The word “home” has personal meaning for most people. A home may convey a sense of family, security, comfort, independence and even financial freedom.
Often as we age, transitions in our lives may directly impact our housing choices.
Divorce or loss of a spouse may prompt us to look for a home that better suits our individual needs.
Changes in our health status—the onset of an illness or disability— may trigger the need for a different type of living arrangement.
A desire to live closer to family sometimes means a move.
Entering retirement often gives individuals the freedom to make new housing choices.
And changes in financial status often influence decisions on the type of lifestyle and home we can sustain.
According to Christine Kennedy of the Institute for Age-Friendly Housing, “Individuals in the second half of life often do not consider housing changes until at least one life transition occurs.”
In an AARP poll, 80 percent of those over 50 say they want to age in place, or remain in their own home, as they grow older. Being surrounded by friends, family, doctors, religious organizations and familiar places to eat and shop are compelling reasons to stay in the home we love.
But is remaining at home until the end a viable option?
Retiring at age 58, Emil and his wife, Barbara, moved from the home where they raised their three daughters to a one-story, three bedroom cottage in a new community. Before moving, they spent a great deal of time researching their decision and stayed in the new community a number of weekends to make sure it was the right choice.
The move served them well for more than 20 years.
Eight years ago Emil was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In the past few years, as he became increasingly less mobile, Emil needed the support of his wife for most of his daily activities. Unfortunately, the couple lived three hours away from their nearest child.
Their daughters did some research and suggested four options: Modify the home and hire a paid caregiver, move to an age 55-plus community near a daughter, move to an assisted living facility or move in with one of the daughters.
The couple weighed the pros and cons as well as the long-term costs of each option.
Eighteen months ago Emil and Barbara moved to an age 55-plus community, five minutes from one of their daughters. The decision has been a great one: Barbara has help caring for Emil, their new home is easier for Emil to navigate in his wheelchair and walker, and the couple enjoy socializing and sharing meals with their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
Those who say they plan to age in place need to consider how life transitions might affect their choices. Waiting to think about this until one of these transitions occurs limits our options and may rob of us of the sense of family, security, comfort and independence that makes our house a home.