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Aging in place

Flexible house designs, close family and friends, reachable services help homeowners age in place

By Jim Parker
CTW Features

Among the yarns about the good old days is that people lived in the same house for decades, maybe their whole lives.

Such single-residence longevity may be exaggerated in actual occurrence, but still viewed as a plus.

Retirementbrains.com cites American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) research that more than 80 percent of U.S. residents above age 45 say they “want to remain in their own homes even when they need assistance.” Another study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows that many people when they retire choose to live within 20 miles of home to stay close to family and friends.

There’s even a term for it: aging in place. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”

Being contented at home is possible for many older Americans. The AARP lists the following as major factors enabling aging in place: living close to needed services, increased mobility options beyond driving your own car and affordable housing in convenient places.

From there, residents can remodel their homes or build ones to their liking with specialized assistance from programs, such as the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS).

Working with Home Innovation Research Labs, AARP and the homebuilders 50-plus housing council, the NAHB designed the program to address the growing number of consumers that will require (residential) modifications, according to the organization.

“While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects and health care consultants,” said Drew Williams with the NAHB.

“To age-in-place you will probably need to modify your house as you mature to increase access and maneuverability,” he said. “These modifications range from the installation of bath and shower grab bars and adjustment of counter top heights to the creation of multi-functional first floor master suites and the installation of private elevators.”

An online site aimed at older adults, www.seniorsource.com, recommends a step-by-step review.

“It is important to do a thorough assessment of the home to assure that it can properly handle an elderly or infirm individual,” the website reads.

The website categorizes the potential difficulties that develop as you age, from hearing troubles to physical ailments. It also makes recommendations.

For instance, seniorsource.com notes that balance and coordination problems can take place with older homeowners, suggesting they install a bath seat in the tub or shower, add rounded counter edges, put in grab bars near the bath and toilet, extend handrails beyond the top and bottom of stairs and place the bedroom and bathroom on the first level.

Presently, about 13 percent of the population are older adults, according to the AARP. Their desire to stay put seems strongest in Sunbelt cities. The Urban Institute predicts the Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina area will have see the highest growth rate of baby boomer seniors at 31.6 percent followed by Austin-Round Rock, Texas at 30.1 percent.

Homeowners looking to save money while aging in place might check out the 10 most affordable cities in the U.S, according to a survey by Economy.com. They consist of Springfield, Illinois; Topeka, Kansas; South Bend and Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Elmira, Jamestown, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester and Binghamton, New York.

Another destination considered by retirees eager to age in place is Canada, according to retirementbrains.com.

“Housing and the cost of living in most areas are less expensive, and there is a favorable exchange rate,” the website reads. However, Canada has stringent requirements for establishing residency.

Another source, “The Top 100 Cheapest Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2012” by Thomas C. Corley, found Gregory, Texas, to be the most affordable, followed by Holly Hill Florida and Long Beach, Mississippi.

© CTW Features

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