three ways to use your home equity to pay for aging-in-place modifications:
- A home equity line of credit (HELOC) gives you a revolving credit line secured by your home. Even though the interest rates can be lower for HELOCs than credit cards, adjustable interest rates can be risky for retirees.
- A reverse mortgage is for homeowners over 62 who have considerable home equity and want to borrow funds against the value of their home without paying loan payments within their lifetime.
- A cash-out refinance is a type of mortgage refinance that gives you cash in exchange for taking on a larger mortgage.
Utilizing these options forces you to tap into the equity that can be transferred to heirs in the future. So instead, you may want to consider arranging with your heirs to pay for the renovations now, and then they can recoup the costs after your death.
Working with a financial advisor can model different scenarios for you and determine which combination of equity and funds will be most suitable. When creating a retirement plan, it is essential to include your projected aging-in-place renovation costs and ongoing maintenance.
Bottom Line: Be aware that your renovation to your home may not be the next home buyer’s cup of tea. Therefore, you may not receive a return on your renovation investments. When making aging-in-place renovations, it is essential to consider your comfort over the return on your investment.
Create an Alternative Income Stream
If downsizing is not possible, but you still want to live where you are, consider an alternative source of income. For example, a home-sharing service like Silvernest can help match older homeowners with roommates. Depending on the location, homeowners can make between $6,000 to $18,000 annually for renting a room out. Having a roommate can be a win-win for people like college students who need a cheaper place to stay.
If home-sharing isn’t for you, consider adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). ADUs can bring you extra income or house a family member to care for you. However, due to zoning restrictions, ADUs are prohibited in many areas. Check your city ordinances before solidifying your ADU plans.
Whichever route you decide to take, creating a plan can go a long way in building your forever home.
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Danielle Miura, CFP®, is the founder of Spark Financials, a life and financial planning firm specialized in helping those planning for retirement to organize, simplify, and empower them through every life turn. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I help my clients protect their assets, manage their wealth, and dream about their future.