5 Things to Consider for “Aging in Place”
The Great Retirement is coming. The baby boom generation (those born 1946 to 1964) have already started retiring in shocking numbers. Experts estimate 75 million baby boomers will retire by 2030. And with the Great Retirement comes a new retirement planning trend:
Aging in place.
“Aging in place” is a retirement lifestyle that lets retirees remain in their homes for as long as possible.
It’s an understandable decision. We’ve all spent years—decades, even—building our homes into the place we feel most comfortable. Our lives have grown to include everything that surrounds our house: the stores we frequent, our favorite restaurants, and our friends and neighbors.
We don’t want to leave our lives behind just because we retire. We’re not interested in “elder” homes and communities. It’s our retirement—and we reasonably want to bask in the fruits of our labor!
If you choose to spend your retirement aging in place, you absolutely can! It just takes a little time and preparation. Planning ahead during the years leading up to retirement can prepare you and your home to start aging in place the moment your retirement begins.
Here are the top 5 things to consider when preparing to age in place.
Prepare the house for retirement
For retirees staying in their homes as they age, it’s important to make sure those homes remain safe and accessible. In the years leading up to retirement, take the time to anticipate any mobility issues, potentials for injury, and unexpected financial burdens.
To do so, consider performing a walkthrough of your home to find any room for improvements to help you age with grace. For instance, you might:
- Install grab bars near toilets and bath tubs
- Build wheelchair or walking ramps at entrances
- Remove common slip, trip, and fall hazards, such as area rugs
- Perform repairs to prevent more costly damage from occurring in the coming years
- Assess stairwells to see if they have adequate space for a stairlift, should you require one
As you perform your walkthrough, you might also consider noting any regular upkeep your house might need. This can help you incorporate these costs into a retirement budget.
Find elder care resources
Many of us require an increase in care as we age. It’s so common, in fact, that sources exist to help us perform everyday tasks when they become difficult for us. Many of these resources exist on a local level.
For instance, there might be an elder care transportation service, should you need a ride to and from a doctor’s appointment. Some services offer helpers who come to your house and help you make dinner, fold laundry, go grocery shopping, and more.
Other services might offer in-home health care support, such as administering medication, physical therapy, and medical checkups.
Some of these services might be free while others come at a cost.
Of course, you might not need services such as these immediately upon retirement. Or you may have friends and family nearby who can help perform these tasks for you. It’s still helpful to familiarize yourself with these services. That way, you already know who to call when you need them and what it might cost.
Find ways to socialize
Socializing comes with several health benefits—both mental and physical! As we grow older and friends and families naturally drift apart, remaining social becomes even more important. This is especially true for seniors living alone.
Socializing can benefit retirees by:
- Increasing mental health
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Keeping you active and fit
- Increasing life expectancy
- Preventing cognitive decline
Many socialization options for seniors and older adults exist. You can find them through online searches, by word-of-mouth, or by calling local senior community centers.
Some of the most popular options for senior social activities include:
- Game nights (bingo, cards, etc.)
- Exercise/”mall walking” groups
- Support groups
- Movie-going or other hobbyist “meet-up” groups
- Phone and video calls with family and friends
Odds are, you can find others in your age group who share similar interests and hobbies as you—and the resources exist to help you find them!
Grow acquainted with technology
Of course, many retirees are already familiar with the technology that surrounds them. Learning about current advances can still help us know where to turn if we need it. And because technology always advances, there are always new and helpful tools that can simplify our daily lives.
For instance, learning how to use apps can help you perform tasks such as calling for transportation, ordering a grocery delivery, and performing banking duties at home. No-frills tablets can help those otherwise turned off by technology have easy access to these apps.
Smart home hubs (Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, etc.) are voice-activated tools with multiple useful functions. They can control smart devices (such as lights, TVs, coffeemakers, etc.) and can even call emergency services when needed with simple voice commands!
A lot of technology geared specifically toward seniors focuses primarily on physical and mental health aids. For instance, heart rate monitors, robotic pet companions, and VR physical therapy experiences all exist. Alert systems can monitor you for slips, trips, falls, and other emergencies and call for help should an accident occur.
It might be helpful to create a list of your current, probable, and “just in case” needs to help you learn what technological aids exist for each and how to use them.
Catch up retirement funds
You probably have a 401(k). It’s one of the most popular ways to invest for retirement and is offered by most employers. If you don’t have a 401(k), I’d strongly recommend one. It’s simple to sign up. Earnings build slowly but surely. Importantly, 401(k) retirement income often eclipses Social Security income, making them key for retiring comfortably.
The decisions you make when you sign up for a 401(k) directly affect the amount of money you have for retirement. Other long-term effects of these decisions include whether you retire with tax-advantaged distributions, make high- or low-risk stock market investments, or maximize your employer match contributions.
You can change many of these options any time you like—including how much income you contribute to your plan. This is important to understand, because the closer you get to retirement, the more you can contribute—a great option for late-in-life investing!
The IRS increases annual contribution limits for retirement savers age 50 and up. Maximizing your contributions (contributing the full limit) can help you quickly build extra wealth in the last 10-15+ years before you retire. Catch up contribution limits go up regularly, so check current limits to make sure you’re maximizing your retirement savings.