On-site aging is all about ensuring that your home is both functional and accessible for years to come. These steps will help you on your way.

How to age in place?

According to a recent study, almost 90% of Americans 50 and older want to “age in place”. So how do you grow old successfully in your place? 85% of individuals are confident that they can stay in their homes without major renovations or alterations. However, it turns out that only 43% of Americans over 70 actually decide to age in their place!

So what’s stopping these individuals? Perhaps it’s a lack of understanding about what renovation projects need to be completed, community amenities available in their current home, or even a misunderstanding of the costs associated with aging. Let’s start by looking at the needs first and then the costs associated with obsolescence.

The Needs of Aging Americans

Homeowners considering aging today live in homes that were probably built in the 1970s or 1980s. These homes were functional throughout their adult lives, but the fact is, these homes were not built to comfortably meet the needs of an aging population. Popular designs, including split-level, two-story homes, and compact half-baths, become a drag as we age.

Modern or universal design is what most people need if they want to age successfully in place. Remodeling is necessary to realize the structural elements and amenities that make aging not only feasible, but also comfortable. Common reasons to start your outdated renovation in place include:

  • A change in physical or mental abilities
  • Wish to increase ease of use
  • An in-law or older relative is planning to move, but remains independent
  • A drastic life change
  • Limited mobility in general
  • A chronic condition

But some Americans are concerned about hiring aging remodelers, fearing that their home will feel more like a medical facility than a home. And others may have financial concerns about the long list of necessary projects.

Does aging on site cost less than the alternative?

To put it in perspective, the cost for a private room in a nursing home is $7,698 per month. And the fact is that most seniors depend on their mortgage for their retirement costs. 41% of senior homeowners 65 years and older have a mortgage today, compared to just 21% in 1989. Mortgage balances are also higher, rising from $17,000 to $72,000 on average over the same period for the same age group.

So for most Americans, it will cost less to stay in their current homes, using their equity and other savings to reinvest in their homes with aging renovation projects.

What remodeling do you need to age in place?

Rooted in the principles of Universal Design, on-site aging renovation projects aim to create safe and comfortable living spaces for residents of all ages. Universal Design prioritizes freedom of movement and flexible floor plans that are still aesthetically pleasing spaces.

Universal design is most effective when you’re building from the ground up, but if you adapt your current home to make it more accessible, you can still keep the tenants in mind.

Let’s break down each space you and your contractor should consider updating to make your home more accessible over time. Not every project is necessary, so choosing the right features for you can help you stick to a smaller budget. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a Certified aging specialist. Companies, contractors and installers with a CAPS designation are trained to help you make the best upgrades that benefit your lifestyle.

On-site aging Renovate a kitchen

Accessibility of the kitchen

  • Counters: Height adjustable or varied counters and removable base cabinets for easy use.
  • Cabinets: Hanging top cabinets that are 3 inches lower than conventional height, bottom cabinet pullouts, lazy susans, and glass-fronted cabinets all make a kitchen more accessible.
  • Shelves: Pull-down or open shelving are common updates.
  • Layout: Widening doorways, creating more space around an island, and changing the entire layout of a kitchen to create more space are all covered in accessibility updates.
  • Appliances: Microwave at counter height or built-in, side-by-side refrigerator and freezer (not bottom drawer), raised dishwasher with push button control, and electric hobs with flat burners for safety when transferring between burners.

Bathroom accessibility

  • Showers: A bathtub is difficult to get into and requires a lot of flexibility to maneuver well. Showers offer a lot more flexibility and there are plenty of updates that can be made to create a more age-friendly design, including no transition, bars, seats and a wider layout.
  • Grab bars: Installing grab bars in different places in your bathroom can help prevent falls through slippery surfaces. You can find handles at Home Depot or Lowes for as little as $20 to $30 each.
  • Non-Slip Floor: Creates a safer environment in the bathroom to prevent dangerous slips and falls.
  • Toilets: Raising toilets is a quick and relatively easy change.
  • Countertops: Lowering your countertops throughout your home is a common update to increase usability with ease.

Stairs, elevators and lifts

  • Widening stairs: Stairs can pose problems for aging homeowners, but simply widening stairs can make them easier to maneuver and allow for the addition of a chair lift.
  • Chairlift: The addition of a chairlift makes two-story homes suitable for all seniors, and exterior ramps can also be added to facilitate access to the home.
  • Elevators: The most expensive update, but the most effective way to make all floors easily accessible!

General floor plan

While the vast majority of older Americans want to age in their place, there are only 3.5% of US homes offer zero-step access to the house, single-storey living and wide doorways and corridors suitable for a wheelchair. So when it comes to these kinds of common floor plan features, you’ll probably have to build it yourself. Here are the common floor plan projects that most older Americans want:

  • Main living on one floor, including a full bathroom
  • No steps or zero transition threshold between rooms
  • 5 feet by 5 feet of free space in all rooms, including living room, bathroom and bedroom
  • Door handles with lever for easy access from room to room
  • Paddle light switches or

What is the most common on-site aging renovation project?

According to a Houzz surveyHere are the most popular remodeling projects for Boomers and older Americans who are ready to age in place. Bathroom renovation projects are the clear winner:

  • Increased the height of their toilet (38%)
  • Changed their kitchen layout (28%)
  • Added an easily accessible shower (26%)
  • A shower seat or seat added to an existing bath (24%)
  • Non-slip floor installed in the bathroom (20%)

What are the disadvantages of aging in place?

Getting older has many benefits, but it’s important to consider all the downsides as well to make the best, informed decision for your future.

1. It can be a burden to your loved ones.

90% of older adults on site count on help from family, friends and volunteers. Many people want to age in place to remain independent and self-sufficient, but when the time comes, most people will need extra support, even with the added home functionalities.

2. Home repairs fall through the basket.

Maintaining a single-family home is a full-time job! And as homeowners get older, there’s a tendency for their properties to deteriorate as the list of repairs needed piles up. Some people may not be able to afford necessary repairs or worry about tapping into their savings to do so.

Whether it’s servicing smoke and CO2 detectors or repairing a leaky sink that can cause mold, it can be dangerous to neglect home maintenance and maintenance.

3. Missing out on a better way of life.

There are plenty of upgrades and changes you can make to an existing home to make it more comfortable and secure. But you can’t change everything! If you are willing to search the market for something that fits your needs and sell your current home, you have the opportunity to find a better location, floor plan, and list of amenities.

With Southern California home prices at record highs, now could be the absolute perfect time to sell and downsize your current home. Whether you’re selling your home and downsizing, or using the profits to invest in an alternative retirement plan, this is a great time in the real estate market to cash in on your high equity value.

Contact a First Team agent today to see your options in today’s market or check out our post on the best places to retire.