Where will you live when you grow old? Perhaps you are too young to think about that, but if you are reading this, I bet your parents are not! I’m not. At 66, my spouse and I have pretty much decided to try to stay where we are as we age. Of course, we know that things may change and we may decide to go elsewhere for some reason, but for now, we are looking at our current residence as our possible last.
We have been here 25 years already and still love it. We have a one story ranch home of around 2300 square feet located on 6 acres within 4 miles of stores, medical care, entertainment, gasoline stations and more.
Although our home is pretty age friendly already, we are now thinking about changes we should make to allow us to stay during the rough times of old age ahead. Some things are evident, but to really come up with a long term plan, I went on a search to see how to plan to age in place. It turns out, there is more to it than just making a few changes in the house.
Prepare your home.
These are some changes you may need to consider to allow you to function at home with impaired physical abilities.
Getting in and out of the house.
Are doorways wide enough and easy to open and lock. Are there steps are steep inclines that need to be changed? We are good with this one, no steps, one incline that we may want to change, wide door openings and etc.
Moving around inside the home.
Is there enough space for a walker or wheelchair. Are there strategically placed items you can grab if you suddenly wobble? We do have enough space, our 92 year old Mother-in-law gets around fine with her walker/chair. We may need to add a grab bar down the hallway at some point – it is pretty long.
Make sure the bathrooms and bedrooms are usable.
You may need high toilets, sit down areas in step-less showers, lever handles on faucets, beds that are easy to get into and out of and etc. When we remodeled the master bath in 2006, we added grab bars in the shower, by the toilet and the whirlpool bath. We also have levered handles and a step in shower. We may have to add a hand held shower attachment and put in one of those shower chairs folks use.
Eating and food preparation.
Making sure that refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, cabinets, drawers and counter-tops are reachable, able to be used by some one sitting down and everything is well lit is important. Our kitchen is in dire need of a remodel. When we do that, I will investigate this area in detail.
Thinking through entertainment needs.
Is there enough room to get around when visitors come, is the TV at hand and easy to operate (and close enough for failing eyes to see), is there enough light, do you need a lift chair? We have all this, except the lift chair (which may come later and will be the butt of many jokes I’m sure).
Set the work area up for household management.
Is there a place to allow for easy bill paying, records filing, etc? Yep, we have that too.
Prepare for obtaining services desired or required.
Food & food prep.
How will you get groceries if you can no longer drive? Will you prepare food or is there a service that can deliver hot meals to you. I’ll continue to prep meals as long as I can. There is a meals on wheels service but they are turning away recipients due to lack of drivers for the routes. I’ll need to investigate how to get groceries delivered (or use the below transportation option while I can). And then there is always delivery!
Who can haul you around when you can no longer drive? What will it cost? How convenient will it be? I’ll be exploring this one for sure as we are not in a walkable neighborhood. Of course, that may change as time goes on and development of shopping centers comes nearer to us. There is an Older Adult Transportation Service available in our area, and we do have a son in the metro and then there are always cabs.
Do you have someone in place to help you (if and when you need it) make sure that your finances are in order? We have set up our finances so that our sons can take over when we die or become incapacitated and we have an accountant. We will probably speak to one of our sons if we feel that we need help with our investments or bill paying and work something out with him.
What services are available to assist you with the technology in your home? We have a tech savy son in town, plus there is always the Geek Squad.
What monitoring technology is available to connect you to your health care provider. What in person services are available in your community should you need in home care? I haven’t yet investigated this, but will in years to come.
Prepare for lowered ability to maintain the home.
If you don’t already engage someone to clean your home, what will that cost and who can do it? I still clean our home, but I’ve put hubby on notice that once I turn 80, I’m hiring a cleaning service.
If you don’t already engage someone to take care of your yard, what will that cost and who can do it? We manage this together now. We have 6 acres, but 5 of them are not visible from the street and could be left to their own devices.
Changes to allow you to continue to maintain as you age.
What can you do now to extend the time period you remain able to maintain your own home.
We have several specific issues to address to help us stay in the action as time wears on.
We need to move our mailbox to our side of the road. We live on a very busy street that is getting busier all the time. We can still hobble across now, but sometimes we have to wait 5 minutes for the chance.
We need to level out the grounds at one end of the house. We have (and want to keep) lots of trees. Our gutters frequently need to be cleaned due to that. One end of our lawn dips down and slopes away from the house at a weird angle. I’d like to level that out and put in a mini patio so the ladder has firm footing.
Our dryer vent is hard to reach. Our clothes dryer is on an inside wall. The vent goes up the wall into the attic, across the utility room and kitchen to vent outside. I’d like to move the dryer to an outside wall so we don’t have to crawl around in the attic (or hire someone to do it) to clean out the vent.
Our siding requires staining every 6 – 8 years. I’d like to get aluminum siding put on that never needs painting.
Prepare for maintenance of social interactions.
How will you use technology to help you stay connected and what equipment or training should you get to enable that? Today we have a land line, a cell phone and the internet. I’ll have to look into this one to see what else we could be using.
Will you have the ability to call on family for social engagements, and help? We currently have multiple family members (2 sister-in-laws, 4 nieces/nephews and a son) within 30 miles of our home. Hopefully none of them move out of town!
Are there groups, excursions or activities you want to be able to engage with? How will advancing age affect your ability to do so and how can you counter that?
What are your plans to continue to be needed, to make accomplishments and to maintain your self worth?
What does all this cost?
Good question. It will vary, of course, depending on where you live, how much you do yourself and what you need done.
The Washington Post has a few estimates in it, and also the hopeful statement:
“Some home improvements made to accommodate a resident can be deducted from federal taxes as medical expenses; these may include widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets, and more.”
So, if you are thinking about retirement and where you will live, considering downsizing or just zipping along in your current circumstance, you might want to think ahead to what might come and decide for yourself (before it is decided for you by someone else) where you want to spend your elder years.
Have you made changes to deal with planning for advancing age?