How to prepare for ‘Aging in Place’ and why it matters now

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Life happens”. Just the other day I experienced the phrase in my own life. I broke one leg and injured my other ankle through a random accident leaving me wheelchair bound while I recover. In an instant my life changed, at least for the near future.

I was no longer able to climb my tall staircase to my second floor condo, or make it up the stairs to my third floor where my washer and dryer is located. I also couldn’t get through the doors to my bedroom and bathroom because my wheelchair couldn’t fit.

When this happened, I started to think about an entire group of people that need housing accommodations that aren’t readily available or easily searchable on sites like Zillow or Realtor.com. There’s no quality website homesearch filters for those living with short or long-term disabilities.

For those of us who are healthy and able-bodied right now it is easy to forget about preparing your home for the unexpected. Like keeping on top of your will it can be uncomfortable to think of the worst case scenario, but it will save you peace of mind in the long run.

Many real estate articles speak on finding a home you can retire in, sometimes referred to as “aging in place”. Now that I’ve undergone this experience I realize the importance of finding a home that can accommodate to the reality of life. If an accident happens can your house easily adapt to your needs? Because when you’re sick, ill, or injured the last thing you want to be doing is looking for a new home.

What to look for to ensure your home, or the next home you purchase, can adapt for the unexpected:

  • Rooms on the ground floor – Is there a bedroom and bath on the first floor, or a room that can easily transition to a bedroom in the case of an emergency? This room can act as an office or a guest room and doesn’t need to be considered the “life happens” room. Hopefully it won’t be necessary, but it feels good to have a back up plan.
  • Entry to the home – Is there a place to easily add a ramp if needed? If you’re in a small lot there may not be enough space between the front door and your gate to properly fit a ramp. Or better yet, ensure there is at least one no-step entry.
  • Width of the doors – Are the bedroom, bathroom, and front and back doors big enough for wheelchair access? This is especially helpful if you have aging parents, alongside the importance of taking care of yourself no matter what predicament you may find yourself in. Think ahead.
  • Separate apartment – If you’re able to find a space that can be converted into a separate apartment this can be used for rental income or a future caregiver. Supplemental income can help pay medical bills and a caregiver may be needed depending on the severity of you, or your loved one’s, situation.

 

Though aging in place is typically associated with older people, it is important to think of our homes now and their ability to function for our changing needs, especially if life takes a turn.

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