The term, “Aging in Place,” has become a popular catchphrase for modern seniors. However, its meaning may vary widely, depending on who is using the term and for what purpose. A government agency defines aging in place as, “the ability to live in one’s own home and community independently, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” Generally, “aging in place” is the first preference for most seniors; a survey by the American Public Health Association indicated that 90 percent of seniors want this option. However, this does not tell us if the term, “in place” refers to their longtime home in the old neighborhood or to a totally new environment.

No matter the location, aging in place can work well only with good planning and preparation. To successfully age in place, seniors sometimes need the help of skilled professionals, as well as family members (if available) and a support network. Seniors and adults of all ages should bear this in mind and begin to consider the choices that must be made as they age. At least, do not wait to gather information, talk to family members and make plans. Today is the time to consider matters like downsizing, selling one residence and purchasing another, moving financial assets, future mobility issues, your health and that of your spouse.

Florida might be called the capital of aging in place. Each year, thousands of seniors migrate here to settle down for a long, happy retirement. Many expect to age happily in the first place they settle, even if they have given it little thought and no planning. Florida is a wonderful place with countless opportunities for a fulfilling retirement, but better planning would surely improve the chances for success. What should this planning involve?

Obviously, one of the first questions is where to settle. If staying in your current home is extremely important to you, that question is partly answered, but there are still some concerns. Now is the time to shop for and price senior-friendly changes like door ramps, flooring changes, bathroom modifications and kitchen aids. Do you have an idea of how much it would cost to install a walk-in tub, an easy-access shower or a stair lift chair?

  • Stair lift for a straight stairwell is anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to purchase new. A curved or platformed stairwell may be $8,000 to $10,000 (including installation and one-year service warranty).
  • Walk-in tub prices vary widely, but with installation, will cost anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000.

These and other costs seem high, but think about this—what are the costs of alternatives? If you move, there will be selling costs, moving costs and emotional costs. In an assisted living facility, you will pay an average of $3,500 to $4,000 per month; the cost of the stair lift and walk-in tub will be exceeded in six to seven months. The bottom line is that this decision may be complicated, and you should start to think about it now. If financing these upgrades is a problem, have you considered a conventional mortgage or “reverse mortgage?” Staying in your current home may be made more practical by using one of these financial tools, but you need to understand them completely. The Federal Trade Commission can offer unbiased advice and information about reverse mortgages at FTC Reverse Mortgages. We repeat—start to investigate now!

At some point, the burden of maintenance, taxes, insurance, neighborhood changes, personal needs, etc., may make a completely new environment an attractive idea. If you choose to leave your old residence, there are many other considerations, but the first rule should be to involve your spouse in any moving decision. Both husband and wife should think about the type, location and cost of a new residence.

Do you want to live in a 55+ community like The Villages in Central Florida? Many people must want to; this was the fastest growing community in the U.S. during the last decade. This type of retirement community, and similarly smaller ones, feature individual residences and apartment homes that vary widely in cost. There is easy availability of medical services and other senior needs, but this care is not part of the “total package.” These communities offer amenities like golf, organized special interest groups or senior-oriented entertainment. There may be a monthly amenities fee and other charges that can really mount up, so investigate each of these communities carefully.

A step beyond 55+ communities is the concept of continuing care retirement communities. These organizations offer individual residences, assisted living, rehab and long-term care facilities, physical therapy, in-home care and other services. A senior might enter a continuing care community in an individual residence and progress to assisted living, nursing care facilities, even to hospice care. This might be a good choice for a person or couple who think a serious health problem might be at hand. Often, these communities are centered around medical facilities like Waterman Village in Eustis or Legacy Point in Orlando, closely associated with UCF and its health sciences schools.

There is a continuing theme through all of these options and decisions: start now to gather knowledge, compare programs, consider your current residence, and consider the ways to finance your decisions. No one program is right for everyone, so take care to choose the one best suited to your situation. Here is a partial list of the things you should think about.

  • What is the total up-front cost and how should you pay this? Should you use money from an IRA or other tax-sheltered investment?
  • What is the total expected monthly expense?
  • Is specialized care available and at what cost?
  • What services are available and are they mandatory? Do you have to pay for them whether you use them or not?
  • What are the tax and financial consequents of selling, moving and buying a new home?
  • What are your current and future mobility needs?
  • What about the effect on family and friends? Are you going to feel isolated?

If you are baffled, get help from professionals who are qualified to advise you. As always, please continue to count on OurSeniors.net for help and advice.