According to the Census Bureau, there are about 52 million people who are 65 or older, and this number is only expected to grow. We are fortunate to live in an era of medical and technological improvements, which have helped us to live longer! While some senior citizens will inevitably transition into some form of assisted-living situation, many will opt to "age in place" in their own homes as long as possible. Instead of researching nursing homes, they will seek out homes that offer them the ability to stay independent. What are some of the features they should be looking for in order to improve their quality of life and facilitate their goal to remain at home?
- Location, location, location: As with any real estate search, location is key. This includes proximity to family members, medical providers, hospitals, and grocery stores. Think about your interests and hobbies as well. For example, if you like to hike or cycle, does the area have a good system of trails and paths? If you don't tolerate cold weather, is the climate mild? Does the area provide venues if you enjoy attending concerts, shows, and sporting events? Will you be fully retired or perhaps seeking part-time or even full-time work? Visualize how you plan to spend time and what activities will improve your quality of life.
- Financial considerations: It usually makes sense to move to an area with a lower cost of living and less expensive housing. It pays to take into account other factors too, such as taxes, homeowner association fees, and insurance. Plan ahead! What will your retirement income be? Will you need to supplement it with a job? It pays to consult with a financial or estate planner.
- Specific architectural features: Many home builders now incorporate "retirement-ready" features into the construction of new homes. These include wider doorways, one-level living, "paddle" style levers instead of traditional door knobs, handrails and grips in the bathroom, walk-in bathtubs, non slip flooring, hard-wired alarms, security systems, and enclosed garages, just to name a few. If a home health aide or other assistance is needed at some point, does the house have a bedroom and bathroom that could be dedicated to live-in help?
- Community amenities: Many neighborhoods have homeowner associations, or HOAs. The fees for these often include the upkeep of lawns and common areas, and they may provide a clubhouse, workout room or gym, swimming pool, and social activities. HOA fees can get expensive, so you need to balance the cost with the benefits you receive.
- Opportunities for socialization: Studies of "Blue Zones," geographical areas where people live unusually long and productive lives, tout the importance of social connection and a feeling of usefulness and contribution to the community. It is worthwhile to check out volunteer opportunities and other avenues for making social contacts.
With a plan in mind and a blueprint for the kind of life they intend to lead, senior citizens of today and tomorrow can chart a new course in independent, lifestyle-based living.