In numbers that continue to grow, Americans are making the decision to “age in place” according to the most recent findings. A current AARP study reports that 90% of those surveyed said they hoped to remain in their homes following retirement. The reasons people cite are not surprising and include love of home and community, strong social relationships and familiar shopping, medical and recreational outlets.
What’s striking, however, is that the studies also show that these same folks often don’t follow up their stated intentions with sound planning to convert their aging in place goals into actual reality.
While it’s never too late to make the decision to “age in place”, the time to begin planning should begin long before retirement. Most experts take a long-term approach to aging in place and recommend that planning begin during middle age, well before sprouting your first grey hair.
The problem is that no one thinks they’re aging, and it’s certainly true that many of us remain active and physically fit well into our 70’s and 80’s. But getting a jump start on home accommodation issues is a smart move. It enables planners to lay out an organized approach and helps spread out some of the costs involved in proper age planning. Here’s a planning framework we like a lot that uses a multi-stage approach.
STEP 1. Do the broad thinking: By this we mean, do a general survey of your home to see where the problem areas lie. Look at home maintenance, ease of living, safety and accessibility Imagine yourself 10 or 15 years from now and what sort of aging issues you might have. Do a little research on the aging process to get ideas and insights. And keep in mind that as a Certified Aging in Place Contractor, we have particular expertise in this area. Don’t hesitate to use us as a resource and sounding board.
STEP 2. Do necessary maintenance. In other words, make sure your home is in good condition, do roof repairs, fix leaks and cracks…do the things that prevent small problems from growing into larger issues that will divert time and money from more critical “aging in place” modifications.
STEP 3. Begin the transformation process. Start with lower-cost aging in place improvements. We’re talking about replacing doorknobs with lever handles, adding extra lighting where needed, simplifying your landscaping.
STEP 4. This is where you begin to implement some “ease of living” modifications like smart thermostats, replacing lower kitchen cabinets with drawers and installing more accessible appliances.
STEP 5. Safety. A critical stage where you begin thinking about safer, non-slip flooring, upgrading the bathroom…perhaps adding a no-threshold shower, pull-down shower hose and shower seat and begin location planning(or even installing) safety grab bars .
STEP 6. Make additional accessibility improvements as needed such as moving main bedroom and bath to first floor for one-level living, redesigning the kitchen for improved flow and accessibility, installing ramps if necessary, widening doorways and hallways and other changes that relate to your specific health and aging needs.
The steps outlined above are hardly exhaustive: they’re meant as triggers, intended to help you organize your thoughts on aging in place planning. Feel free to change the order or emphasis, consolidate or skip a step or two. The important thing is that you begin the planning process now. It should be slow and deliberative. Sadler Construction is glad to help. We are certified aging in place (CAPS) General Contractor; we do this sort of transition planning all the time and are more than happy to share our expertise and years of experience. Please feel free to call or drop us an email.