For Boomers Reframing Aging, Age-Proofing A Home Won’t Come Cheap

Yves here. On the one hand, this article sets forth a nascent housing trend: that of building or retro-fitting homes to be elderly-friendly. On the other, without getting the full details, this couple built a home that was wheelchair friendly. Another potential need is live-in help. And caring for the yard would eventually be entirely hired out if the couple is indeed able to age in place.

The article also politely notes that not being able to drive becomes an issue, yet seems to have a “assume public transportation” as a remedy.

Another issue is the ecological implications of more and more people wanting a single-story home, which all other things being equal, would be even more costly to heat and cool than two story home, since single story homes would generally have a higher surface to mass ratio.

It would obviously be a lot more efficient if more of this sort of thing could be done on a collective or group basis….and that doesn’t have to mean some sort of facility (although there are some that are reportedly very good, like one near Rye, NY where the residents are connected enough that they’ve gotten Yo Yo Ma to perform there. Three libraries, lots of activities, tunnels between the buildings with golf carts to take you around if you need them… but of course not cheap). But organizing any kind of group living is fraught, not just the difficulty of finding like-minded people with decent temperaments, but their circumstances can change suddenly (health, finances, needs of relatives).

By Sharon Jayson. Originally published at Kaiser Health News

Dennis and Chris Cavner, in their early 70s, are preparing to move less than two blocks away into a 2,720-square-foot, ranch-style house they bought this year. But first a renovation is underway, taking the 45-year-old property all the way back to its studs. When the work is finished, these baby boomers are confident the move will land them in their forever home.

“We wanted to find a house that we could live in literally for the rest of our lives,” Dennis Cavner said. “We were looking specifically for a one-story house and one that had a flat lot, to age in place.”

For most of American history, people have moved in with relatives or gone to a care facility to live out their final years. Baby boomers don’t want either, and those with resources have generally created the modern idea of remaking old age to fit their lifestyle and retrofitting their homes for aging in place. Design and construction firms are coming up with safety features that look good as well. Think of it as the age-defying home.

Aging in place is a major financial commitment, one that may be at odds with retirees’ plans to downsize their lives and budgets and squirrel away cash in anticipation of rising health care costs. The Cavners are rebuilding this house — assessed at $700,000 around the time of the sale — from a shell. The remodel could easily cost $300,000 in the hot Austin market.

Leaving nothing to chance, the Cavners are paying for a number of modifications they might never need. For instance, neither uses a wheelchair, but contractors are making all doorways 3 feet wide — just in case. The master bath roll-in shower, flat and rimless, will provide room to maneuver. In the kitchen, drawers, rather than cabinets, will allow easy access in a wheelchair.

The Cavners are closely watching details of the renovation, but this dramatic late-life relocation wasn’t a hard decision.

Chris and Dennis Cavner of Austin, Texas, stand inside the shell of a guestroom with a private bathroom. Located at the opposite end of the house from their bedroom, this suite could serve as caregiver quarters if they need assistance as they age. The couple, both in their early 70s, bought this single-level home in February and are remodeling extensively to age in place. (Sharon Jayson for Kaiser Health News)

For some seniors, aging in place might amount to simple modifications, such as adding shower grab bars or replacing a standard toilet with one that sits taller. But many seniors anticipate a financial crunch as they try to plan for their future on a fixed income, uncertain how far their savings and retirement funds will stretch.

A report released last week by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies may fuel these concerns. It cites growing income disparity for older Americans in the wake of the Great Recession, and says “ensuring financial and housing security in retirement will be a struggle.”

For those 65 and older, it said, “the number of households with housing cost burdens has reached an all-time high. By 2050, almost one-quarter of Americans will be 65 or older, according to the Census. Surveys conducted over the past decade show that older adults overwhelmingly want to age in their homes.

Yet many houses aren’t suited to “aging in place,” said Abbe Will, associate project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard.

“Currently, a lot do not have single-floor living — especially in certain parts of the country. There are lots of stairs and multistory homes when land is more valuable,” she said. And “many homeowners don’t necessarily have the funds to do aging in place.”

