The Costs of Aging in Place

By Carol Church

Have you taken the time to consider where you want to live in your older years? If you’re like most Americans (89% of those over 50, according to research) you likely want to remain in your own home—so-called “aging in place.” There’s nothing too surprising about this; most of us feel happiest in familiar surroundings, within a community of friends and neighbors. And staying in our community may help us stay healthy longer, too.

The Practicalities

But, what about the practical aspects and costs associated with aging in place? What needs to be considered for this to actually work? And how do the costs of bringing in care compare to the costs of moving to an assisted living facility or other type of facility? These are questions all of us are likely to need to consider eventually-for family members or ourselves.

Matt Antonino/Photospin

One factor most of us will probably think of is the potential need to modify our homes. Most houses are not set up to accommodate the needs of an older adult who may have trouble with mobility or limited vision, or other challenges.

This might include modifying bathrooms and bathtubs to make them easier to enter, making doorways wider, eliminating steps and stairs and/or adding a stair lift, and adding easy-turn handles and grab bars. Electronic technology is also becoming a significant factor in aging in place, making it easier for older adults to be monitored for health and reduced activity. Overall, the average cost to modify a home and make it safe, practical, and comfortable to live in till the end of our days (often called “aging in place”) is likely to be about $9,000-$12,000.

Providing Care

Then there’s the potential cost of in-home health care. At about $20/hour (typically provided in 2- to 4-hour blocks) this could be $1,000+ month, which sounds high, but is actually low compared to the very high costs of nursing home care (about $3,000-$7,000 per month, though insurance may pick up some of this bill).

Of course, another option, and one many choose, is for family to provide care. While this may appear to be “free,” typically it is anything but for the caregiver. According to MetLife, the average value of the wages and work experience lost when an adult woman drops out of the workforce to assume care of an aging relative totals a staggering $143,000. And even when a caregiver does not drop out of the workforce, but simply provides care during nonworking hours, the “cost” in stress and fatigue can be very high, studies show. It may be healthier and in many ways “cheaper” to pay for care, at least some of the time.

Covering Costs

How can older adults cover these costs? Of course, we always hope that there are substantial savings in place by this time of life, but if these do not cover the need, there are other options, such as a home-equity loan or line of credit, or even a reverse mortgage. It’s important to know that disabled veterans are also eligible for grants to purchase or adapt housing so that it is appropriate for their needs: visit this page at the VA for more.

Aging in place may be the right choice (and a very desired choice) for many, but there are certainly other options, and a time may come when they are needed. Veterans are fortunate to have special options available to them, including Federal Armed Forces Retirement Homes, Officers’ Retirement Communities, State Veterans’ Homes, and VA Nursing Homes. For more about these options, see Retirement Communities, Assisted Living, Nursing Care: Special Options for Veterans and Former Service Members. https://www.va.gov/geriatrics/Guide/LongTermCare/Nursing_Home_and_Residential_Services.asp

References:

Esswein, P. (n.d.) 6 Things You Must Know About Aging in Place. Retrieved from http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C000-S002-6-things-you-must-know-about-aging-in-place.html

Fowler, K. (2016). Weighing the Costs of Aging in Place. Retrieved from http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/1-08-16-weighing-the-costs-of-aging-in-place/

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Costs of Care. Retrieved from https://longtermcare.acl.gov/costs-how-to-pay/costs-of-care.html

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2017). Measuring the Costs and Savings of Aging in Place. Retrieved from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/fall13/highlight2.html

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