As you’re heading toward retirement, there are a variety of terms you may come across. Annuities, required minimum distributions and full retirement age — all of these things to consider can feel overwhelming. Aging in place may be a term you’ve come across, but you might not know exactly what it means. Essentially, aging in place is the ability to stay in your home and community as you age, regardless of any other factors — including income and ability level. Aging in place is an option many would like to have, but it does take some planning.
For help building a plan for your own aging process, consider working with a financial advisor.
What Is Aging in Place?
Aging in place is a term that describes the desire of retirees and seniors to “live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” according to the CDC.
This is incredibly common for seniors. A 2021 survey from the AARP showed that 77% of adults over 50 wanted to stay in their homes long-term. Even if they want to move, they want to do so independently and comfortably.
To age in place, you need to take steps to plan for the future — including figuring out if your current home is a good option for you to grow old in. It also means overcoming obstacles involving transportation and quality of life.
Questions You Need to Answer
To figure out your own plan for your life as you get older, you’ll need to address a number of questions — and to be brutally honest with yourself. Here are some things to consider:
Is Your Current Home Right for You?
There may be many things about your home that you love, but aging in place requires you to think about your home logically. For instance, location is a huge factor. Let’s say your home is located in the country, far away from services and amenities. As you get older, trips to the doctor, to visit family and to get groceries can be more challenging. The location of your home, as well as transportation options, need to be considered.
You also need to consider your home’s layout and style. As you get older, things like stairs can be a problem. Other things to consider include your entryway and the size of your hallways. If you or your spouse need to use a walker or wheelchair, are your doorways wide enough? Will you be able to retrofit fixtures such as your shower to address mobility issues and reduce hazards?
Along with the layout and location, another piece to consider for aging in place is upkeep. For example, say you bought your current home in your 30s when you had multiple kids. With those kids out of the house, chances are you have more space (and more stuff) than you need. The work to maintain the house and the yard can be tiring. It may make more sense to sell your home or turn it into an investment property.
Do You Want to Live in a Retirement Community?
Retirement communities are specifically designed for older people. They can make aging in place much more feasible, as they provide you the space to live independently and safely. In fact, pre-planned retirement communities are more livable than naturally occurring communities, according to a study from Harvard University.
That means that planned retirement communities offer better amenities, transportation and opportunities to seniors. They can also increase social opportunities, providing a better sense of community and belonging. Since these places are planned, access to healthcare, food and other essentials is usually easier.
What Should You Plan For?
If your goal is aging in place, you need to be realistic with yourself about what that means. You need to take steps to maintain your independence and try to predict what you’ll need before you need it. Your life can change quickly as you get older. A 50-year-old will have fewer needs than a 70-year-old. If you’re realistic about the challenges you may face, you can be more prepared to clear the obstacles.
Here are some changes you should be prepared for:
- Decrease in mobility and strength
- Reduced hearing and eyesight
- Less balance and agility
- Reduced mental and physical endurance
- Increased likelihood of accidents
While these can be tough things to come to terms with, ignoring them won’t help you avoid them. If you can plan for them, you can better ensure your quality of life and your likelihood to age independently.
What Will It Cost You?
As with all questions about growing older, one of the most important things to figure out is how you’ll make it work financially. You’ll need to cover medical expenses, of course, and all other basic costs that come along with life. Some of your healthcare costs may be covered by Medicare, but you may also have to pay for some things out-of-pocket, so having enough money set aside for all these costs is essential.
Resources like Benefits.gov and BenefitsCheckUp can help you find out about possible benefits you might qualify for. Also, the National Institutes of Health provides valuable tips and guidance on aging in place and related challenges.
The Bottom Line
Aging in place is a term used for describing how seniors want to live independently and comfortably on their own long term. That means avoiding assisted living and nursing care for as long as possible.
It’s a worthwhile goal for everyone. To act on it, you need to ask yourself some serious questions and think ahead.
Retirement Planning Tips
- If you’re thinking of moving to a retirement community, know it’s a huge financial decision. You don’t have to make it alone. A financial advisor can help you navigate the process, and we can help you find one. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Before you retire, you should have a thought-out retirement income strategy. This strategy will help you draw from multiple income sources. Review our helpful guide to retirement income planning strategies.
- If you have multiple retirement accounts, such as your 401(k) and IRAs, the last one you want to withdraw from is your Roth IRA. That’s because it will be able to grow tax-free for as long as possible.
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