Prefer to Stay in Your Home As You Age?
Most do, so follow this age-in-place checklist to avoid traumatic surprises
Baby boomers are united in their intent to stay put in their homes.
A 2018 AARP survey reports that about three in four participants (all at least 50) want to stay in their current home as long as possible, and 46% expect to never budge.
But desire is not the same thing as a plan. Anyone who wants to age in place should start planning now:
Will your retirement income easily cover your home’s insurance, property tax and maintenance? A clear-eyed assessment today can save you (and your family) anxiety and heartache down the line. You want to avoid realizing five or 10 years into retirement that you can’t keep up with the costs of staying in your home. By then, making a move will be even harder. Your 50- and 60-something self will be more resilient emotionally and physically to take on a move – if financially warranted.
On the financial side, keep in mind that starting with your 2018 federal tax return, the maximum deduction for state and local tax is capped at $10,000 per household. That includes your property tax. If you typically have deducted more than that, your housing costs essentially are rising due to the tax law. It’s one thing to be able to handle that when you are still working, but are taxes going to eat up too much of your retirement income?
Are you car-dependent? Will the house you love so much today be a great house when you are in your 80s and 90s and don’t want to drive, or can’t? (As you can learn from this longevity calculator, there is a very good chance you could live well into your 90s.)
It’s not just about your mobility; what about your friends? This is why so many baby boomers are moving into cities; they can rely on public transportation – and Uber and Lyft – and socialize without any great effort.
Is your home age-in-place friendly? The odds suggest the answer is no. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimated that by 2035 there will be 17 million older households where the current layout of their home will become a problem. Stairs that can no longer be easily navigated. Narrow doorways and bathrooms that can’t easily accommodate a walker or wheelchair. The JCHS says less than 4% of U.S. housing is age-in-place ready, with such features as zero-step entrances into the home, single-floor living, and wide doorways and hallways.
That’s not necessarily a reason to move. There are renovations you can do today to make your home age-in-place friendlier. The time to do it is before you need it. Consider this scenario: You are 75 and have an illness or injury that makes it impossible to navigate the stairs – at least temporarily – but there is no bed or bath on the first floor. So you end up in rehab, rather than able to quickly return home, with care that comes to you.
Age-in-place projects can range from small but vital – grab bars in the bathrooms – to larger projects, such as reconfiguring a bathroom to accommodate a walker and installing a shower that has room for a bench or stool. If you’re planning to renovate the kitchen, double down on great lighting; your age-80 eyes will thank you. And consider some lower counter space where it’s easy to pull up a chair. The grandkids will love that today, and at some point you may enjoy being able to sit to do kitchen prep.