When you or a loved one is nearing retirement, you may be eager to do things you haven’t had time to do, such as traveling or taking up a new hobby. You may also be trying to decide where you want to spend your golden years. If you’re like 77% of adults aged 50 or older, you’d prefer to remain in your home and age in place for the long term.
Staying in a familiar setting is crucial to many seniors, but aging in place isn’t always easy when a home isn’t designed for senior living. However, this doesn’t mean you have to go the institutional route. You can still retain your independence while aging in place in a safe environment equipped for your changing needs. While you could adapt your current home to make it more aging-friendly, remodeling can be difficult and expensive. Instead, consider buying a home already adapted for safety and comfort as you grow older in a senior-friendly neighborhood.
By 2030, all baby boomers will be aged 65 or older, affectionately dubbed the “Silver Tsunami.” Per the U.S. Census Bureau, a projected one in every five Americans will be of retirement age and potentially seeking their Sunset Homes.
If you’re looking for the ideal residence to age in place, this guide covers what you can look for in a home you plan to spend the rest of your life in and the different types of homes that might be available. This guide also covers tips on hiring experts to help with the buying and moving process and options for paying for a retirement home.
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Where Should You Age in Place?
When contemplating aging in place, you must also consider the ideal location. Do you prefer a rural or urban environment? Do you want an apartment, condo, or house? They all have pros and cons to think about.
Rural areas have become increasingly popular for the quieter, slower pace of life they offer. However, aging in place in rural communities often brings unique challenges, with the most significant drawback being the lack of vital services. Conversely, urban areas provide numerous amenities that help seniors retain their independence. However, those who grew up in rural communities may not enjoy the pace of big-city life.
Another consideration is your preferred type of residence. Apartments tend to have less maintenance than a house, but you may prefer the privacy you get living in your own home.
Environmental Considerations for Aging in Place
While the home you choose for aging in place is essential, you must also consider the area and what it offers older adults. A few crucial things to consider about the environment include:
- Walkable, well-lit neighborhoods are essential for exercise or visiting nearby amenities.
- Readily available, safe public transportation is critical if driving becomes more difficult.
- Safe neighborhoods with low crime rates encourage physical activity and socializing with neighbors.
- Accessible amenities such as restaurants, stores, banks and other essential services within easy walking distance help support continued independence.
- Social opportunities are crucial for cognitive, mental and physical health, so cultural, religious or entertainment venues should be nearby.
- Accessible health care with adequate hospitals, primary care doctors and specialists ensures seniors get the care they need to remain healthy.
- Plentiful support services such as meals on wheels, home health care, adult day care and other caregiving support can become important.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Where to Age in Place
The best environment for aging in place depends on your personal situation. Everyone has unique needs to ensure their ongoing comfort, safety and happiness. Ask yourself what you need in a community or neighborhood to make aging in place easier. To get started, consider the following questions:
- Are the sidewalks wide, level and uncracked with an easy grade throughout the neighborhood to encourage walking?
- Can you visit a neighbor without driving your car?
- Does the area offer easy access to public transportation?
- How close is the nearest grocery store, pharmacy and other business that sells everyday items?
- What are the nearby hospitals like and how close are they?
- Will you have reasonable access to senior organizations, volunteer opportunities and various social activities?
- Is the neighborhood close to family and friends?
- Is the home near an airport that makes it easy for you to visit family and friends who are not local?
- Is the neighborhood safe, meaning would you feel comfortable being out at night in the area?
- Does the area offer weather services such as debris removal and snow plowing?
- Does the home require you to climb exterior stairs or have a long walk to your car?
Senior Apartments Versus Retirement Communities for Aging in Place
Senior apartments and retirement communities are popular options for aging in place. While senior apartments may also include condos and townhouses, retirement communities often include single-family homes, condos and townhouses. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) may consist of a combination of the three plus apartments or suites. Most of these senior living options are age-restricted, with 55 and older common, but 62 and over the norm for some communities.
Senior apartments traditionally don’t include any services, so no level of care is provided. These communities typically house healthy, older adults living independently. Senior apartments often offer age-friendly accommodations with an elevator, various safety features and handicap-accessible units. Resort-style luxury apartments for seniors are often larger, higher priced and provide upscale amenities.
The level of care offered in retirement communities can vary from none in independent living environments to a full continuum of care in CCRCs.
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