Home is not just a place. Home is a feeling – a place where you are safe, secure, comfortable, and where endless memories are made.
Yet each year, thousands of seniors make the excruciating decision to leave their homes, families and communities and enter one of the 21,000 senior living units across the U.S.
And to make matters worse it is estimated that over a fifth of the population in the United States will be 65 or older by 2050.
At Design Tech Homes, we realize this problem isn’t going away. And though it’s hard to admit, we know that we, too, are aging. The truth is that we are all in this together!
That’s why we want to offer a solution: Plan a retirement home that allows you to age in place.
We’ll cover how to include important age-in-place features, and how you can choose the perfect floorplan with the features that make it possible for you to live in your home throughout your golden years.
And if building a home for aging in place does not sound very exciting, or simply overwhelming, don’t worry – we’re always here to help.
Now, let’s get to it!
What Is Aging In Place?
Aging in Place is the ability to continue living in your own home, safely and independently, as you grow older and your needs change.
According to the National Aging in Place Council , more than 90 percent of older adults would prefer to age in place in their own homes rather than move to senior housing.
Honestly, that makes a lot of sense!
It’s like an aging in place report by AARP says so well:
“People spend years making connections and commitments to homes, friendships, community organizations, and local social ties within their community. Communities become a source of support and engagement for residents, particularly older adults who have an even stronger desire to age in place.
But is aging in place actually a good idea? Or, is sentimentality that shouldn’t be tolerated?
3 Benefits Of Aging In Place
Good news: aging in place is not a silly sentimentality. In fact, there are a lot of benefits surrounding older adults remaining in their homes.
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
There comes a point in most people’s lives when they can no longer live completely independently.
However, living with help from family, friends, and professional caregivers while remaining at home is very different than leaving your home and entering a senior living facility.
- Seniors in nursing homes are dependent on nursing staff who are forced to split their time and attention between multiple residents
- Seniors living at home still have control over their routine and activities – even if they can’t do everything themselves.
Independence allows aging adults to continue to feel like individuals, maintain balance and strength, retain a sense of purpose, and even aid with memory skills.
Healthier and Safer Environment
In a large share of cases, seniors choose to live in nursing or assisted living facilities because they believe this will be safer and healthier than living at home.
While true in some cases, this belief is often unfounded. Several studies have found that nursing home residents have worse health outcomes than seniors who choose to age in place, even if seniors are in similar health.
There are several factors at play here:
- Emotional health: Homesick seniors are at a higher risk of stress and depression
- Risk of infection: Nursing home residents are at much higher risk of bacterial and viral infections including life-threatening infections like pneumonia.
Cost Savings Of Living At Home
In an assisted living center, a bed in a shared room will typically run between $10,000 to $20,000 per year, while a private room can cost upwards of $75,000. These costs can climb even higher in nursing facilities when seniors require specialized care.
While aging in place also comes with a price tag, it is typically less expensive than assisted living.
Challenges Of Aging In Place
Despite all the benefits of aging in place, there are a few challenges of staying at home as you grow older.
Each individual needs to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is best for them.
Let’s explore a few challenges of aging in place so you can make an informed decision!
Making Housing Age-Friendly
The Joint Center For Housing Studies projects that by 2035, 17 million older households will include at least one person with a mobility disability for whom stairs, traditional bathroom layouts, and narrow doors and corridors may pose challenges.
Yet only, 3.5 percent of U.S. housing units offer a zero-step entrance, single-floor living and wide doorways that accommodate someone in a wheelchair.
In other words:
Houses simply aren’t designed for older citizens to live in – whether they want to or not!
If you are reaching retirement age, but your house isn’t suitable for aging in place, you only have one option:
Renovate your home.
Unfortunately, this can be an expensive process. Here are just a few actual numbers as a reference:
- Non-slip flooring usually costs anywhere from $6,400-$11,000
- Installing a walk-in bathtub costs between $3,000-$15,000
- Widening an entry door costs an average of $800
For some, merely identifying modification needs and finding a contractor to make changes can be daunting. Consequently, resources that can connect people to trustworthy sources to assess the home and find capable workers will be an important part of any efforts to support aging in place.
Planning A Retirement Home
We just discussed two major hurdles that senior citizens have to jump if they want to stay in their homes as they grow older:
- They have to alter the households to fit their level of mobility
- Costs for house altering renovations can be expensive.
Thankfully, both of these problems can be tackled simultaneously when you plan ahead.
In other words, these challenges can be met head-on with prudent and early financial planning. Let’s find out how you can do that!
Universal Design For Retirement Homes
The National Association of Home Builders defines universal design as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”
A house with universal design meets the needs of anyone, even when their needs and abilities change.
The concept here is simple:
If you are building a home – even as a young person – incorporate universal design properties right away. This allows you to age in place comfortably without needing to make expensive renovations to your house at a later date.
Perhaps this seems a little overboard if you still have a lot of strength and energy. But here’s the thing:
Universal design typically results in product features that benefit a variety of users, not just people with disabilities.
Sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are today often used by kids on skateboards, parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with rolling carts.
