When we would visit my husband’s parents at their Independent Retirement Community, as we walked along the corridor leading from their apartment to the dining area, we always got the sense of being in a very high-end hotel. The whole atmosphere was very sedate. The sounds of classical music or the voices of NPR on the radio were virtually the only sounds to be heard. This was typical of their compliant generation. I often commented to my husband that when our generation arrived at the point of living there the walls would be pulsating with rock music played very loudly in order to be heard at all. The dining room would have “Pizza Night” and feature a jukebox. Such would be the difference between generations.
Instead, there has been a whole paradigm shift. Baby Boomers are not thinking of moving into such residences – they plan to age in place, in other words, stay in their own homes as long as possible. There are several reasons for this shift. For one thing, this is the generation that was never going to grow old! This is also a much less compliant generation than any previous one. The thought of voluntarily moving into an institutional setting is repugnant. Another factor is the change in the economy in the last few years. For many of us the value of our homes and our investments have plummeted. So, for all these reasons there is now a groundswell of interest in aging in place rather than removing to a senior residence.
However, not every house is suitable for remaining in until we are ready to relinquish it, and, at some point, each of us will need some sort of assistance, either in the form of technology or an actual caregiver.
So, here is where the discussion begins about the challenges and the solutions to aging in place in your home.
The “You Are Here” Point
This is the time to think about the prospects of you and your home serving each other well as you both continue to age. Each of you is likely to become increasingly expensive. Which of you is aging faster – you or your home? If you live alone can you handle the maintenance chores by yourself? Do you have family members or outside people you can hire to do these for you? Does your home need extensive repairs? Can it meet your needs if you someday need to use a walker or wheel chair? Sometimes the answer to these questions is “no” but there are no other options. But, then again, maybe there are. Would you consider sharing your home with someone? Could you rent out a spare room? Can you stand to have the next generation living with you? Are there some creative ways of financing the repairs or renovations you might need?