Home modifications and costs vary widely — starting with those simple safety features in the bathroom or lever doorknobs throughout the house — to more extensive changes, such as widening doorways or lowering light switches to wheelchair height. Will said simple retrofits, such as grab bars, “could be several hundred dollars,” but a “whole bathroom remodel would be in the thousands or tens of thousands.”

In a recent survey of 1,000 people age 65 and older by the California-based nonprofit SCAN (formerly the Senior Care Action Network), 80% of respondents were concerned about their ability to age in place. The driver appears to be financial: About 60% said they have less than $10,000 in savings (including investments and retirement plans).

“We don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline as we age,” said sociologist Deborah Thorne of the University of Idaho, lead author of a study that found skyrocketing bankruptcy rates among those 65 and older.

The research, recently published in the journal Sociological Inquiry, finds the share of older Americans filing for bankruptcy has never been higher. “And bankrupt households are more likely than ever to be headed by a senior — the percent of older bankrupt filers has increased almost 500 percent since 1991,” the study found.

The Harvard report also cited the burden of debt among those ages 65 to 79, with nearly half of those homeowners carrying a mortgage in 2016. And people are carrying substantially more student loan and credit card debt into retirement as well.

Don and Lynn Dille of Austin, Texas, both in their 70s, built an energy-efficient home to age in place, with hard floors throughout, 36-inch-wide doorways and open living areas for easy maneuvering should either need a wheelchair. (Sharon Jayson for Kaiser Health News)

James Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, attributes the increase “to the labor market and employment downsizing and letting older people go first. It can force them into retirement whether they’re ready for it or not. Retirement income may not be enough to carry their debts, and they don’t have enough savings.” 

“The leading edge of baby boomers has not hit 75 yet,” said Jennifer Molinsky, lead author of the Harvard report. “When you think about the next five, 10 or 15 years when they’re in their 80s, you’re really going to see the needs shift.”

Molinsky said just what financially challenged seniors should do about housing “is a good question and is a tough question.” Many states have loan and grant programs for home modifications if individuals have a documented disability, she said, yet “what we need more of are programs that help you do this before you need it.”

Molinsky said communities need to create housing near city centers so seniors don’t have to drive. And in the suburbs, communities need to offer more multifamily options, including condos and apartments to buy and rent.

“We just need options,” she said. “It’s important to think about housing options that help people stay in that community. Low-income people need housing that’s affordable. Some people want to trade that single-family home for a condo. Others want to reassess their money and sell their home for a rental. Not everybody wants the same thing.”

Don and Lynn Dille, both 75, built their Austin home with the intention of staying there for a long time. After living in California, Virginia and elsewhere in Texas, they moved to Austin in 2012 and, within a year, began drawing plans with an architect for an energy-efficient home to age in place. Their home was featured this summer in Austin’s annual Cool House Tour for its design making the most of natural light, cross-ventilation and solar panels, as well as wider-than-normal doorways and level floors for wheelchair use.

One key feature of the construction acknowledges that they might need live-in help down the road to avoid long-term nursing care. Just as the Cavners may convert a bedroom and bath on the opposite side of their new home into caregiver quarters, the Dilles constructed a second floor above their detached garage that could convert into living space.

“We think having a separate apartment where we could have a caretaker or part-time help to maintain our property makes us able to stay where we’d like to be and be independent,” said Don Dille, who retired from the federal government.

The renovations are meant to meet very personal needs, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appeal to others and even add to the resale value down the road.

For his part, Cavner, an investment adviser and co-founder of a new health care startup, said he believes what they’re spending to renovate the house for the years ahead will prove a sound investment: “The modifications we’re making are not going to make it less desirable. It will feel more spacious.”

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96 comments

  1. HD

    “Another issue is the ecological implications of more and more people wanting a single-story home, which all other things being equal, would be even more costly to heat and cool than two story home, since single story homes would generally have a higher surface to mass ratio.”

    Not sure about that, runs counter to the analysis I have seen and experienced.

