Aging in place means being able to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably.
Some older people might consider moving into an assisted living facility or a newer home with amenities designed to make aging in place easier.
However, you may wish to stay in your own home and make changes so you’ll be comfortable there for the long run.
Before deciding whether to move or stay in your current home, consider these five hidden costs of aging in place.
The 5 hidden costs of aging in place
1. Updates to Your Home
Converting a home, especially an older home, could mean more than installing grab-bars and higher toilet seats. This is because needs change over time. You may need to make drastic updates to your home so you can continue to age in place safely. Consider the costs and continuing work of making the following changes:
- Slip-resistant showers and tubs, including curb-less showers and accommodating shower benches.
- Improved lighting and slip-resistant flooring throughout the house.
- Wider doors for walkers or wheelchairs.
- Revised handles on faucets, doors and cabinets for easy gripping.
- Closet doors that are easier to open.
- Ramps, stair lifts and electric stair climbers.
- Converted floorplans with a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor of the home.
- Hospital or adjustable beds and chairs to help you get up.
- Remodeled kitchens to provide easy-to-reach microwaves, sinks and refrigerators.
Arranging for help and upkeep for the inside and outside of your home is another consideration. Depending on your abilities, you may need help with outdoor maintenance, such as lawn care and snow shoveling, and indoor help with minor repairs and maintenance. There may be church groups in your area that help with lawn and snow services. If not, you’ll likely need to pay for these services out of your own pocket.
Weigh these costs of aging in place carefully. It may cost less to move to a newer house or one that is more compatible with your needs. Perhaps you can make changes to your home over several years instead of tackling them all at once.
2. Personal Care Needs
The chance that you may need help with personal needs becomes greater as you age. Your needs can range from requiring help with grocery shopping, light housekeeping or meal preparation to needing assistance with bathing, shampooing or even dressing. Sometimes, Medicare Part B may help with coverage for a home health aide. These individuals can come into your home several times a week to help with personal care and light housekeeping.
Typically, this coverage is limited, part-time and short-term. Access to assistance will also vary based on where you live. It may be easier to find this type of help in urban and suburban areas rather than remote or rural areas.
Consider your options going forward. Are there affordable services already in the community? Can you count on your family to help as you get older?
The costs of aging in place are not limited to dollars and cents. Social isolation is a reality for those who age in place, especially in rural and non-urban settings. Rural areas have less access to transportation and community resources, such as activity centers and public transportation. Even in urban areas, where transportation is more readily available, older adults may not be able to access it easily. If you’re unable to get out of your neighborhood, you may have limited opportunities for social interaction.
Depression and substance abuse are also factors that can grow out of isolation. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 2.5 million older adults have alcohol or drug problems. What’s more, older adults are hospitalized as often for alcohol-related problems as for heart attacks. In fact, alcohol and drug problems, particularly prescription drug abuse, among older adults is one of the fastest growing health issues facing the country.
Carefully plan on how you will not allow yourself, or your loved one, to feel socially isolated. What activities do you enjoy? How can you continue to stay social as you age and when friends pass on or move away?
4. Caregiver Stress
Most caregivers are children or spouses. Not only do they assist with meeting the daily needs of their loved one, but they also often also work and take care of other family members.
In 2017, researchers published a study that looked at the work impact and emotional toll exerted through caregiving. At the time of the survey, more than half of caregivers were employed full-or part-time. Among the nonworking caregivers, nearly 4 in 10 said that they had quit or retired early from work due to caregiving demands.
Among employed caregivers, over half reported that caregiving had interfered with their employment, or they were overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member required and were doing a poor to fair job at managing their own stress or getting enough sleep.
5. Financial Stress
It’s clear that remaining in your home costs more as you age. You’ll likely need additional services and your home will require more maintenance, but at the same time, you are using up your savings. Life expectancy is based on many factors, including current age, gender, race, genetics, general fitness and geographic location. Make sure you plan for a long and hopefully healthy life financially.
Your caregiver may also face financial stress. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted a study among family caregivers and found that close to four out of five caregivers incurred on average $6,954 (or about 20% of their income) in out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving in 2016. Those costs were higher when caregiving for people older than 50 years, and even higher when caring for those with dementia.
Just as you need to avoid becoming isolated, you should take steps to help keep your loved one from succumbing to caregiver stress. Identify your resources, financial and individual, and figure out how things will be parsed out. Realize the limitations of any caregiver and consider making plans for back-up care.
While these costs can seem overwhelming, know that everyone’s situation is different. If you long to stay in your home and are surrounded by a generous community of family and friends, aging in place may be for you. Just be mindful to plan, plan and then plan some more.