Here are things to consider if you want to age in retirement

Here are things to consider if you want to age in retirement

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There’s no place like home — especially at your age.

Most adults age 50 and older — 77% — want to stay in their homes for a long time, according to AARP.

Yet many put off necessary improvements and upgrades to their homes to do just that.

“People might say, ‘I want to age in place as the default plan, because that’s what I do,'” says Carol Chiang, CEO of Evolving Homes, a company that provides personal consulting for to individuals and families who want to age. in the area.

“But they never thought, ‘Well, what does that mean?'” Chiang said.

Chiang’s clients generally fall into three categories – those with urgent needs after a first fall or other emergency, those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and those who are active adults who plan ahead. .

“They’re the ones who know that if they ignore something on the front end, they’ll pay double on the back end,” Chiang said of the latter category. “And I hope everything is like that.”

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Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and physician who helps clients prepare financially for retirement, recently took her own advice when she sought Chiang’s help for herself. that house.

“She made us think about what an aging-friendly bathroom would look like,” McClanahan said, noting that since she and her husband don’t have children they wanted to get an early jump on the idea. planning for their senior years.

“People usually change their homes every 10, 15, 20 years,” McClanahan, a member of the FA Council told CNBC. “So making sure — especially when you hit your 50s and 60s — that you change it … makes it easier for you to stay at home as you get older.”

The costs of upgrades required by the area’s age can vary, experts said. Chiang said he’s seen bathroom upgrade prices vary widely within Florida, where his practice is based.

Curt Kiriu, an aging-in-place specialist and president of CK Independent Living Builders in Mililani, Hawaii, also said costs can vary based on location. While Kiriu does most of his work on Oahu, the surrounding islands may face some challenges in finding cost-effective access to materials and contractors.

A home renovation for aging in place can range from $30,000 on the low end to $80,000, according to Chiang, depending on the scope of the project and where you live.

“On a very basic level, thinking about a renovation, you should budget at least $70,000,” Chiang said.

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The advantage is that it’s a one-time cost to renovate a home, Kiriu said. By comparison, the annual national median cost for a private room in a nursing home is about $108,000, according to Genworth.

Upgrades can also increase the value of your home, according to Chiang. Some estimates point to universal design features — such as wide doors and hallways and step-free entry — adding up to 30% to a home’s value, he said.

“That will probably go up as more and more boomers age,” Chiang said.

To make sure your home upgrade is successful, experts say it’s wise to keep several things in mind.

Get started as soon as possible

Home upgrades to support greater mobility may be considered necessary only for older residents.

But some situations — such as infants with strollers or a child who breaks their leg skiing — may prompt an immediate need for quick access to the home, he said. said Chiang.

“My recommendation is generally that people should start thinking about aging in place when they buy their first home,” Chiang said.

When making upgrades to a home, think about function, not just design, he advises. Access to your home without the need for stairs, or an easy-to-enter shower, will make your life easier, he says.

Even if you don’t stay in the home, those changes will benefit the next residents.

“You’re helping other people who might also need those kinds of spaces,” Chiang said.

Think beyond the bathroom

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When people want to make their homes more accessible, the first place they think of is usually the bathroom, according to Kiriu.

“But the truth is, you need accessible entry first, because if you can’t get into your house, what’s inside doesn’t really matter,” Kiriu said.

To determine the specific changes you may need, consider seeking professional help. That could be from a certified aging-in-place specialist, or CAPS, through the National Association of Home Builders, or an occupational or physical therapist.

Kiriu, who holds the CAPS designation, said he usually conducts an evaluation by watching a person walk through their home to see where they struggle. If there are rub marks where it often touches the wall for support, that may require installing a grab bar or other support.

“It’s like detective work when you do an inspection of someone’s house, to see where exactly they put their hands to strengthen themselves,” Kiriu said.

Removing a bathtub and installing a curbless shower can help provide full access in and out of the shower, he says.

Exactly how much a bathroom or other home upgrade costs can vary, Kiriu said. For example, when cleaning an entire bathroom, you may see water damage or termite damage that can make the job more extensive. That’s also for older homes that may need additional work to bring plumbing or electrical wiring up to code.

Even before seeking professional help, there’s another step homeowners can take to make their homes easier and safer: Get rid of excess clutter, says Thomas West, senior partner at Signature Estate and Investment Advisors in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

“Somebody’s going to have to get rid of it sooner or later,” West said.

Have a contingency plan

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Home upgrades aren’t the only adjustment you need to age the place. You also need a financial plan, experts say.

“I tell people, as soon as you think about it, start planning for it,” McClanahan said. “Make sure you know the logistics and costs.”

Most of the maintenance costs and home modifications you need will depend on your condition.

Because your physical circumstances can change, it’s also helpful to have a contingency plan in place if it no longer makes sense to stay in your home, McClanahan says.

There may be break-even points to use as a guide. For example, if you need more than six hours a day of home care, moving to an assisted living facility may be cheaper, she said.

The cost of care can also vary by location.

Chiang says she advises creating a back-up plan by visiting local nursing communities in your area and making a list of what you want in case you need more care.

“I always tell people you don’t have to have an answer,” Chiang said. “But you have to have a general idea of ​​a plan.”

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