If you have been following our blog for some time, you know that we have covered what a lifelong home is and directed readers to the AARP HomeFit Guide for some ideas on how to achieve one. In lieu of a very recent article from The Washington Post, we are revisiting the topic with some modern-day cost considerations.
Just one week ago, an article titled ‘For baby boomers, age-proofing a home doesn’t come cheap’ outlined the ‘financial crunch’ that seniors face, as well as its implications for aging in place. According to a new report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, households aged 65 and older are facing all-time high cost burdens, largely due to higher debt later in life on account of the Great Recession. Over half of those aged 65-79 still had a mortgage in 2016; student loan debt and credit card debt is now being carried into retirement by many as well. Economist James Gaines from Texas A&M University attributes these debt trends to downsizing in the labor market and employers letting go of older people first. While this data may or may not come as a surprise to you… let’s talk about what it means for the anticipation of a lifelong home.
According to The Washington Post read, most Baby Boomers have no desire to live with relatives or move-in to a care facility (yet) as their predecessors did. While design and construction firms are catering to the concept of an ‘age-defying’ home, the financial concerns noted above will make this dream an unattainable challenge for many. What exactly does an age-friendly home look like? Ideally, its one story with a flat lot. Other home adaptations and cost vary greatly – including but not limited to: widened doorways for assistive devices, lowered light switches for wheelchair access, grab bar installations, handicap accessible bathroom remodels (think a roll in shower), caregiver quarters for live-in care (such as apartments over garages), kitchen renovations… the list goes on. One example provided in the article cited a cost of $300,000 in modifications in a $700,000 home.
Even if you can afford to turn your home into an age-defying feat… how will that impact its long-term value and salability? Will you spend tens of thousands on upgrades you will never need? Or will you decide to forego any modifications… but risk having to move when faced with sudden health changes (an already stressful time period wrought with its own costs)?
There is no one right answer for everyone, but many would prefer a middle-ground option – such as buying a one-story home or single level condo in the community they already know and love. With the costs of aging in place coming to light, we hope to see more affordable senior housing near city centers, more suburban senior housing and other options that meet the needs of our aging population today and in the years to come.
All my best,
Bobbi Decker & Associates fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. For more information, please visit: http://portal.hud.gov/