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What It Takes to Age in Place

A house can continue to be a home with some modifications

By Department of Health and Human Services and SCAN Foundation

Editor's note: This article is part of a year-long project about aging well, planning for the changes aging brings and shaping how society thinks about aging. 

It’s not just a house. It’s a home. Your parents raised a family there, tended the garden and mowed the lawn. They kept up with the neighbors and enjoyed many wonderful years in that house. Who can blame them for never wanting to leave?

(MORE: SPECIAL REPORT: Transforming Life as We Age)

Finding a Place for Forever

No one lives forever, but people are living longer, and most American seniors desire to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. A 2010 AARP survey found that 73 percent respondents 45 and over strongly agreed with the statement, “I’d like to stay in my current residence for as long as possible,” while an additional 13 percent in that age group somewhat agreed with the statement.

They can remain in their homes for as long they want, with some planning. The house itself may need to be customized for their increasing needs. Someone could come in to keep the house livable. And financial arrangements can make it all affordable.

(MORE: 3 Innovative Ways to Age in Place)

Make House Feel Like Home

Home modification doesn’t mean converting a house into a hospital. In addition to adding safety rails in the bathroom or a chair lift on the stairs, one floor of the home can be adapted for single-level living. Coming and going can take place through a doorway not connected to a stairway. Non-skid flooring, adjustable controls on light switches and programmable thermostats “senior proof” a home without making dramatic changes to the familiar environment.

Affording a Home in Retirement

A nest egg is for retirement years, and it can shrink quickly if costs for keeping a house or paying for help are too high. Reverse mortgages are loans that allow homeowners age 62 and over to convert home equity into cash while living at home for as long as they want. Unlike conventional mortgages, there are no income requirements for these loans and no monthly payments are required as long as the borrower continues to live in the home. When the last borrower moves out of the home or dies, the loan becomes due.

(MORE: Own Your Future)


“It opens up new options for people to think about in terms of how they tap their equity as a retirement resource,” said Barbara Stucki, vice president of home equity initiatives at the National Council on Aging.

When Your Loved Ones Can’t Do It Alone

There comes a time when it’s obvious that outside help is needed for an aging loved one. According to a fact sheet on hiring in-home help by the Family Caregiver Alliance, telltale signs include recognizing that constant supervision and/or assistance is needed with everyday activities. This is the time to talk to them about getting help and have discuss with other family members or friends in similar situations what has — or hasn’t—worked well for them.

The National Institute on Aging points out that paying for part of caregiving out of pocket can cost less than moving into an independent living, assisted living or long-term care center. And, your loved ones get their wish of staying in their own home.

There are plenty of places that help to ensure your lifelong stay at home is fulfilling:


By Department of Health and Human Services
By SCAN Foundation
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