Aging in Place
Most aging Americans agree that the best place to spend your latter years is in your own home. In a recent AARP survey, 85% of respondents said, "What I would really like to do is stay in my current residence and local community as long as possible." This is known as “aging in place.”
Experts agree that there are four elements for successfully aging in place:
1. financial stability
2. reasonably good physical health
3. a strong, unpaid, informal support network
4. knowledge of how to find and use the Aging Network.
Because the last two factors are impacted by where you live, staying in your current community where you are known and know others makes a lot of sense.
Here are three things to do now if you want to age in place:
1. Evaluate your housing needs. Medical and housing expenses are the greatest costs associated with aging. Housing is typically largest expense for a 65+ household, making up 35-45% of expenses and will be on the high end if there are mortgage or rent payments. Research shows that downsizing to a smaller home requiring less equity or lower expenses can reduce overall living expenses by up to 30%. Whether you stay in your current home or downsize, you can find suggestions on home modifications for aging in place at the Aging Network website.
2. Reevaluate your budget. Take a close, realistic review of your assets and expected living expenses. Is your current income sufficient to meet your normal monthly expenses? If not, what is the gap? Do you have assets to supplement your income? The possibility of spending down assets, including the equity in your house, needs to be evaluated in the beginning to ensure you do not overspend in your earlier years, leaving insufficient resources for your later years.
3. Be prepared for rising healthcare costs. Your final years are the most expensive. Lifetime healthcare cost includes the cost of traditional Medicare, which is projected to be more than $250,000 for a 65-year-old couple today. Over 70% of eligible adults will also need some type of long-term services in addition to Medicare; costs like nursing home care or in-home nursing. Talk to a financial planner or an elder care attorney to make sure you have all your healthcare bases covered.
4. Resolve to stay connected and active. Healthy aging in place means living at home, but not sitting at home. Being connected to others is a critical factor in maintaining good mental health and helping you live like you're not alone. And a strong network of family, friends, neighbors, and faith and civic organizations can offer support during periods of short-term illness, surgery, or medical treatment. Something as simple as having a neighbor who can walk your dog for you goes a long way toward providing the help you need to get through short-term issues.
The four elements of successful aging are inter-related and should be considered in total. Involve your family in assessing your options and seek the professional assistance of a financial advisor or an elder care attorney who can help you make the best decisions. Know that you are not in this alone; there are resources available to assist you with whatever issues you are currently facing.