Each and every day, some 100,000 Americans turn 65. Of Americans 65 or older, more than 80% say they want to stay in their homes.
But should they?
According to AARP housing expert Rodney Harrell, “The housing stock right now is not meeting people’s needs.” In light of his estimate that only about 1% of America’s more than 100 million urban, suburban and rural homes are conducive to aging in place, that’s something of an understatement.
What does it take to put a home into that 1%? The answer depends on two things – the home itself and where it’s located.
Many magazines and websites offer lists of the top ten cities for retirement living. But those lists, based purely on statistics, can be unintentionally misleading.
Pittsburgh, for example, is one of the cities that’s regularly on those lists because its has a large number of good hospitals and healthcare providers, relatively low cost of living, lots of university campuses, museums, sports and entertainment events, and an extensive public transportation system that lets people over 65 ride for free. But what those metrics can’t tell you is that Pittsburgh is very hilly – so much so that you have to walk up the equivalent of a full flight of stairs to get from the street to many houses’ front doors. Nor can they tell you that a large majority of the city’s homes are 50 to 100 years old, with steep stairways, narrow hallways, dark interiors, and other features that could be unsafe or uncomfortable for aging retirees.
Except for public transportation in its suburbs (see our previous post about driving), the Richmond metro area excels in many of the metrics that Pittsburgh does, and housing tends to be newer. So it’s often possible and relatively easy to retrofit your present home for increased safety, ease of movement and practicality while still leaving your house looking like a normal, attractive, comfortable home.
Doing this does involve more than putting up grab bars in the showers, however. While some of the retrofits are as quick and easy as replacing lightbulbs, others can involve some remodeling or rewiring:
- A gradual outdoor incline from street to front door, rather than stairs or ramps
- Low or no doorway thresholds
- Doorways and hallways wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers to navigate
- Lever-style doorknobs and faucet handles
- Shallower countertops to put items in easier reach
- Curbless shower stalls
- Open-concept floor plans for better lighting, shorter hallways and easier movement
- Single-floor living, or chair lifts between lower and upper floors
- Living spaces that can be used for more than one purpose
- Slip-resistant floors
- Lighter floor and wall colors for greater visibility
- Moving light switches to lower placement
- Moving electrical outlets to higher placement
- Bigger windows and brighter lightbulbs for a safer and more emotionally pleasing indoors
Of course, aging doesn’t change the fact that no two people are identical. So what your home needs for you to age in place depends on your specific home and your specific needs. Our thorough, three-part assessment, which includes interviews with you and your family, determines just what those needs are. Among other things, it identifies home safety issues, whether living at home still works for you, and which specific retrofits your home may need and what they’d cost. To learn more, please contact us for a free, 30-minute consultation.