A guide to buying a home to age-in-place

Masha Rusanov  |  July 17, 2023

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A guide to buying a home to age-in-place

Although most life changes occur in our younger years, some elderly adults may face significant lifestyle decisions once they reach their golden years. The home they purchased many years ago may have cumbersome stairs, a yard that’s too difficult to maintain, or more rooms than necessary. Its location may not be suitable either because it’s too noisy, the neighborhood too busy, or the location too far from anywhere else.

During this time, some seniors seriously consider aging in place – to live independently in their own homes rather than moving to a senior care community. A 2022 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a sample of elderly adults nationwide about their aging in place preferences, finding that 88% of 50-80-year-olds think it’s important to remain in their homes for as long as it's safe.

This handy guide covers how to find the best location, who to work with, and how to pay for the home you choose.

 

Where Should You Age in Place?

Aging in place can mean different things to different seniors. For some, it means continuing to live in their existing home, often the place where they raised their kids. For others, it means relocating to a new home that’s more suitable to their current and future needs. This frequently, but not always, means downsizing and relocating, sometimes to another city or state. 

Environment

This may be the most important factor when choosing somewhere suitable. What was once the right home, city, or state may no longer be a good match for your older self. For example, you might expect that at some point you’ll no longer be able to drive and may consider a location that has easier access to stores and public transportation. Some things to consider when evaluating the environment of where to age in place:

  • Health Care Access: Easy access to your doctor or nearest hospital is crucial.
  • Neighborhood Safety: Neighborhoods evolve over time. The one you moved into may not feel anymore and comparing it with the place you’re thinking of moving to may be worthwhile. 
  • Visitors: Loneliness and social isolation can cause serious health conditions, so you should consider how frequently your loved ones can visit your home.
  • Socializing: Consider the proximity of the nearest senior center and other venues where your age group congregates so you can maintain a social and enriching lifestyle.
  • Shopping: If you reside in a rural area and can no longer drive, shopping for groceries may become a problem. Consider how close you are to convenience stores, particularly if you can’t rely on someone to help you out regularly.
  • Family: Consider how easy it is for you to visit your family. Also, think about their journey times if you have an emergency.  

Personal Preferences

Preferences specific to you and your lifestyle should also factor into your decision about aging in place. The following list covers some things to consider.

  • Grandchildren: Many seniors are grandparents who value the time they spend with their grandchildren. Ask yourself if your current location makes it easier or more difficult to enjoy time with them. It may be that they’re too young to travel without a parent, which could greatly reduce visiting opportunities.
  • Hobbies: Retired seniors often spend their free time indulging in hobbies. Is your current location a problem or a benefit? For example, someone who likes fishing may want to be close to a river or lake and won’t want to move somewhere too far from either.
  • Travel: Do you expect to travel frequently to places you like? If so, use Google Maps to gauge the distance and journey times to the places you’ll visit most. Would moving somewhere else reduce the time you spend in the car enough to justify relocating?
  • Home Modifications: Will your home need to be modified? Perhaps there’s a staircase that you might one day need a stairlift to ascend. If the costs of modifying your home are more expensive than moving to somewhere more senior-friendly, it may be worth reconsidering.
  • Home Maintenance: Although you may not be struggling to maintain your home inside and out, what will happen as you age or if you sustain an injury? Is there someone nearby who can help regularly or will you have to pay a company to maintain your home for you?
  • In-Home Care Services: Will you need in-home care? If so, how will you pay for it? Original Medicare might cover skilled nursing services, but it won’t pay for an agency to help with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. To get help from Medicaid, you’ll need to satisfy the strict qualifying criteria.

 

Safety Features and Amenities

There are certain things to look out for when searching for your ideal place to help ensure it’s a safe location. You can download this checklist with you as you tour potential residences to see what safety features for aging in place the home does or does not have. 

 

Working with Professionals to Buy a Home

Even if you may have experience buying or selling a home, it might be worth considering involving professionals to smooth the process of finding an ideal home. This may be a real estate agent, broker, or insurance agent who specializes in helping seniors relocate to new homes and 55+ communities. The following three are possibly the most important to consider.

Senior Home Safety Inspectors

A Senior Home Safety Inspector provides a comprehensive assessment of their client’s existing residence or potential new home. The inspection’s purpose is to discover possible hazards and suggest improvements to make the home more senior-friendly.

Senior Real Estate Specialists  

A Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) is a Realtor recognized by the National Association of Realtors as someone who specializes in helping seniors buy and sell homes. An SRES Realtor can help seniors deal with aspects of buying and selling that are specific to their age group. For example, they can advise on the pros and cons of 55+ communities they have experience with, develop strategies for downsizing, and coordinate essential home repairs.

Senior Move Managers

A Senior Move Manager specializes in senior relocation, including the emotional and practical challenges of moving like arranging storage, downsizing, finding a realtor, and more. Check out the search tool provided by the National Association of Specialty & Senior Move Managers to find one that is a good fit for you.

 

Paying for a Home

Paying for the home where you want to age in place can be a common challenge. You can’t typically rely on Medicare, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance to cover your costs, but you have options depending on your income, credit score, and available cash. 

  • VA Housing Assistance – Veterans and surviving spouses who satisfy eligibility criteria may be eligible for a VA direct or VA-backed loan to buy their homes.
  • Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program – This program from HUD helps seniors with very low income get the financing they need to purchase homes specifically designed for elderly adults.
  • Mortgage – The Equal Credit Opportunity Act stipulates that a financial institution can’t discriminate based on an applicant’s age. If you can prove a consistent monthly income post-retirement (usually for three years), the institution must seriously consider your application.

 

A major life change after you're already settled can feel stressful but, in the end, securing a place that feels comfortable, safe, and enriching for you is what's most important. Sapphire Realty is here as a resource if you are a senior adult looking to relocate. Just contact us here and we'll be happy to help. 


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