Most seniors want to grow old in their own home, but what if that home doesn’t meet their needs as they age?
Sometimes a home place can be adapted, but in other cases moving may be a better option.
“We know how important it is for older adults to feel a sense of independence as they age,” Lan Berry, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care in Dothan, said in a news release.
For many, that means staying in the same home where they raised children and created a lifetime of memories.
“But, now we also see a growing number of seniors who are choosing a new home to live in as they age,” Berry said. “One that is better suited to their wish to remain independent. Whatever their wishes, we want to provide the resources to help with that decision and to help them make a plan.”
The company has free information on its website to help people navigate the options.
Features homebuyers look for in their 30s are sometimes different from what they’ll need in their 80s. A sprawling, two-level luxury villa may be the home of your dreams, but it may not be practical as you age.
Susan Vierkandt, broker and co-owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Showcase Properties in Dothan, said older buyers are usually looking for a single-story home.
Statistics she cited from the National Association of Realtors show seniors want single-family detached units, but when they get into their 70s many are looking for townhomes.
“They tend to look for newer homes as opposed to existing homes because they’re thinking low maintenance,” she said.
A lot of times they’re trying to locate closer to family. Most want nice, established neighborhoods. Some are opting for multigenerational homes, where parents have kids moving back and seniors live in the house with other family members.
A home with multiple entrances can be ideal for someone wanting relatives close by but still desiring a degree of independence.
“I think the majority are at least trying to live independently as far as they can,” Vierkandt said.
Senior homes need wide openings between rooms to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
“A lot of folks are getting away from the big Jacuzzi tubs and either trying to go with a roll-in shower or a walk-in shower,” Vierkandt said. “It’s very easy to make those accessible with rails and so forth.”
When shopping for a home, all the features you want don’t have to be included.
“We retrofitted a garden home for my mother to live in, took out the bathtub and then put in a tile shower with the rails and just made it accessible,” Vierkandt said.
When renovating, choose improvements that are suitable for many ages. Integrating ideas that are good for toddlers, seniors and every age in between make a home easier to sell.
Vierkandt sees a need for accessibility.
“I’m surprised building codes haven’t changed to at least require all properties to have three-foot doors and things like that just because of the aging population,” she said.
The 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report released in April by the National Association of Realtors Research Group shows 43 percent of all buyers expect to stay 16 or more years in the homes they purchase. The percentage is higher for people aged 39 to 72.
People from 64 to 93 are much more likely to purchase their “forever” home, with a household member’s death being one of the most likely reasons for homebuyers that age to move.
Vierkandt said “anything with stairs gets complicated.” Older homebuyers may still have more stuff than they need, and want storage space that is accessible.
A lot of seniors want a simple kitchen and an open concept layout where everything is close at hand.
“The need for a formal dining room kind of goes away,” she said.
Seniors want close proximity to shopping and businesses from homes that are low-maintenance and energy-efficient.
Vierkandt said Stone Creek Landing, a subdivision off South Park Avenue in Dothan, has the amenities active adults of all ages want.
The community isn’t age-restricted and has walking trails, a community pool, clubhouse, small yards and low-maintenance homes.
“When they come on the market, they go right away,” she said.
The “Home Your Own Way” program from Home Instead Senior Care can help seniors make an informed choice about where to live as they age.
Liz Woodard, a community service representative with Wiregrass Area Home Instead Senior Care, said the free resources help seniors and families assess needs and options.
People should look at safe-proofing and other considerations when assessing their home.
A loveseat that’s soft, cushy, and low may be great when you’re mobile, but can be hard to get out of if you have back, knee, or hip problems.
Woodard said seniors may need to change some of their furniture and floor coverings. Rugs and thick carpets can catch feet and shoes. Uneven thresholds can be a trip hazard. Clutter on floors and around furniture makes getting around a room difficult.
“A lot of homes are not built with the idea of mobility and transfer concerns,” Woodard said.
Practical concerns like where the washer and dryer are located and how bathrooms and kitchens are arranged and equipped are all considerations.
Adding adapters that raise the toilet seat level and grab bars are quick fixes. Converting traditional bathtubs and showers to ones with a low-entry threshold and a place to sit are more complicated.
Woodard said the challenges for seniors fall into four major categories: Balance problems, eyesight, memory, and agility and mobility.
Senior apartment complexes, senior living and assisted living communities address most potential problems. But when older adults need help with cooking, cleaning, and looking after their personal care, it may be time to consider a professional caregiver.
“There are so many factors to consider when talking about where you may want to live as you age and what makes sense for you,” Berry said. “The conversation needs to include not only the physical space, such as accessibility and safety precautions in the home, but also emotional elements such as memories, companionship and sense of community. We want to help seniors think through both these areas to determine what best fits their needs.”