Living Trusts are an important service for us, and creating a Trust often inspires people to get serious about life planning. Many of those who are retired or who are nearing retirement begin to make plans for what they hope will be the next twenty or more years. Health and economics influence every decision, but having a plan—and acting on it–provide peace of mind for many seniors and their families.
Aging in place is a concept that has gained popularity for some very good reasons
Many retirees move to where they can be close to their kids and grandchildren. Remaining in the home where you’ve raised your family and celebrated important milestones may be the most logical place to live out your life. But not every home is suitable for aging seniors. Isolated access, stairs, loose floorboards, porches, electronic gates and winding driveways can seem insignificant now, but what if you have a stroke? You’re suddenly completely isolated, unable to get into or out of your own home.
Ben and Sara have decided to age in place
Ben and Sara have been trying to sell their 40-acre property in the Napa Valley for the last five years. It’s accessible from a steep, winding road that finally ends at their driveway. Visitors hit the buzzer and an enormous, yawning wood and iron gate slowly swings open. Their lovely home is on a single level, but the property traverses the hillsides. Sara and Ben are in their late 70s, still busy and active. Over the years they have spent a lot of money remodeling their home. They have tried to sell, but have not found a buyer who will meet their price. They’ve decided to stay right where they are and age in place.
Really bad idea. This is not the kind of home in which to be aging in place
Ben and Sara are isolated in their home. When the power goes out, that huge gate won’t open and there is no other ingress/egress. When they’re no longer able to drive, they will be completely isolated. Their nearest neighbors live another half mile away, up more winding roads. Their three grown children all live on the east coast.
Maintenance on their 40 acres is becoming a burden
They have a gardener, but Ben does a lot of the work himself. He enjoys the physical effort, including fussing over his tomatoes, olives and grapes. He knows, however, that he is doing less and aching more. While Ben and Sara are financially secure, maintaining their property is a constant drain.
Ben and Sara would be better off taking a financial loss, selling their estate and buying a smaller home or cottage in Napa where they can safely grow old within walking distance of the library, cafes and activities.
Choosing to stay in your own home can be an expensive proposition
Despite the costs, the United States Aging Survey shows that many Americans age 65 and older say they want to stay right where they are, in the homes where it’s comfortable and familiar. But to age in place successfully, it’s often necessary to remodel your home to make it safer.
How will you age?
Consider how you might age before remodeling your house to accommodate life after retirement. Although medical advances and improved diets are keeping seniors healthy and active longer, the years inevitably take their toll. Eyesight and hearing may worsen; it may be difficult to navigate stairs, step over a threshold or climb into a bathtub. It’s not unlikely that at some point you will require a walker or a wheelchair. If arthritis is in your gene pool, you could have difficulty grasping and turning doorknobs.
Falling is a concern as we become less steady on our feet
Seniors dread falling, as old bones heal slowly. Replacing a hip or knee requires a long recovery period. Removing potential hazards is critical to home safety for aging seniors.
What remodeling do you need to age in place?
In the same way that you baby-proof a home, you need to age-proof it for seniors. You might not need as big of a house as you think. If you live in a two-story home, you may want to move to a smaller home on a single level. You may think about remodeling that second floor to make room for a family member or friend to live with you as a caretaker.
Some common remodeling projects for those considering aging in place
Install non-slip flooring. Falls are a leading cause of death and injury for older Americans. Replace the floor with a nonslip surface or install nonslip rugs.
Walk-in tub or shower installations. Making a bathroom safer may require a walk-in tub or shower.
Wider doorways for wheelchairs. According to the ADA, doorways should be at least 32 inches to make room for a wheelchair or walker.
Installing a ramp. A ramp will make entering your home in a wheelchair more manageable.
Install stair lifts or handrails. A stair lift for someone who can no longer access upper levels of a house is an important consideration.
Change faucets to levers. A small thing, but a big difference maker to someone with crippling arthritis.
Bathroom remodeling. Remodeling a bathroom quickly gets expensive. Making room for a wheelchair can mean new plumbing and electrical.
Lower the kitchen countertops. Those in wheelchairs will need to have cabinets and counters lowered.
Creating a Living Trust is an important part of financial planning