When you’re in your 40s and 50s, it may seem too early to worry about what life will be like post-retirement. But if you are shopping for a place to settle down, the home you choose today will impact your options years down the road. Here are some factors to consider before buying your next home — particularly if you plan to spend the rest of your life there.
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Is the neighborhood walkable?
The best homes for aging in place are centrally located and allow you to either walk or take public transit wherever you need to go.
A walkable neighborhood is safe for pedestrians, with well-maintained and well-lit sidewalks. It is close to retail stores, restaurants and grocery stores. Bonus points if it is near your doctor and pharmacy. As you age, you will love not having to drive everywhere.
Are there local social opportunities?
A strong community makes aging in place fun. You will want your new community to offer plenty of things to do and people to meet.
Look for parks, libraries, museums and places of worship. Keep an eye out for community centers with interesting classes and volunteer opportunities.
As you get older, these resources will become even more important. You will want access to fun things to do no matter what your age.
Is it the right size?
You may love the looks of that big house with its sprawling green lawn, but are you prepared to maintain it? The bigger the house, the more upkeep it needs.
If you become unable to take care of the home yourself, are you able to hire a landscape or home maintenance company?
Moving can be the perfect time to downsize so you have less space to manage.
Is it accessible?
You want your new home to be easy to live in both now and during your retirement. That means you will need to check the accessibility of the property you are considering. You will want your new home to have:
- A single-story layout, with no entry stairs
- No random steps in the house to trip over
- Thresholds that are flush with the floor
- Wide walkways
- Plenty of lighting
- Extra floor space for easy maneuverability
- A walk-in shower with a seat
- Storage space that is not difficult to reach
- Counters that are neither too low or too high
If you struggle with the house now, it will only get worse as you age. You can renovate the home, but it’s not worth fighting against a house that is simply too tight and small. Find a home that you’re comfortable in.
Can you modify it for aging in place?
House hunting can make you feel like Goldilocks trying to find a house that is just right. What if you have found a house you love, but it isn’t designed with accessibility in mind?
If that’s the case, some easy renovations can transform your new home into the perfect setting to age in place:
- Add handrails to both outdoor and indoor stairs to help you keep your balance.
- Replace round doorknobs with lever handles that are easier to open.
- Add non-slip surfaces in the bathtub and shower to prevent falls.
- Install handrails in the bathroom next to the toilet and bathtub for extra support.
- Choose chairs and sofas with back support and sturdy armrests.
- Install more lighting for better visibility, both outdoors and indoors.
- Choose countertops and tables with rounded edges.
Keep your plan in mind
Make life easier for yourself: Choose a home that will support you as you age. That means a place that is comfortable now and that will continue to be comfortable when you are older.
Keep your aging in place plan in mind as you house hunt, and you are sure to find a house that can be your home for years to come.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Arar Han is a certified Aging in Place Specialist and co-CEO of Alert-One. Arar holds a dual degree in Philosophy and Human Development from Boston College, summa cum laude and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Alert-One is a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Follow Alert-One on Twitter and Facebook.