Whether we like to think about it or not, every one of us will have to decide where we want to live as we age and become more frail.
Each time I give a presentation or workshop I ask the question, "How many of you want to move into a nursing home when you get old?" Not one hand is raised in answer. The truth is that I've not met anyone who would prefer to move into a nursing facility if they had a choice. The overwhelming response is that people want to stay in their own homes for as long as is practically possible.
And staying at home can be a financial savings. The average cost for assisted living these days is upwards of $80,000 a year depending on what area of the country you're in. In contrast, modifying your home so you can remain there safely and in comfort is substantially less expensive. Some safety modifications like grab bars, good lighting, handrails, and portable ramps cost less than $1,000. Other age-in-place renovations that would rearrange your interior to accomodate more comfortable usage might cost anywhere from $3,000 on up. Even more extensive bathroom renovations can be done for well under $20,000. The point is that creating a home that you can live in for your lifetime is a one-time expense costing far less than 1 year in an assisted living facility.
So what are some common obstacles to remaining safe and comfortable in your home? Stairways, steps, narrow doorways and hallways, standard bathtubs, lowboy toilets, tiny bath and powder rooms all become issues. Every time I'm called in for a consultation, I'm asked to first look at the bathroom which can no longer be comfortably maneuvered, after which I'm shown some array of stairs that have become difficult to manage.
The good news is that with 10,000 people turning 65 years old each day, architects, designers, builders, and manufacturers are acknowledging the needs of this powerful group and are working to offer new home designs and products that will appeal to the lifestyle of today's Baby Boomer and Senior.
The best way to deal with those infirmities in all our futures is to plan for them now. Cynthia Leibrock, who has taught courses in architecture at Harvard University and is an age-in-place advocate, has said that one can eliminate disability by design. It's a great message and within all our powers to accomplish.