Impacts of Aging in Place
Is it Best to Stay in Your Home or Move?
According to AARP, at least 90% of Americans over 65 feel strongly about aging in place—being able to remain in their homes and in their community instead of moving to a retirement facility where they’ll probably leave their current friends behind. But as a person gets older, aging in place becomes increasingly difficult from a cost standpoint as well as the potential burden placed on caregivers.
Aging in Place
It’s completely understandable. Although it’s getting increasingly common to not live in the same home for decades or generations, current senior citizens have likely lived in their current home for long enough to build a community around them. Think about the last time you went to a local restaurant during breakfast hours. Did you see tables of seniors dining together? Likely, the answer is yes. It’s communities like these that are valuable to the aging population because along with age, often comes larger degrees of isolation. It’s no wonder seniors will do almost anything to preserve their current quality of life, even if their home isn’t well-suited for aging in place.
The Financial Impacts of Staying in Your Home
Without proper, and often expensive planning, aging in place can have a significant impact on the person if the effects of aging render them increasingly less able to care for themselves.
The older the home, the less accommodative it is for the elderly. Door frames might be too small, entering the home might require walking up steps, and flooring might be a slip or trip hazard. The costs to address these issues could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands if major modifications become necessary.
But no need to give up hope. Take the flooring issue, for example. According to AARP, over one-third of injuries among the elderly come from slipping and falling in the bathroom. For $15 to $20, you can purchase non-slip rugs and shower mats. For a little more, you can replace the slippery tile floor with something safer. Although not as modern from a design standpoint, rubber flooring is the safest option in a bathroom.
Home Modifications to Consider
Changing doorknobs: A relatively cheap DIY accommodation is changing the doorknobs. As a person ages, they often lose grip strength. Installing lever-style door handles can give the person the leverage needed to easily open doors. The cost of each lever is only $20 to $30. The person may need help installing the new lever but often, family can help.
Signage: If 911 was called, would they be able to easily find the home? Installing house numbers that are easy to view at any time of the day or night is essential but cheap—less than $40 in most cases.
Other home modifications: Removing steps, widening door frames, creating wheelchair accessible showers and making a two-story home work as a single storing dwelling is far more expensive but may need to be considered.
Still, A Metlife Report on Aging in Place found that basic modifications will cost between $9,000 and $12,000 as of 2014 while the cost of basic assisted living will cost $43,000 per month. It’s clear that while the person is in relatively good health, aging in place makes sense financially.
Cost of Care
Often, friends or family will take care of the aging person while they’re reasonably healthy and mobile but as the situation changes, family caregivers often must be replaced with more skilled care. The more in-home care required, the more it makes sense to move to a retirement community. In-home services like cleaning, meal delivery, and financial services along with the cost home health care can be much more than $3,600 and as needs grow. Also to consider is the impact on caregivers—many of whom have families and careers that prevent them from providing full-time care.
Statistics show that between 50% and 70% of people over the age of 65 will eventually need significant help with day to day tasks. From a care standpoint, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the costs of aging in place when a retirement community can provide, safer, around the clock care for a similar cost and less impact to family, friends, and other caregivers, many of whom pay more than $5,000 out of pocket annually to pay for an aging loved one.
The Human Factor
A consideration not to be overlooked is the human factor. If it’s feasible to honor the wishes of an aging loved one for as long as possible, most caregivers will try and meet those wishes but be careful—often, caregivers wait too long to admit that the needs of the aging loved one is too much for the caregiver. Don’t allow caring for somebody to impact your health, career, or valued relationships.