The year still seems new enough to think bold thoughts. What may dissolve in a few months feels very real right now. This year I hope to light a spark of activism in my readers for their own personal aging in place plans and the need for more involvement in the power of community. The changing prospects at all levels of the housing market, makes this a time to think about how you can adapt, change or build onto your homes so you can stay there as long as possible.
The fact that many boomers do not want or can not afford the high end retirement communities is creating sustainability problems for that industry. But that is their problem. Certain facts should be met head on. Do I stay or do I go and/or remodel, are really questions that demand thinking through all the various consequences. Then there is the dollar sign consideration of how to stay safely without bankrupting the retirement fund.
If I need to relocate, where are the affordable accessible alternatives? This is where truth meets consequences. The house where you brought your babies home, raised your family and kept tight with your own locals, is a hallowed place. If it also has narrow stairways, a accident prone bathroom and not so innocent hazards to trip a less than nimble body, you have to make some decisions. You have to get out of your comfort zone to talk to a reputable contractor about possibility and plans and the how much would this cost part.
Some people are first approaching this with research on what would it cost to find more accessible housing. Given the current market and lack of incentive on developers to make units that are smaller and thus less profitable, your search may take you far away from your original home sweet home area. Supposedly only 1 percent of the US housing stock is age in place ready. One of my first posts was titled: http://waystostay.org/just-find-that-sweet-little-rancher/ and in retrospect, I see why we had to get crazy.
Let me stop here and say there are several other options to making your original home your lasting home. Adding a first floor suite or at least a full bathroom is one answer. Adding a separate mother in law type suite where you can stay safely in one part and rent out the rest is another. The term accessory building is starting to show up in zoning discussions. Simply put, changing your house or property so someone else can live in part of it to share expenses, chores or just barter for help that you need.
On a federal level, help is not on the way. HR Bill 5254 to help pay for renovations making homes age accessible has unfortunately bit the congressional dust ,”This bill was introduced in the 114th Congress, which met from Jan 6, 2015 to Jan 3, 2017. Legislation not enacted by the end of a Congress is cleared from the books.” Until someone else reintroduces it no help there. On a local level you may find emergency repair funds for lower income residents. Find on your county aging website. Some offer zero interest deferred loans
Also on a local/non profit level there is an organization called Rebuilding Together. It has sprung up to help secure devices and make home modifications for the most needy. Go to their website and find a local affiliate. There is usually county money available on an emergency basis for ramps, especially for Veterans.
Looking for a light at the end of a dim hallway? Here is the best idea I have read in a while – that we be allowed to take money from our 401Ks tax free in order to make these home fortifications. Not that different from the HR 5254 bill in that you need to have the money to start with. It is the fresh idea of Louis Tenenbaum, who is the progenitor of the aging in place movement. Read on Next Avenue: http://www.nextavenue.org/aging-in-place-out-of-box/ and about Homes Renewed. It calls for a collation of public/ private and non profit sectors to help solve this oncoming crises in housing.
There is strength in numbers and we have the numbers. Knowing the first 100 days of this congress will be like a food fight in the grade school cafeteria, it might seem futile, but you have to start somewhere.