On my posts about finding a new home, a lot of TGB readers have commented about the practicalities and realities of aging that should or need to be considered when choosing a place to live as we get older. Some people solve these problems by moving into retirement communities where the issues were carefully considered during building and development.
Other people already have homes where, whatever their suitability for old age, they intend to remain until they die. (There are changes and fixes they can make to accommodate their old age, but we will create that list on a future day.)
And some of us, like me, for reasons such as downsizing or moving to be near adult chlidren or other family, find ourselves purchasing a new home and if we are already old enough, also like me, we face issues that never occurred to us when we were young. Like stairs.
Pretty much all of us want to live independently for as long as possible. That time can be cut unnecessarily short unless we think ahead.
So it might be good for us today, to all contribute to a list of practicalities in choosing a new home late in life.
There is an international movement encouraging home construction design for lifelong living – all one level, ramps, wide doorways for future wheelchair use, for example. But there are not many of these homes yet, so mostly, we need to figure it out for ourselves within existing housing stock.
An important first step, I think, is to admit that no matter how active, energetic and capable you are now, that is likely to change in the future. That is hard thing for many people to admit, particularly in a culture that believes in the pretense of youth until death. But unless you want to be sleeping in the dining room in your declining years or worse, need to sell your home before you're ready, it's a good thing, an important thing to face reality.
Here is my list of primary considerations in buying a home for aging in place:
- No stairs to or inside the home
- Which means no second floor
- Small yard unless you like riding a power mower
- Proximity to public transportation for when you may no longer be able to drive
- Walking distance to stores and shops with the basics of life
- No steep hills in the neighborhood
- Low as possible property tax for fixed income security
Here are a few others that will differ depending on your personal circumstances:
- If you have chronic health conditions that need frequent monitoring, proximity to your primary care physician or other necessary health care professionals
- Perhaps walking distance to your grown children and grandchildren
- Walking distance to a gym, public swimming pool or other exercise center
- If it is important to you, a nearby church, synagogue or mosque
- Consider a condominium to share large maintenance expenditures
In addition, new or newer heating, air conditioning and appliances help prevent large layouts of money soon after purchase. And if at all possible, people with low income (many elders live on not much more than Social Security) a cash purchase eliminates mortgage payments, dramatically reducing monthly expenses.
These were my personal conditions for buying my new home. I didn't meet all of them, but came close. For example, I have reduced my annual property tax bill by a third. On the other hand, my monthly condo fee goes up by a third, but there is professional management in place and a swimming pool so in the warm months I have ready access to daily exercise of one kind.
Soon, we will develop a similar list for retrofitting current homes for aging in place.
So what can you do to modify or add to this list?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Kittens in the Morning (under a bush)