There are a lot of sayings about home. It’s where the heart is; there’s no place like it. And it only makes sense that, as we get older, we want to stay in our homes. Over the last several years, the idea of “aging in place” has become increasingly popular. There are plenty of home renovations that can help you age in place, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. And even though remaining at home is usually less expensive than moving to an assisted living facility, you’ll still have to plan care for your home and yourself.
The good news is that once you know these things, you can start planning and working on them now. That way, the transitions you’ll face later won’t feel so challenging.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, one of the first steps to take is to start shoring up your social network. One of the upsides of a retirement community or assisted living facility is a built-in social aspect. That network is important. Not only will those friends and loved ones keep you from feeling too isolated, they’ll also be able to support you when you need it. This can include things like transportation or even mowing grass. Ideally, you never want to become “stuck in place”—isolated and unable to go places you need to.
Hopefully, though, you start thinking about these things now instead of later. This will give you time to start planning for different renovations and save toward those projects. It will also give you time to think about whether aging in place really is right for you. Consider whether you’re ready to be proactive about engaging with your community. You may also want to think about whether you’ll be able to maintain a lifestyle that will increase the chance of successfully staying at home.
Once you’ve thought it over, you can start making steps toward making your home more age-friendly. This may include transforming your home into a single-floor living space. The upstairs can stay as-is for guests or even for future caregivers. This is an example of a long-term plan. There are other short-term renovations you can take on right now, though. For example, tacking down area rugs and widening doorways are relatively inexpensive.
Finally, you’ll want to get your finances in order. If you have a lot of home equity, you may be able to take out a home equity line of credit or a reverse mortgage. These can give you a much-needed income stream and help you make renovations or finance in-home care. The flipside is that if you intend to give your home to a child or other heir after you die, they won’t receive as much as you initially thought. Plus, you’ll still owe taxes and insurance. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a viable option—only that it’s important to consider all aspects of it before you decide on aging in place.