Similarly, a door that automatically opens when someone approaches it is more accessible to everyone, including small children, workers whose arms are full, and people using walkers or wheelchairs.
It’s a win-win!
Things like extra-wide hallways will make moving furniture easier when you are young, and allow you to easily navigate your house at an older age if you require a wheelchair.
PRO TIP: If you have your own lot of land, then building your dream retirement home is easier since the first major step is already completed. To learn more about building on your lot, read our blog article on 14 things to know when building on your own land.
What Are Common Universal Design Features In Retirement Homes?
Ok, let’s get practical. What are some universal design features that you should consider incorporating into your home?
Here are a few that are especially important:
- Single story living — Either a one-story home or a multi-story house with single-story living (at least a kitchen, full bath, and bedroom on the first floor) and an elevator.
- No-step entrance — At least one entrance to the home should be level (no steps) to accommodate anyone using a wheelchair or walker, and no steps should be required to enter the main rooms of the home.
- Open floor plans — The house should include spacious open spaces for easy maneuvering and good visibility. The NAHB recommends a 5-foot by 5-foot clear space in living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
- Wide hallways and doorways — Halls and doorways should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Doorways should have at least 32 inches of clear width; hallways a minimum of 36 inches wide.
If you want to take the universal design features to the next level in your retirement home plan, here are a few more things to consider:
- Flush thresholds
- Non-slip flooring
- Reinforced bathroom walls for grab bars, or built-in grab bars
- Zero-threshold shower with seating
- Raised electrical outlets
- Lowered electrical switches
- Lower-level countertops
- Pull-out shelving
- Easily accessible storage spaces
- Bright lighting
- Lever-handled doorknobs and rocker-style electrical switches
You can probably already imagine how much time, money, and stress you can save yourself if you plan for these features from the outset rather than remodeling your home later.
Building reinforced bathroom walls for grab bars right away is much more efficient than tearing an old wall out, disposing of the trash, buying new lumber and other construction materials, and finally rebuilding the wall.
But we know this is a lot to think about!
If all of this feels overwhelming to you, or if you want to incorporate these features into your home but aren’t sure how just give us a call at Design Tech Homes.
We have over 20 years of experience and we are happy to help you plan a retirement home – down to the very last detail!
4 Steps To Getting Started With Your Retirement Home Design
The hardest part of any big problem you face is getting started.
We’ve all been there! You dread a certain task or event for weeks, but when you finally get enough confidence to take the first step the whole project isn’t as difficult as you thought.
So how can you get started on the big task of creating a retirement home plan?
Let’s find out!
Plan A Post-Retirement Budget
Perhaps this seems a little out of place if you are still a younger person with plenty of energy – but unfortunately, many people miscalculate the cost of retirement.
This affects your retirement home because you should build a home that does not add significantly to your cost of living.
We recommend that you sit down with a financial advisor and work out a realistic post-retirement budget. Getting an idea of your monthly retirement income and expenses now can help you identify areas that need more preparation.
Inventory Your Current Possessions And Prioritize
It’s tempting to build a huge house, fully equipped to handle all your hobbies and treasures. However, as you grow older this is bound to become wasted space that costs money.
To be realistic, extra space may be inevitable when you retire. After all, if you build a house with 2 or 3 children at home, there will be extra bedrooms when they leave.
However, when you are building your retirement home, we encourage you to ask the following questions:
- What are the current possessions that I must have in my retirement home?
- What items would I like to have in my retirement home
- What items won’t fit, or won’t be usable in my retirement home
Allow these questions to guide you as you plan your retirement home.
Test Your Retirement Home Ideas Out
Remember – planning ahead is the key to saving time and money for those who wish to age in place. However, the whole purpose is defeated if you end up making significant changes to your home anyway.
This can go from the big to small:
We recommend spending time visiting different retirement communities or vacationing in various destinations to find out what environment suits you best. Beyond that, do plenty of research and visit actual retirement homes.
You’re always welcome to visit our model homes park at Design Tech Homes
Find A Contractor You Trust
This is the most important step of all. After all, unless you worked in the construction industry, you’ll have plenty of questions about building a retirement home.
Beyond that, there are local codes and guidelines for building in every part of the country.
The best thing you can do is find a knowledgeable and trustworthy contractor that can answer your questions, and give expert advice on retirement home designs.
Build The Retirement Home Of Your Dreams
When you build a retirement home, it will likely be the last home you buy. While incorporating features for aging in places is important, you can still build a comfortable, stylish home you will love living in.
If that’s not true and you’re building a home for the first time, even as you near retirement you may want to read our blog: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Designing and Building Your Own Home.
If you want a gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, a home designed for aging in place can include the finest gourmet kitchen you can imagine.
Dreaming of a lavish outdoor living area with a kitchen and custom pool? An in-home theatre? With the right design, you can enjoy them well into the future.
Your retirement home can be luxurious, aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable while accommodating your needs today as well as for years to come. Build the retirement home of your dreams. You deserve it!
We also offer our one-of-a-kind model home center at MainStreet America so that you can decide which home style and plan best works for you and your family.
Contact Design Tech Homes today to make your dream home come true!