May 30, 2020
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Home your own way

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
March 8, 2019

Aging in place (living at home for as long as possible as you age) has been understood by many as staying in the original house where you’ve spent most of your life. But that is changing. Today, older adults have many options when it comes to choosing what “home” looks like as they age.

Recent research from Home Instead, Inc., shows that 94 percent of senior homeowners wish to live in their own home as they age.

And most seniors believe that it is possible, with 86 percent of seniors reporting that they will most likely be able to live in their current or new home as they age. Regardless of location (in their current or new home), aging in place remains a top desire for many seniors. It is the freedom and independence that comes from determining what “home” means to them that many seniors seek. While 12 percent of seniors say nothing – such as mobility, cognitive or medical problems – could make them decide they cannot live in their own home as they age, a growing number of seniors are opting to take that comfort and familiarity with them to a new place that is better suited to aging.

Today, one in four seniors is planning to find a new home where they can age in place. As seniors age, “home” may look different depending on the situation – from staying in the current house or moving to a new community. Home Instead, Inc. sought to better understand how seniors are making plans and decisions about their forever homes, and where there may be gaps in planning. In November 2018, Home Instead, Inc. surveyed 1,000 North American homeowners aged 55-75 years to dive into this topic in more detail.

The emotional element of home for older adults is being able to stay in a home of their choosing is extremely meaningful and deeply personal. More than half of seniors (54 percent) say they would be heartbroken if they could no longer live at home. Additionally, 43 percent state that they would feel old, while one in three say they would feel frightened aging somewhere other than home.

The majority of seniors cite comfort and familiarity as key factors in wanting to age in place. Sixty-six percent believe their home is where they will be most comfortable physically and emotionally, and 53 percent believe they will stay healthier longer in their own home.

Loneliness is also a concern for aging seniors. Two-thirds of seniors (67 percent) believe that loneliness or isolation impacts their decision in some way on where to live while aging.

With that fear in mind, it is not surprising that if living in their home was no longer an option, 40 percent of seniors say they would choose to live in an independent senior living community and 27 percent would choose to live in a relative’s home.

Staying put: Adapting and maintaining the current home two-thirds of seniors (68 percent) wish to live in their current home as they age while also remaining independent.

For most, this is an emotional decision. Nearly four of five (78 percent) respondents say they wish to remain at home simply because their current home and community are where they feel happy and comfortable.

Moreover, some have already identified the physical characteristics they feel would make their decision to age at home possible, such as single-level living (49 percent) and low cost and ease of maintenance (43 percent).

Still, many have work to do if they would like to make the dream of staying in their current home a reality. Of those who want to stay in their current home as they age, one in three has given minimal to no thought to things needed to enable living in the same home while aging (23 percent say “not too much thought” and 13 percent say “none at all”). 64 percent of those wishing to remain in their current home have thought about age-friendly modifications they will need to make.

Moving home: Finding a new home to age in place, a growing number of older adults who wish to age at home are selecting a new home in which to do so. And many of these seniors have given more thought to their changing needs than those who intend to stay in their current home.

Of those who want to age in a new home, 85 percent have taken time to consider the age-friendly features they will want in a new home, while only 64 percent of those wishing to remain in their current home have thought about age-friendly modifications they will need to make. 

A third of seniors wishing to relocate desire a smaller, low maintenance home as they age, with 34 percent wanting to move to a condo, apartment or townhome/duplex. However, nearly half (48 percent) still want a single-family home. Among seniors who plan to move to a new home, two-thirds (66 percent) would prefer to relocate to a new community.

The primary desire to move is convenience, with top desired features in a new community being in proximity to places they like to visit (57 percent) and limited driving (54 percent). Secondary desires for a new community are focused on personal connections, including being close to family and friends (52 percent) and part of a community with activities for seniors (49 percent).

The most desired features in a new home include single floor living (85 percent), easy (84 percent) or low-cost (83 percent) maintenance, safe location (77 percent) and close proximity to familiar places (70 percent). Only one in four (27 percent) indicated they wanted to find a home that is accessible for those with mobility challenges.

Desired features in new home 

Single floor living 85 percent

Easy maintenance 84 percent 

Low cost maintenance 83 percent 

Safe location 77 percent 

Close proximity to familiar places 70 percent

Accessible for those with mobility challenges 27 percent

Seniors who want to move to a new home to age in place are also prepared to invest more to make the home an age-friendly place. Those interested in investing in a new home expect to pay approximately $22K to ensure it has desired features they need. However, those who want to stay in their current home as they age only feel they should plan to pay approximately $10K to make their home age-friendly.

Nearly half of all seniors have taken no action to ensure that they will be able to live in their home as they age.  Home Instead Senior Care of Sonoma County has cultivated resources to help you navigate these options. Call our office to speak with one of compassionate and knowledgeable care consultants who can share with you highly respected choices such as Legacy Concierge Services.

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.