    Reply
    1. TimH

      Actually it’s external surface area to internal volume (not mass). The lowest external surface area container per unit volume is a cube, which approximates a 2-story. Actual apartment blocks can be the most efficient (despite typically poor construction insulation-wise) due to so many common internal walls.

      Reply
      1. Grumpy Engineer

        Yes. Unless there’s a severe asymmetry in quality of wall insulation vs quality of attic insulation, a 2-story home should be less costly to heat or cool than a 1-story home of the same square footage.

        Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry, that is what I meant, but perils of drafting in the early AM in a field outside my normal beat. I was stating the principle as it applies to solids. And per Grumpy, I did say, “all other things being equal”.

        Reply
    2. Wyoming

      There are many variables to this issue. One can Google the comparison (as I just did) and find numerous articles finding both directions. For a specific design a 1 story will be better, but for another a 2 story. Layout of rooms, open areas, ceiling heights, tree shade, local climate (normally windy or not, well below freezing or 100+ temps, etc) will also determine the answer for a specific design.

      If we were actually worrying about the ecological implications (which we are not) all new construction would be multi-family and densely built. Where I live (AZ) we are building like mad for the huge influx of retired boomers. The most common layout is single story, but 2 story is a substantial minority. Almost no multi-family (that is for the help). The more affluent retirees tend to go for 3000+ square footage also. Lots of these houses are fitted out with top end materials (tile/hardwood floors, granite countertops, paver driveways, tile roofs, stucco, high end appliances, 3 car garages, etc). Nothing ecological around here.

      Reply
    3. anon y'mouse

      if it is properly insulated and built correctly, it should cost less to heat and cool than whatever it was they are moving from, no matter the shape. most of our housing stock in this country is not properly insulated.

      https://youtu.be/N7BqObGA6ss

      Reply
    4. Harrold

      In Austin, it is more expensive to cool a two story house. The hot air from the first floor will naturally rise to the 2nd story thru the stairwell. This is more apparent in the summer time.

      You will also need two air conditioning units/thermostats or create multiple cooling zones with the ducts.

      It is not uncommon for a two story houses to have double the heating/cooling costs of a one story.

      Reply
  2. Pym of Nantucket

    I simply can’t see the advantage to renovating over moving to an appropriate location. The poor urban planning of suburbia is now coming back to bite the boomers hard. In the days where the trends of the 70s and 80s looked like they would go on forever, it was not obvious, but now it is. This infrastructure is going to be difficult to repurpose (I swear this is not Jim Kunstler posting, honest). Access to health care, public transit and being able to walk to get groceries are going to transform the value of the RE inventory. Where I live, winters are very challenging anbd there is the added obstacle of snow and ice increasing the chances of either car accidents or just falls. It is really hitting my parents hard right now. This is going to hit home prices (most peoples’ “wealth”). Who will buy the places in the exurbs?

    Reply
    1. Susan the Other

      I’m a first year boomer. Born 1946. So we, my husband and I, are right in the middle of this. We have a 3-story home in snow country. And we are getting ready to put in a stair chair. We now hire snowblowers to do the driveway. It’s a gradual process, keeping up with aging joints. But the stairs are also a good in-home exercise. Twice a day. As far as organizing every little obstacle, we’ve found it’s easier to just cut back on our demands. All those pots and pans that are out of reach are there because you hardly ever use them. It’s a very easy step to go from hardly-ever-use to never use again. I read recently that the hardest thing to do is admit your business is a losing game – it will never pay off and it’s time to sell. That’s the same thing as aging. It’s a losing game and you’ll never win – but it’s hard to admit. If we had seen this coming as a society we could have had transition housing in place. To my thinking the best thing would be apartment complexes designed for good access. No maintenance. Maybe shuttle services. I don’t know why apartment buildings with enough residents couldn’t have their own pharmacies and physical therapists. Etc. The question ‘Who will buy all those places in the exurbs?’ is critical at this point because they are losing value quickly. People are stuck without replacement homeowners. It was not well planned to begin with so naturally we’re in another mess and the government is dragging it’s heels like never before. Because the hardest thing to admit is that things aren’t gonna get any better.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        In my observation, some stairways are very unsafe.

