– by Claire Wentz
Most older adults prefer to age in place today, which means a significant need for accessibility at home. But as many seniors soon learn, affordability can become a challenge when your home requires updates to make your golden years more comfortable.
Whether you’re preparing for your own future or are helping an elderly loved one age on their own terms, consider these home prep tips from My Financial Coach.
Ensuring independence is a primary concern for aging in place. But because many older adults experience mobility challenges, among other declines in health, safety is equally important. Making modifications to your home is one way to support safer living without sacrificing comfort or independence.
When it comes to accessibility, there are generally two options: either modify the existing home or search for a property with the ideal features built in.
For older adults who don’t want to move households, property upgrades are a smart choice. DIYs can be easier on your finances. However, some updates – such as widening doorways or rewiring electrical for lower light switches – require professional support. An excellent resource for contemplating necessary changes is AARP’s HomeFit Guide – it’s free to download or view online and offers tips on living in a “lifelong home.”
If lots of renovations are on your to-do list, consider reaching out to local organizations for recommendations on hiring a trustworthy contractor. Your local senior center may have an excellent referral, for example. You can also check review sites (and Better Business Bureau ratings) to ensure your contractor is reliable and fairly priced.
Understanding how the process works is also helpful – you should receive a contract that specifies what the service covers. Then, you’ll pay a small deposit before the contractor begins work. At set points during the work or once it’s complete, you’ll be responsible for any remaining balance.
Some financial finagling may be in order to handle accessibility improvements on your own, of course. Chatting with a financial coach may help you set goals and develop a plan for paying for modifications out of pocket.
If making modifications to your current home isn’t physically or financially feasible, buying a new home may be a suitable alternative. Many modern homes feature accessible layouts and amenities, and they often incorporate universal design elements rather than “aging in place” solutions. Regardless of your or your loved one’s health status or ability level, universal design makes it easier to remain independent at home.
At first glance, however, buying a home may not sound like the best financial move. The first step is to do your research. Learn how much your home may sell for – and what will be left over – to determine whether buying a new house is a viable option. If you plan to downsize, you may even find that your expenses will be lower in the new house.
Arranging your finances to support aging in place can feel intimidating, especially if months of renovations are in your future. But the psychological and emotional benefits of staying at home for your golden years (and beyond) are significant. In fact, the benefits are so great that institutions like the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology have special programs to support seniors remaining in their homes as long as possible.
Smart planning can help you navigate both the financial challenges of aging in place and the physical aspects. Knowing how to overhaul your home for safety and longevity can help ease the transition into older adulthood for either you or your loved one. Need help navigating the money side of your mature years? Contact My Financial Coach for help with dialing in your financial future.
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