The ABA Foundation celebrates American Housing Month with practical advice for ‘aging in place’
WASHINGTON — According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 80 percent of individuals age 65 or older own their home. A Georgetown University survey found that a vast majority of these older Americans wish to remain in their homes as they age. In recognition of American Housing Month, the American Bankers Association Foundation is providing older homeowners with seven tips to help them prepare to “age in place.”
“Older Americans make up the largest share of homeowners in the country,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “In order for them to stay in their homes as they age, families and caregivers must plan ahead to ensure the elderly have all the resources they need to be safe, independent and financially secure.”
The ABA Foundation suggests these tips to help seniors “age in place”:
Take a hard look at your finances. 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. Be sure to consider all costs associated with aging in place, including:
Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
In home caregiver for house upkeep and medical purposes
Carefully consider a reverse mortgage. Though not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can provide monthly cash payments based on your home’s equity.
Shop around. Be sure to check with multiple lenders. You can use sites like www.reversemortage.org, sponsored by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, to find lenders in your area.
Make sure to read all loan documents carefully. There are a number of actions that could cause the loan to become due. It is imperative the borrower continues to live in the home, pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, and keep the home in good repair.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires counseling for any borrower taking out a reverse mortgage. Find an approved reserve mortgage counseling agency by visiting www.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/sfh/hcc.
For more information on reverse mortgages, visit aba.com/consumers.
Assess your home and determine what modifications are necessary. While staying in your home is preferable for many, there are often design changes that must be made to ensure it’s also safe and comfortable.
Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home.
Update lighting inside and outside of the house so that all walkways and stairs are well lit. Clear pathways throughout house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping.
If a bedroom and bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing an elevator or chairlift. At a minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, or near the toilet.
For more information about suggested home modifications as you age, visit www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/.
Make security a priority. Older Americans are often targets for scams and other criminal behavior. Be cautious about who you allow in your home and disclose sensitive information to.
Install up to date and easy to use locks. Make sure your front door has a peep hole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.
Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor, etc.
Look into community resources. If mobility is limited, look in to services offered in your area. Many communities have established non-profit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost.
Be prepared for possible emergencies.
Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
Falls are leading causes of injuries for the elderly. Talk to your healthcare provider and find a balance and exercise program that’s right for you.
Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.
Reevaluate every six months to make sure all needs are being met. As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or as needed, to sit down with your trusted family or friend and make sure your current living situation is still the right one.
For more information on American Housing Month, visit aba.com/housing.