There is a fairly common misconception that people can purchase or acquire an aging in place home now that will serve them in future years. Actually, part of this might be true, but it is a juxtaposition of concepts.
A home that someone purchases today – new construction or existing – may well serve them at some future date as the home they will remain in as they grow older without thinking of replacing it. However, someone can’t buy a future condition today. That’s the point.
An aging in place home is not something that someone goes shopping for, notwithstanding some home builders who say they offer aging-in-place homes or market their homes as being built with aging in place design.
While people can and do shop for a home that they think is designed well for their current conditions and needs – and one that they project may continue to serve them well in the future – they can’t purchase an aging-in-place home now because the future hasn’t happened yet. It’s a little like trying to acquire experience for a particular job position during the interview process or on the first day of work.
Simply put, aging in place is what happens after many years of living in a home and deciding that it already accommodates a person’s needs fairly well and likely will continue to do so, or that several changes (possibly even some significant ones) need to be made to make the home safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable – where the decision already has been made to remain living in it.
As we have discussed previously, people purchase homes for a variety of reasons, from expediency, to the potential for financial appreciation and return on investment, to where is located, and how it is designed. Sometimes a home is purchased to meet a need that a family has to be close to activities that are important to them at that time in their lives (children’s activities, youth sports, a job, or relatives). Over time, continuing to live in that same home doesn’t make as much sense as it did previously, and the home is not one that seems well-suited for retirement years and beyond.
Of course, modifications are possible and highly recommended, but the basic location, size, style, and appeal of the home need to be there first before someone decides to undertake the improvements to convert it into a longterm dwelling. Unless people like a home well enough to want to continue living in it – or they procrastinate doing anything about it until several years have passed and they resign themselves to remaining in that home – they aren’t going to devote the energy of planning and executing an improvement program, whether they do some or all of the work themselves or they have someone like us help them.
Builders and people selling their existing homes through real estate agents or on their own can market and offer homes that have been improved to facilitate accessibility and visitability or ones with universal design elements that make them desirable. People shopping for a home may determine that it offers safety and convenience for them. They may rightly conclude that they will be quite comfortable living in that home for a long time or that this might be their forever home. Nevertheless, that home cannot be one in which they age in place – until they do. They can plan for that being the case, but it has to evolve over time.