Most people would like to stay in their own home as they age. Nearly 90% of Americans over age 50 prefer to remain at home and “age in place,” according to a 2021 online survey conducted by Capital Caring Health and WebMD. “Independence and the opportunity to age in place adds to the viability and overall mental and physical health of older adults,” says Cleamon Moorer Jr., president of American Advantage Home Care, which provides home health care services in the Detroit area.
However, choosing to age in place can lead to various expenses, especially for retirees who have health conditions.
When aging in place, the costs to consider include:
— Housing expenses.
— Age-related renovations.
— Outdoor maintenance.
— Caregiving costs.
— Medical care.
— Activities and social engagements.
Here’s a look at the expenses to build into your budget if you plan to remain at home throughout retirement.
If you live in your own home and haven’t paid off your mortgage, you will need to continue with payments during retirement. “Unlike moving to an age-restricted rental community or a continuing care retirement community, maintaining a home through the later years of retirement means retaining some large house-related costs,” says James Ciprich, a partner and wealth advisor who specializes in working with seniors in transition at RegentAtlantic in Morristown, New Jersey. “Those include ongoing property taxes and regular maintenance.” There could be unexpected costs as well, such as a new hot water heater to replace a broken one or a major roof repair.
[Read: 7 Housing Options for Seniors.]
In addition to ongoing housing costs, changes might need to be made to accommodate for health conditions and decreasing levels of mobility. This could include putting in a bedroom on the first floor to avoid having to climb the stairs or lowering kitchen counters to make them easier to reach. Other safety features include ramps at the exterior entrances, wider doorways to allow for walkers or wheelchairs, a stairlift or home elevator, nonslip rugs on the floors and grab bars in the bathrooms. Walk-in showers and raised toilet seats may also be necessary. “For those who need to modify their home for accessibility, the cost of construction will be dependent upon the scope of the project and construction costs,” says Andrea Pezel, services lead at Grayce, a San Francisco-based company which provides caregiving guidance for families nationwide.
As you age, it can be more difficult to carry out activities like mowing the lawn, cleaning out gutters, weeding a garden or shoveling snow. If family members live in the area, they may offer to help with landscaping and outdoor upkeep. If they are not able to come regularly or live far away, you might need to hire a service to maintain the property. “The ‘gig economy’ has helped to provide direct access to some of these services, but they still come with a cost,” Ciprich says.
Over time, it could be helpful to have help with house cleaning, washing clothes and meal preparation. The nationwide monthly median cost for homemaker services was $4,481 in 2020, according to the Genworth 2020 cost of care survey. “There may be a point where driving to the supermarket gets too difficult and you’ll need your groceries delivered,” says Christina Steinorth-Powell, a licensed psychotherapist in Nashville, Tennessee, who specializes in working with aging adults and their families. “In the event you need grocery delivery, there will either be a flat fee involved with each delivery or the foods will have an additional cost built in when being ordered for delivery.” Transportation services for doctor visits or shopping might be available as well.
Home health aides and skilled nurses can come to your home to help with therapies, medication or other health services. Sometimes arrangements can be made to have a health care professional come once a week, every day or even stay around the clock. There may also be insurance premiums and prescription drug costs to consider. “Veterans and Medicaid recipients may qualify for subsidized caregiving programs,” Pezel says. “However, most individuals rely on privately purchased long-term care insurance or savings to pay for their care.” The national median cost for a home health aide was $4,576 a month, per the Genworth 2020 cost of care survey.
Activities and Social Engagements
Meeting up with friends and being connected to networks can help fulfill social needs as you age. When staying at home, it can be important to take the initiative to participate in group activities, which might include joining a club or gym. “Some of these may be relatively low cost for local activities, but travel clubs or country clubs may be on the higher end of the cost spectrum,” Ciprich says.
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