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Can I Safely Age in Place?

McNair Dallas Law

Happy Senior couple holding a model of a house - aging in place.

As with anything in life, our individual preferences and circumstances will vary. Some may want to ‘age in place,’ while others may need to consider other housing options.

The ability to age in place — or live in your own home or community as you age — is based on health, home accessibility, social support, and financial considerations. Therefore, it’s important to carefully assess your unique situation and make informed decisions about aging in place or other housing options based on specific needs and circumstances.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Six Key Housing Factors to Consider as You Age,” advises that where you live when you retire takes planning. As you weigh intentional aging in place vs. moving as you age, there are several key considerations to consider:

Can you easily move around inside and leave your home? Unfortunately, most of our homes weren’t built with the needs of aging seniors in mind. Safety and accessibility become more critical as you get older. Home modifications like removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, widening doorways, and adding ramps are just a few things you may require for intentional aging in place. If you have a two-story home, aging in place can be more complicated.  Safely navigating the stairs may become difficult, so you may need to consider relocating the most used to the ground floor.  If you are considering moving, look for a home designed to accommodate your current and potential future mobility and accessibility needs.

Do you have a network of friends and family? Studies have shown that social isolation is detrimental to your health. Intentional aging in place requires developing and expanding your network of family, friends, neighbors and community resources like social clubs, senior centers and religious communities. If you plan to move, look at the availability of social support networks in the new location.

Do you have access to healthcare? This is crucial for older adults. Look at the proximity and availability of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities and pharmacies. If you’re moving, research the healthcare services available under your insurance plan to ensure that you can continue to access your plan or find out if you will need new insurance and doctors.  If you are considering a move to another state, you may want to learn about the Medicaid program in that state, in case nursing home care is needed in the future.

Do you have transportation? Some seniors stop driving for their safety and the safety of others. Whether you’re intentionally aging in place or moving, consider the availability of public transportation, rides from family and friends, the walkability of the neighborhood, proximity to essential services such as grocery stores and access to transportation alternatives like Uber and Lyft.

How are your finances? Carefully assess your financial situation when deciding whether to age in place or move. Think about the cost of home modifications, property taxes, maintenance costs and potential changes in your financial situation, such as increased healthcare and long-term care costs. If you’re moving, research the cost of living in the new area, including housing costs, taxes and home care costs.  It is wise to consult with a Certified Financial Professional who can advise you about budgeting and other concerns.

Can someone help you if you lose your physical or cognitive capacity? It’s essential to consider both your current and potential future care needs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of adults 65 and older will need long-term care in their lifetime, with men typically needing 2.2 years of care and women requiring 3.7 years. In addition, intentional aging in place may require additional support for activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, dressing and meal preparation. If you choose to age in place or move, research the availability of Meals on Wheels, home maintenance services, healthcare providers, home healthcare services, family caregivers, long-term care services and senior living communities.

Assess your current and future needs for home accessibility, social support, healthcare access, transportation, financial considerations and personal health and care needs. Don’t neglect your emotional well-being in your future planning. It is wise to meet with an experienced elder law estate planning attorney to ensure you have an effective plan in case you become incapacitated, including advance care directives and long-term care insurance.

Finally, share your plans with family members, beneficiaries, healthcare professionals, elder law attorneys and financial advisers, so they can carry out your healthcare, legal and financial wishes if you become incapacitated.

Reference: Kiplinger (May 25, 2023) “Six Key Housing Factors to Consider as You Age”

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