Growing Old Gracefully…and at Home

 

October 2, 2013

 

As we get older, we often have to deal with health and physical issues that make living independently a challenge. Yet studies show that most seniors, understandably, prefer to stay in their own homes as they age.


The question is – how can we do it?

 

PARTNERSINWEALTH sat down with an expert on the subject, Houston’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist Adele Cohen Segel, to get her thoughts on this difficult issue. Her first piece of advice is that if you want to age in an environment of your own choosing, be proactive.


“Plan your future before someone else does,” she says.


That means assessing your home for potential problems, and looking not just at current circumstances, but down the road.


“Even a vibrant 80-year-old is not going to become a 70-year-old,” Adele says. “She has to plan to become a 90-year-old.”


Important questions include:
•  Might I be widowed?
•  Might my spouse be impaired? Might I?
•  Will we want to accommodate an eventual full-time caregiver in the house?

 

Creating a safe, comfortable environment can often be done just as cost-efficiently at home as a move to a high-cost senior facility.   According to Adele, it starts with simple changes. Remove hazards such as loose carpeting or throw rugs. Consider adding skid resistant tile in bathrooms, and creating seamless transitions between rooms, showers and closets. Easy-to-pull door and cabinet knobs are available, as are glides to make drawers easy to open. Lights that turn on automatically when you enter the room can also be helpful.


Climbing stairs becomes a problem for many as they age. PARTNERSINWEALTH clients Bill and Sherry know this all too well. They recently had an architect draw up plans to add an elevator to their home. The cost of implementing the plans, $40,000-$50,000, is considerable. An even bigger consideration is the floor space that would be lost as a result. So they continue evaluating other options, such as adding a chair lift to the stairs. But they clearly want to stay at home.


“We are still left with the dilemma of what to do if we have to leave this home that we absolutely love,” Sherry says.


The important thing in such a situation is to weigh all the potential financial and emotional costs of staying and remodeling versus downsizing or moving into a senior facility. Adele had one client who moved from her home to an apartment in a senior community, primarily so she would have a way to get to social functions. But eventually the family had to hire 24/7 help for her anyway. As it turned out, it would have been less expensive if she had stayed in her home, hired transportation to events, and when the time came, brought in help at home.


Adele adds that when thinking about making changes to the home, its market value should be a consideration.


 “Should you make it aging-in-place ready,” she asks, “or update it in order to attract buyers when you’re ready to move on?


“Answer: you can do both.”


In other words, Adele believes aging-in-place strategies can be found that will add, not detract, from your home’s value.


More good news is that technology is making it easier for seniors to stay in their homes. There are emergency response buttons that can be triggered by the wearer if they need help. There are chair pads that can signal when they have not detected movement for a certain period of time. There is even telepresence technology that allows a friend or relative to be “with” a senior in a virtual sense, though they might be thousands of miles away. Development of such technology is sure to continue, and will aid both the safety and peace of mind of seniors and those who care about them.


If you would like specific advice on your aging-in-place situation, Adele would love to meet with you. Please visit her website at www.relocateandrenovate.com. And remember PARTNERSINWEALTH is here to help put you in control of the financial issues that aging-in-place raises. For more information, helpful guidance or professional assistance, please contact Jim Waters, CFP®, at PARTNERSINWEALTH , 713.964.4028 or jrw@partnersinwealth.com.