Aging In Place

Our friends at SES Insurance Brokerage Services just published the 2nd Quarter Newsletter with a great article from our very own Jane Hampton.  We have reposted the full article below or you can read it in the SES Insurance Brokerage Services 2nd Quarter Newsletter.

Baby boomers are changing how and where they are choosing to grow old. Studies show that individuals over 65 don’t relocate unless they have to. As people grow older, it is common to lose mobility and to be affected by various health concerns – as a result, homeowners often find that their homes cannot accommodate their changing needs. So what are their options? They can move into a facility where they will receive greater care and have built in accommodations for their physical needs, they can sell their home and relocate to one with more accessible features, or they can make the necessary adjustments to their existing home. Naturally, many individuals are inclined to stay in their homes – despite the challenges that this presents. In fact, in a study by the AARP in 2000, 83% of individuals over the age of 45 stated that they plan to remain in their homes for as long as possible.

The choice to remain living at home, with the addition of any necessary accommodations, is called “aging in place,” and it is becoming more prevalent as baby boomers begin to enter this stage of life. Many people are choosing to incorporate design features and products that will not only accommodate their needs today, but allow flexibility for any short term or permanent health conditions that they may be affected by in the future. And the reality is, adding accessible features to a home at any stage is an investment in the home, as well as in the quality of life of the homeowner.

This movement towards aging in place is starting to have a significant impact on the housing market, as well as the housing needs for our aging population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals over the age of 65 is expected to grow rapidly between the years 2010 and 2030, resulting in an approximate increase of 36% from the year 2000. It is anticipated that the availability of accessible home options will fall far short in meeting this growing need. This means that not only will seniors have a difficult time finding accessible homes to which they can relocate; they will also have a difficult time selling their home, as the younger generation will have fewer potential buyers. With this in mind, the concept of aging in place naturally becomes more desirable and practical.

When many people think of aging in place, images of grab bars and ramps come to mind. While these items are often used to make a home accessible, the foundation of an accessible home lies in much simpler features that can, and should, be incorporated any time a home is remodeled. With the correct architectural features in place, individuals of all ages and abilities can live comfortably for years. And as necessary, grab bars and other product solutions can be added with much greater ease and much less cost. For this reason, it is never too early to consider broadening the usability of a home by building in accessible features.

When modifying an existing home to incorporate aging in place features, it is essential to work with professionals who are experienced with this specialty area of design. A team of designers, architects, home access specialists and occupational therapists, with the knowledge and resources necessary to meet this challenge, can help create flexible, livable environments that will endure the natural progression of a lifetime. Their expertise is invaluable for implementing an effective plan to eliminate mistakes and avoid substantial cost overruns made by contractors and individuals unfamiliar with aging in place concepts.

For many seniors, a health crisis often forces them to face these decisions when they realize their home is not flexible enough to accommodate their changing physical needs. Rather than waiting for an urgent need to arise, a person who is over 35 and interested in staying in their home forever should consider incorporating basic accessible features any time they are making modifications or repairs to their home. By investing the time to evaluate their home at a young age and find creative solutions to increase flexibility, they will improve usability in their home today and save money in the long run. The result will be a home that increases independence and safety, while maintaining beauty and ease of maintenance, and most importantly, avoiding premature relocation.

- By Jane Hampton

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