A popular retirement plan used to be: invest in a home, wait until the kids move out, sell it and downsize. Some goals included a purchasing a single level home, little to no yard, or paying cash for the new home. Our current economy has proved it isn’t a fail-safe plan.
Even though a large home can become a chore to maintain, down-sizing isn’t the best option for all seniors. Here is a story about a couple who doubled the size of their home, and one of the greatest perks they found was they now have room for the grand-kids.
Another one of the factors for this couple was the locality. As we age, the need for community and activities doesn’t decrease—but sometimes our ability to get there does. Seniors don’t always want to rely on someone else to drive them.
Location is another thing to consider when rightsizing, if the senior loves to be part of the bustle of a city—look for homes within walking distance of parks, community centers or open air markets, etc.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding the “right size” is cost. It may be more equitable to install a stair-lift than to move. If your current home is the right size and just needs some modifications, consider universal design.
Simply put, it means accessible to as many people as possible. If you are planning a remodel, considering universal design is a very profitable provision for your future whether you ever sell it or not. Even if you do not age in place in your home, the resale appeal will specifically target a growing market (an American turns 50 years old every 7 seconds) as well as many others.
AARP.org outlines the most important elements of universal design:
• No-step entry: You should have at least one step-free entrance (either at the front, back, or side of the house) so everyone, including wheelchair users, can enter the home easily and safely.
• Wide doorways and hallways: A doorway that is at least 36 inches wide is great when you’re bringing home a new mattress or couch, but it’s even better when someone you care for, or a regularly visiting friend or family member, is in a wheelchair. Also, hallways that are 42 inches wide are good for multigenerational family members with varying “mobilities.”
• One-floor living: Access to essential rooms without the use of stairs makes life more convenient and safe for residents ages 0 to 100.
• Easily accessible controls and switches: A person in a wheelchair can reach light switches that are 42-48 inches above the floor. Thermostats should be placed no higher than 48 inches off the floor, and electrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor. Keep these measurements in mind when modifying your home.
• Easy-to-use handles: Consider replacing twist/turn doorknobs and faucets with lever-style handles for (painless) ease of use.
Whether your home is large or small, don’t forget to check out our Pinterest account for inspiration to make your space count. You’ll find ideas like turning a closet into an office on our Aging in Place Board.