7 Tips to Help People Who Are Retired Stay in Their Homes Longer

Nine in 10 older Americans want to remain in their own homes as they get older. But most people aren’t planning ahead when it comes to making sure their houses are equipped to provide their desired lifestyle in retirement, research shows.In fact, while 96% of Americans age 50 to 80 say it’s important to be as independent as possible as they get older, only 21% plan to incorporate technology solutions, or to remodel and retrofit their homes in order to age in place, according to a recent survey.

Love your home? Figure out how to stay there for retirement.Love your home? Figure out how to stay there for retirement.

The survey — conducted by Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business — sheds light on baby boomers’ perplexing problems, including a preference to age in place, but a lack of preparation for remaining independent in their homes.

Despite strong indications that the cohort wishes to stay in their homes as long as possible, a staggering 80% of Americans age 60 to 80 are not thinking about, or are not sure, whether they will upgrade or update their homes.

But the American Bankers Association (ABA), which celebrated American Housing Month in June, offers some tips on how older adults can start planning ahead.

“America’s 50 and older population is expected to increase by 20% in the next 15 years,” said ABA President and CEO Frank Keating, in a press release. “It’s important that older adults and their families plan ahead to ensure they have the housing they need for a safe, comfortable and independent life.”

Here are seven tips to help you stay in your home longer:

1. Take a Look at Your Finances

It does not matter how you do it, but you need to understand your financial future. Use a retirement calculator, contact a financial planner, or arrange a meeting with a trusted family member or friend and a banker.

“It’s critical to understand your financial resources, how long they’ll last and what housing options are the most cost-effective for you,” the ABA says.

Be sure to consider all costs associated with aging in place, including:

  • Home modifications
  • Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
  • In-home caregiver support for house upkeep and medical purposes
  • Property taxes and home insurance

2. Consider a Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is a loan that converts some of your home equity into cash flow. A HECM, or a home equity conversion mortgage, is a reverse mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration. It is the most common reverse mortgage.

Depending on your age and interest rates, a portion of the equity that you have built up over years of making mortgage payments can be made accessible to you through a reverse mortgage.

The money can be taken in a lump sum, monthly payments, as needed with a line of credit or some combination of these options. To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years old.

Just like any financial product, a reverse mortgage is better suited for certain people in certain situations. But if you want to stay in your home, but are worried about finances then it is something to strongly consider.

Before signing on the dotted line, make sure to:

  • Shop around and check with multiple lenders. You can get a quick estimate and connect with prescreened lenders here.
  • Read all loan documents carefully. There are a number of actions that could cause the loan to become due.

3. Assess Your Home

While most Americans prefer to age in place, there are often design changes that must be made to their homes to ensure they’re safe and comfortable, the ABA says.

To stay in your home as long as possible as you age, you should:

  • Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home.
  • Update lighting inside and outside of the house so all walkways and stairs are well-lit.
  • Clear pathways throughout the house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping.
  • If a bedroom or bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing an elevator or chairlift. At minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower and near the toilet.

4. Make Security a Priority

Financial fraud schemes are an all-too-common way older Americans are scammed out of financial assets that are critical to their retirement stability.

In fact, selling bogus investment products to older Americans is big business, with an estimated $2.9 billion worth of retirement investing losses being attributed to financial elder abuse annually.

It’s a common scenario: You receive an email, letter or phone call promising easy money or dire consequences. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.

Be cautious about who you allow in your home and do not disclose sensitive information strangers. The ABA also advises you:

  • Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor or other professional.
  • Install up-to-date and easy-to-use locks on your home.
  • Make sure your front door has a peephole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.

5. Look Into Community Resources

If your mobility is limited, look into services offered in your area. Many communities have established nonprofit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost.

Additionally, look into services provided by companies, such as Uber and Peapod, which provide on-demand transportation and grocery delivery services, respectively.

Using such services can help you remain independent in your home as long as possible.

6. Be Prepared for Emergencies

Don’t wait for something to happen before you prepare. Make sure you have a plan in place ahead of time.

To prepare, the ABA suggests you:

  • Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
  • Consider a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). Transmitters can be worn as a bracelet or around your neck and require the simple push of a button to send a signal to a call center.
  • Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.

7. Re-Evaluate Your Needs

Every six months, you should re-evaluate your situation to make sure all your needs are being met, the ABA says.

As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or as needed, to sit down with your trusted family member, friend and a financial advisor to make sure your current living situation is still the right one.

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