In days gone by the idea of spending retirement anywhere but in your own home would have seemed impossible.
But with so many retirement options at our fingertips nowadays, the idea of aging in place seems to be the unusual course of action.
It's still not though!
In fact, about 80% of people say they'd rather retire at home surrounded by family members and their community rather than move into a long-term care facility or another form of retirement living.
Let's take a look at the practicalities of aging in place and then you can decide whether it's going to be right for you in your golden years.
Growing Older In Your Own Home: A Practical Guide
Aging in place is what happens when you decide to see out your remaining years in the home that you are living in rather than heading off to an assisted living facility or another form of long-term care facility.
In general, aging in place tends to work best for those that have planned for it, how have made home modifications that support their safety and with a network of both family and home health services available to them.
It is often more affordable and accessible to continue living in your home than it is to move out into another form of living.
Will Aging In Place Work For You?
We can certainly understand the drive to live at home, but we need to be upfront about this maintaining your independence as you age becomes more and more challenging.
It is vital to evaluate your own life and make decisions based on your circumstances rather than opt for your living arrangements on a whim.
Getting Real About Aging In Place
Firstly, we should note that there are genuine advantages to rejecting the best retirement housing options and living under your own steam where you have always lived.
- It's cheaper – health insurance doesn't usually cover the costs of long-term care in your senior years. Thus, aging in place tends to cost less than paying for a facility to live in, and then your other health insurance obligations will continue to be met outside of the costs of things like doctor visits (unless it's a medical emergency).
- Maintain your independence – many of us simply don't like the idea of spending our lives at the whims of a medical care provider. Community living is a more attractive option if caregivers, friends, family, etc. come together to support the senior.
- Comfort – senior centers, a nursing home, etc. simply aren't as pleasant as the place we love and created our lives in.
The Costs Associated With Aging In Place
There is also a price that seniors pay for opting for home health aides and adult day care programs instead of assisted living facilities:
- Safety risks – if you don't have some on hand to help you out, you might forget medical appointments, fall or hurt yourself, and even forget medication or wander off on your own.
- Caring for your home – if you have trouble walking, for example, you might need to install a walk-in tub or a stair lift. You certainly might find it hard to install cabinets or keep the bathroom clean. Getting somebody to do this for you is going to be a good solution but it's going to cost money to live independently like this too.
- Home care services – if you don't have a fully developed support system around you with an adult child or other family member taking care of things, then you will need to engage a service that specializes in home care and even health care too.
You should carefully consider the kind of home modifications you might need to continue living in your own home. It's an essential part of personal care.
One of the biggest risks to seniors is the health issues caused by a trip or fall. Older adults should look at the flooring in their entire home (and particularly in the bathroom) and determine where they would benefit from non-slip flooring.
Widening Doorways And Hallways
If your health problems have put you in a wheelchair, then you will need to make it easier to get around your home and that means modifying our own homes for wider doorways and hallways, this isn't a cheap process, sadly.
Walk-In-Tub or Walk-In-Shower
If you have mobility problems. a walk-in washing facility can be a real blessing. Wheelchair users can really benefit from these facilities too.
You may also need to put wheelchair ramps leading up to and out of the home and other parts of your house – you can't go grocery shopping if your wheelchair is faced with going downstairs.
We're back to fall hazards and many seniors will appreciate the security of grabbable bars and other hand grips in the bathroom.
Relocating The Bedroom
If you can't get up the stairs and a stair lift isn't in the budget, you could opt for moving your bedroom down to the ground floor of your home. Many older adults do this and it makes their lives much easier.
Changing The Lights
If you're tech-savvy you can opt for a smart home that includes assistive technology to switch on and switch off lights, appliances, etc.
And if you're not? You should still think about upgrading light fixtures to make them brighter so you can see more easily and modifying light switches so that they're easier to grip and turn on for an older person.
Sadly, of course, these kinds of modifications can come at a substantial cost – installing some new light switches might only cost a hundred bucks or so but a walk-in tub could come to several thousand. You're going to need to budget for these changes and find resources for them.
Home Health Care Services: A Watchful Eye
Home aging is best supported with in-home care services and this can be a substantial expense.
To better understand what you should be paying for, you should consider:
- Exactly how much (hours/day or hours/week) care are you going to require?
- What can your family offer you in the way of care and assistance?
- Are you likely to need greater levels of care in the future?
- Do you have other health costs in addition to this service?
- Will you need somebody to provide “homemaker” services that can involve doing household chores? If so, how much time will they need to devote to this?
The exact costs of these services will depend on where you live but – they can reach $25 an hour easily for homemakers and much more for skilled medical professionals.
There are 6 major options for health care and support in your home:
- Health aide services – these, generally, only deal with the very basics such as helping you bathe or dressing yourself
- Nursing care – licensed nurses cost more money but they can help administer drugs, monitor your health, assist with pain control, etc.
- Social services – sadly, the federal government doesn't cover this kind of service (unless you already qualify for and receive skilled care under Medicare) but these provide emotional support and/or counseling
- Occupational therapists – this can include speech and physical therapy too, their job is to help improve your physical ability to assist yourself following injuries and illnesses
- Medical supplies – the day-to-day items you need to take care of yourself from Insulin to catheters. Medicare and/or government programs may be able to help with these
- Telehealth – your insurance provider might pay for these services they can certainly cut down on calls to the emergency services and your doctor and save you money by offering medical assistance over the phone
Keeping The Costs Down For Aging In Place
There may be ways to reduce the costs of aging in place:
- Medicare Advantage/Original Medicare/Medigap – the Medicare Advantage program is the most recent plan but you may qualify under other schemes too. To qualify you will need to be under the care of a physician and be homebound.
- Long-term care insurance – you will need to plan for this. It's expensive and you will need to engage this kind of insurance in your 50s to have it last until your senior years. The older you are when you apply, the more likely they will reject your application. But if you have it? It can pay for much of the car you need while aging in place.
- Annuity – you could also save for an annuity that pays out as you retire.
- PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly). This is a Medicare program that might be applicable if the alternative is to send you into long-term care at Medicare's expense, you may be expected to pay towards this service on a monthly basis but it's way cheaper than meeting all costs by yourself.
Free Resources For Seniors
We'd also recommend that you consider using the following resources for seniors that can provide either practical help or advice on how to get it while saving money:
- Area Agencies On Aging
- National Insitute On Aging
- Eldercare Locator
- National Aging In Place Council (National Council)
- Home Modification Network
Final Thoughts On Aging In Place
It is fine to age in place and it is fine to want to. In fact, it's the most popular option among retirees.
But it's very important to understand the implications and costs of that decision and to prepare effectively for aging in place.
We hope that our guide will give you an excellent starting point to do just that and that your retirement is the happy, comfortable one that you chose.