Aging in Place: Make Sure You’re Prepared

If you or a parent is approaching retirement, you have a lot of things to think about. One of the first things to decide is where you plan to live. Do you want to relocate to a warmer climate, move into a graduated-care retirement community, or stay in your family home?

Remaining in a stand-alone residence is a popular choice right now: three out of five current retirees have stayed in their homes, according to a 2015 survey from TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies. Almost the same proportion of workers approaching retirement—Americans over 50—expect to retire in their own homes. For some, staying at home is an economic choice; people are living longer, and retirement communities can be pricey. But for many, staying at home is an emotional choice that makes good sense. Aging in place allows you to maintain your existing support systems and remain in the home with which you’re familiar. If you plan to stay in your home, you should take some steps ahead of time to make sure that your retirement is safe, comfortable, and well supported.

Prepare Your Home

Although your home is comfortable for you now, it may become less so over time. Multi-level homes with lots of stairs, cramped bathrooms and kitchens, and narrow corridors can be difficult for older adults to navigate. Remodeling your house using “universal design” concepts can help ensure you will be able to live comfortably in your home as you age and your physical abilities change. Universal design strategies include opening up rooms, hallways, walkways, and doorways, installing non-slip flooring, outfitting bathrooms with walk-in showers and grab bars rather than step-in tubs, and adding ramps to homes that currently have entries with stairs. Some updates make life easier for all ages and abilities, like improving lighting and adding pull-out shelves and drawers in closets and kitchen cabinets. Relocating your master suite and laundry facilities to your home’s main floor is both trendy and practical, reducing the need to climb stairs.

If you’re thinking about doing some home remodeling, investigate the financial incentives that may be available to you, like energy tax credits for efficient products. Evaluate all of your options to fund the repairs, including a home equity line of credit (which can be beneficial to spend down assets as part of an overall retirement financial plan), a reverse mortgage, a VA loan, or paying out of pocket.

If you can’t or don’t want to remodel your current home to improve its long-term accessibility but want to spend your elder years in a home that is yours rather than in a retirement community, it might be a good time to downsize into a smaller home, move to a townhouse or condo with a property maintenance service, or move into a newer home with universal design features. If you are planning to move and leave your current home to your children or other beneficiaries, consider creating a trust to transfer ownership while protecting as much of its value as possible from negative tax consequences.

Plan for Changing Needs

It’s important to make plans to finance possible long-term in-home medical care as well as consider other needs that may increase over time. For example, you may become unable to drive yourself or your spouse to doctor’s appointments or social activities, even if you are still perfectly able to take care of yourself in your home. You may need extra assistance with labor-intensive tasks like housework, yardwork, or shopping or help with household management activities like bill paying, meal preparation, and communications with service providers.

Before you need additional help, make sure you consider how you will manage and pay for it, and develop a financial plan that provides you with appropriate income during your retirement. Ensure that your chosen, trusted representatives have the legal authority to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf by executing durable powers of attorney and other appropriate authorizations to allow them to best assist you. Consider long-term care insurance to help cover the cost of in-home medical assistance, and investigate reputable care providers before you need them; ask friends, relatives, and referral services for recommendations of high quality service providers who can help with household needs like repairs, home maintenance, and transportation.

Your retirement years can be some of the best years of your life! Creating a life care plan that allows you to maximize and preserve your assets is the best way to ensure that you have the resources you need to age in place with minimal financial stress.

Christopher J. Berry and the dedicated elder care team at Michigan’s Elder Care Law Firm can help you create a life care plan for yourself or your loved ones as retirement approaches. Contact us about coming to one of our free monthly life care planning seminars to learn more about how we can help you secure your assets, future, and peace of mind.

Click here for our caregivers guide to planning. 

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