As aging in place is being talked about more, and as more people are experiencing this lifestyle choice, those who haven’t embraced it yet are giving it a hard look to see if it can work for them. They are currently considering trying to find a home that can be their forever home, or they are evaluating remaining in the one they already have. Either way, they are wondering what they will need to do to their home and how much of a financial commitment might be required to make this happen.
Money is frequently an important question, but a better question here rather than how much does it cost to age in place is how much it costs to leave one’s home and go elsewhere. More on that in a moment.
It’s interesting how much of our decisions are price or money based – except when emotion is involved. If something is a discretionary purchase, we often shop around and compare prices and other attributes (warranty, delivery options, the reputation of the retailer, return policy, and posted comments) before arriving at a decision. We won’t always pay the lowest price available, but often we will. When it’s an essential purchase – to replace something that has broken or been depleted – and it’s not an emergency decision, we often will look for the lowest available price.
When a purchase is emotional – a home, boat, car, artwork, vacation, or special outfit of clothing, for instance – price is less important than how it makes us feel. Often, we could have found an item for less if we had looked some more, but that wasn’t the point. Having it was.
Back to how much something costs. In many ways, this is relative. If someone asked us how much it costs to eat lunch, it would nearly impossible to answer. First, it depends on our own experiences. Different people like different foods. Some like a sit-down experience, some like a street vendor, some like fast-food (eat there or take it out), some like a food truck, and some even brown bag their lunch or skip it, maybe with a protein bar or shake or nothing at all. Even the same item can vary tremendously in price depending on where it was purchased.
The point is, it’s impossible to answer the question of how much it costs to eat lunch because there are so many variables involved even though the premise – eating lunch -is pretty straightforward. It can run from literally nothing when lunch isn’t eaten (or seemingly nothing if something is brought from home) to a sizeable tab for a two-hour or so sit-down meal in a high-end restaurant.
So the, how much does it cost to age in place? Again, there is not a simple answer. If people are weighing whether they should remain in their home or move to a retirement center of some type, based on how much it might cost to remain at home, there is no ready answer. This is more of an emotional decision than a financial one although money is a factor.
On the one hand, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all, or nothing more than just routine maintenance and decorating to keep the home looking like the owners want it. On the other hand, there might need to be some major renovations required to accommodate changing physical or sensory needs from a traumatic accident or intensifying progressive condition.
People might choose to remodel for any number of other reasons also – to modernize or reconfigure a space, to allow them to do something they really would like to do that they haven’t had the room or layout to do previously, to allow a parent or other family member to move in with them, or just to give themselves a new look.
There actually are several costs or expenses that can be avoided or absorbed by aging in place. Therefore, answering the question of how much it costs is really what it saves. Start with the expense of getting the current home ready to sell (painting, repairs, maintenance, landscaping, and related matters), then factor in dealing with all of the items that have been stored on-site and off-site over the yeat (our “stuff”), packing, moving, unpacking, shopping for a new home, paying for a new home, paying real estate fees, and possibly some other expenses as well. If a retirement center or managed care facility is selected, there is going to be a substantial financial consideration. Then there is the emotional impact of saying goodbye to that long-term home. no matter how long it has been occupied or what the new home is.
Costs should not be a deciding factor in whether someone ages in place because it’s more of an emotional choice and there is no formula for what, if anything, needs to be done to a home to allow its occupants to remain living in it well, and even when improvements are desired or necessary, they don’t necessarily need to be undertaken at one time.