Over the last few months, I have become increasingly aware of a phenomenon that puzzles me. It has been there all along, that is, since I have been helping people live safely and comfortably in the home of their choice. I have written about it before in this column (See Housing Matters from May 2011, “I’m not ready for that yet”). The phenomenon is simply this. Many people believe that if they even consider modifying their homes to make them safer and more accessible, they are somehow surrendering to the aging process and are two steps from the grave.
The thought (spoken or unspoken) is that those things are for old people and old is always considered ten years older than your present age. The puzzling part to me is the fact that people prepare financially to be ready for retirement without feeling they are surrendering to the inevitability of their own mortality. Why then do they feel that preparing their home to be a safe, comfortable and beautiful environment for them to reside in during their retirement years is any different? It seems to me that having a home that will suit your needs should be one of the basic building blocks of retirement planning. After all if you have to suddenly make other living arrangements it could severely and negatively impact your financial plan. I looked at several checklists of suggested items to do to get ready for retirement. Only one mentioned anything about housing and that was not in the context of accessibility. Most people are intentionally turning a blind eye to their changing housing needs as they age, to their own detriment!
What can be done about it? I believe that we need a paradigm shift. I believe that creating a home for yourself that is safe, beautiful, and accessible and that will serve your needs throughout the course of your life is one of the wisest retirement planning investments you can make. It is an investment in not only your physical well being but your mental and emotional well being as well. People are happier and more relaxed at home. Start today to make your home an important part of your retirement plan!
Dave Ramsey, the author, speaker, and radio host who tirelessly extols the benefits of getting out of debt and building wealth starts his radio program with the saying, “Where the paid off home mortgage takes the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice.” While I am not suggesting that the lifespan designed home will take the place of the well funded retirement account in retirement planning, I am suggesting that it take its place firmly beside it. For most of us, our home is the biggest investment we will ever make. Designing and building this investment to serve us well for the long haul makes good sense from a practical as well as a financial sense.
Here are some things to look for when building or remodeling a home for a lifetime:
- An accessible approach to the home from the outdoors
- A zero step entry
- Wide hallways and doors with lever handles
- At least one accessible bathroom
- Bright, glare free lighting
- Slip resistant flooring
- Railings or grab bars at strategic locations
There are many other features to consider and these features will vary somewhat depending on the situation. If you have questions about how an accessible home can be an important part of your retirement plan, please call us at (540) 384-2064 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading Housing Matters.