Aging In Place Information
Older adults across the country say they want to age in place, and local communities are making efforts to help them achieve their goals. Towns and cities are improving their “livability scores” to make it safer for older adults to remain in their homes.
For example, leaders in local New Hampshire communities are busy helping older adults age in place, but they’re doing more than just working on homes. Officials in the city of Dover are improving walking routes to public transportation. Goffstown officials traveled around to educate residents on how to reduce housing costs with a recent state law allowing second homes on their property. The town of Newport plans to develop a vacant lot into a $60,000 dog park and community garden.
Towns and cities nationwide are improving their “livability scores” by establishing “age-friendly” policies, improving public spaces, and offering more services to make it safer for older adults to stay in their communities as they age in place.
AARP and other advocacy groups for seniors are encouraging changes in communities that will benefit not just older adults but the general population as well. In other words, what’s good for one is good for all.
“Everyone benefits from safe sidewalks. Everyone benefits from housing that is safe and affordable. Everyone benefits from transportation that is safe and accessible,” said Ashley Davis, associate state director of outreach and advocacy at AARP New Hampshire. “This work really opens doors for everybody, and it makes our state an even better place to live.”
Advocates for seniors say that in age-friendly areas, older adults can make valuable contributions to their communities through their professional experiences, free time for community efforts, and money to support local businesses.
AARP created a “Livability Index” that focuses on measuring and improving neighborhoods for people of all ages. Through this index, AARP can score a community on how well it meets the needs of its residents as they age. The initiative also has a way for communities to identify “age-friendly projects” and in some instances, the funding to carry them out.
AARP New Hampshire launched its initiative in 2018 and has since designated 19 communities as age-friendly and funded 18 projects.
Remodeling Homes to Age in Place
As communities take steps to become “age-friendly,” some seniors are undergoing home remodeling projects, such as widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, adding smart technology, or installing skid-resistant flooring.
Depending on what needs to get done, remodeling a home can become costly. However, there are several options for financing a remodeling project. The most common options include the following:
1. Home Equity Loans.
- A home equity loan allows seniors to borrow against the equity in their homes. Approval for a home equity loan depends on how much equity is in the home and the homeowner’s credit score. Before moving forward, seniors should consider whether they have the finances to repay the loan.
2. Reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage lets homeowners convert a portion of the equity in their home into cash without having to sell their home or pay additional monthly bills. Seniors do not need to make payments on the loan. However, older adults should be aware that various frauds are perpetrated with reverse mortgages and it would be in their best interest to speak with a reputable financial planner or mortgage lender before applying for a reverse mortgage.
3. Home improvement loans. Home improvement loans are loans designed for funding home improvement projects. In some cases, a home improvement loan can be secured by a home, or the loan can be unsecured.
Funding Options for Aging in Place
Just as it’s important for older adults to have the plan to make their home more comfortable, it’s also important to have the plan to pay for long-term care needs. While many seniors want to age in place, very few have long-term care insurance that can help fund their care. This type of insurance covers a variety of services, including:
- • Home health care
- • An in-home caregiver to help the policyholder with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming
- • Respite care that allows older adults to attend an adult day care or temporarily stay in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or another senior specialty residence. Respite care temporarily relieves the primary caregivers of their responsibilities.
- • Medical equipment
- • Short-term hospice care
The cost of a long-term care insurance policy varies due to the type of coverage provided. While having insurance is beneficial to people who want to age in place, there are other ways to plan to cover costs:
1. Make A Budget Based on Your Assets.
- Gather information on your annuities, investments, savings, life insurance policies, and other financial assets and put together an at-home care budget.
2. Gather Information From Local Agencies. Local nonprofits and Area Agency on Aging (AAA) offices are good resources for seniors who need in-home care and other services. The U.S. Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator has a list of places offering financial assistance to help pay for care.
3. Medicare and Medicaid Coverage. Original Medicare can cover the total cost of medically necessary home healthcare on a limited basis if a person is not able to leave home without assistance, according to AARP. Also, Medicaid pays for certain in-home care services. However, each state has different rules regarding Medicaid. So, older adults should check to see what services their state’s Medicaid program offers.
4. Live-In Care. Some home care agencies provide licensed and bonded caregivers who live with older adults and help them with their daily activities, including bathing, eating, cooking, and light housekeeping. These caregivers have been thoroughly vetted by the agencies. Also, some older adults offer room and board to younger people in exchange for in-home assistance. It’s important, however, for older adults to thoroughly vet caregivers before allowing anyone to stay with them.
A study by HCG Secure/Arctos Foundation found that about 70 percent of participants want to age at home, yet only 10 percent have long-term care insurance, and about half had no idea how much in-home care would cost. The survey also found that middle-income individuals fall through the cracks when it comes to long-term care because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and other reduced-income programs.
Tom Beauregard, the founder of HCG Secure, told CNBC News there’s “a need for innovation in this space to cover middle-income families to age at home.”
“For most people, it’s a blind spot—they [mistakenly] think home care will be covered by their [employee] insurance or Medicare,” Beauregard said. “And most of them can’t afford long-term care insurance.”