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March 5, 2019

Aging in Place

Your client wants to age in place. What’s your advice?

Aging America

There are over 46 million seniors in America, and they will be coming to you for help! By the 2030s, there will be more people over 65 than children. Folks aged 62-70 are the second-largest group of home sellers.  As a real estate professional, you need to be prepared to advise and counsel this growing and vulnerable group, as they will represent a larger and larger share of your practice. 

What do seniors want? Overwhelmingly, people prefer to age in place. We’ll take a look at what aging in place is, why people want to do it, how to do it, and what are some of the disadvantages. 

What is Aging in Place?

The goal of aging in place is to live in one’s own home as long as possible. People love their homes and don’t want to move. They know their home and feel comfortable there. 

The elderly know their neighborhood and are often fearful of relocating to a new area. They have favorite restaurants and beauty parlors. They played with their kids at the local parks. They’re familiar with the local grocery stores and depend on their doctors. Their friends and family often live nearby. They’ve known their neighbors for decades. 

Most people don’t want to give that up and move into some alien retirement home.

How to Age in Place

The trouble is, homes that were great for a people in their thirties and forties may be inappropriate for seniors. We must consider how people change with age, so we prepare the home for the future. Here are some common problems people can encounter as they grow older:
 
  • Decreased physical mobility- Seniors may need for a walker, cane, or wheelchair
  • Reduced balance - Trips and falls are more frequent and consequential for older folks. Falls are the top cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans
  • Arthritis - It can be challenging to open cabinets and certain door handles
  • Diminished energy level - Homes should be smaller and easier to maintain
  • Isolation - The elderly find it challenging to meet new people. Homes should be near a social network

With some planning, many homes can be modified to prepare them for their older occupants. It’s critical to make appropriate renovations before severe illness strikes. Remodels can be expensive and residents might need to move to a temporary home during construction. That’s not easy to manage once someone is already ill!

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is an excellent resource for aging in place modifications. Here are some of their suggestions:
 
  • A bedroom and full bathroom must be on the entry level
  • No steps between rooms on the same level and a no-step entry to the home
  • Hallways should be at least 36” wide
  • Lever handles or pedal-controlled faucets at the sinks and lever-handled doors throughout
  • Easy-open cabinets and upper cabinetry 3” below the conventional height
  • Adequate turning radius for wheelchairs in the kitchen, bathroom, and living areas
  • Grab bars in the bathroom
  • Easy-entry or roll-in shower
  • No-slip surfaces in the shower and entrance foyer
  • Sufficient lighting
  • Easy to use appliances and switches

The NAHB designates certain contractors as Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS). These contractors underwent specialized training in aging in place modifications and can help guide your clients’ home renovations.

Risks of Aging in Place

The main risk of aging in place is improper preparation. For example, if someone is living in a home without a full bathroom downstairs and they need an unanticipated surgery which limits their mobility for months, they may be unable to remain in their house. It’s critical that any senior considering living in their home long-term consult with an aging in place expert. Don’t be fooled! Just because your client feels great now, things change unexpectedly. They must prepare.

Seniors aging in place may be at risk for loneliness and isolation. Since most seniors aren’t at work or in school, it can be tough for them to meet new people. It is critical that the intended age in place home is near an extensive support system. Don’t depend on one or two nearby relatives! Kids move, and neighbors pass away. The senior might lose their ability to drive, making visiting others more difficult. As life will inevitably change, make sure that the homeowners have multiple friends or family nearby.

In-home care can be more complicated for people aging in place compared with those living in care facilities. Long-term care policies often have significant restrictions on in-home care, and seniors are advised to check their long-term care plans.

People with dementia or other forms of severe cognitive or physical impairment may be unable to remain in their own homes no matter how well they prepare. When Alzheimer’s or serious illness strikes, it may ultimately be necessary for a senior to move in with a caregiver or transfer to a memory care facility. 

Cognitive decline and profound disability are not inevitable components of aging. People live well into their 80s and 90s and two-thirds will never develop Alzheimer’s. As a real estate pro, you can help people enjoy long, fulfilling lives in the comfort of their own homes throughout their golden years. 

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