        There should always be sturdy railings on BOTH sides of the stairway.

        A motion operated stairway light should be installed.

        Also, every landing should have a way of physically blocking off the stairway at night so one could be prevented from accidentally stumbling down the staircase at night.

        I know someone whose mother was visiting them, got up in the night, fell down their staircase and never regained consciousness.

        My bother and I installed a removable plywood board across the stairway adjacent to a bathroom door so my father would not take a wrong turn at night and fall down the stairway.

        Reply
        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Excellent points and doable on a restricted budget.

          Part of our problem is that we have been specialized to the point that many simple to somewhat complicated tasks and projects are simply beyond people. Others are overpriced by professionals because so much is beyond people that they’ve lost track of what is outrageous (not to mention ever more complex and costly code requirements and the ever beloved insurance companies and their tendency to financially dissect you alive part by living part).

          I remember in the late sixty’s, in our fair city of Cambridge MA there were university extension courses teaching plumbing and electrical for the do-it-your-self-er or ‘week end warrior’ as sometimes called. That would be unheard of today.

          Reply
      2. dearieme

        I should hate to share an apartment building with poor acoustic insulation with a generation that likes loud rubbishy music with the bass turned up. Pure Hell. Murder would be done.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I lived in NYC for 30+ years in apartments and never had a noise problem, and I lived in 10 apartment and crashed in another for extended periods while visiting from Oz. But NYC has tough building codes and only 2 of the 10 were in modern buildings. Ditto no noise problem in my apartment in Sydney, or the apartment I lived in for four months in London.

          In other words, this problem seems to be overstated unless you wind up in crap new construction.

          Reply
    2. Grayce

      “renovating over moving to an appropriate location.”
      There are many Americans still living who did not move frequently during their work life and whose present home is surrounded by friends and neighbors. To them, ‘living” is more than a place to sleep. Rather, it involves some sort of community where many people know your name. That’s why moving to “an appropriate place” sounds like the pious pronouncement of a son or daughter who lives elsewhere and feels burdened by the “problem” of an aging parent. Although many people successfully adopt happy lives in senior housing establishments, aging in place in a familiar place appeals to some.

      Reply
    3. Math is Your Friend

      “This infrastructure is going to be difficult to repurpose (I swear this is not Jim Kunstler posting, honest)”

      Depends on the infrastructure.

      Much, probably most, of mass transit infrastructure will become unusable by a significant portion of the population. If level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles get sorted out, the roads will be extremely useful, and for some people, significantly more vital than they are today.

      The addition of covered pickup/drop off points at most buildings will go a long way toward mitigating fall risks. When your car can give door to door service, and park/return by itself, a lot of potential difficulties vanish.

      This should enable many people to live in their own homes when otherwise they would need some kind of facility that encourages staying in the building for most purposes.

      Multistory houses will require modification in a lot of cases.

      Reply
      1. a different chris

        >will go a long way toward mitigating fall risks. When your car can give door to door service,

        Huh? So my automated car drops my 85-year old a$$ off, whooshes away and oops I go down. All alone in my entryway….heck this can happen at my current age, given my lazy approach to tying shoelaces.

        Well, maybe if I don’t actually hit my head and thus *can* scream for help Alexa will figure it out.

        Reply
        1. Math is Your Friend

          “So my automated car drops my 85-year old a$$ off, whooshes away and oops I go down. All alone in my entryway”

          How is this more dangerous than the bus dropping you off 500 metres from your door, leaving you to navigate roads with ice covered by snow, snowbanks, etc., before you get near your entryway, which is still at least as much an obstacle as in your scenario?

          Reply
          1. jrs

            with public transportation you’ll also have to walk to the bus stop. I mean there are some elderly ride programs but it’s not the bus system.

            Reply
      2. Phacops

        “If level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles get sorted out, the roads will be extremely useful, and for some people, significantly more vital than they are today.”

        Do you happen to live in an area that does not experience weather? Upgrading roads to accommodate autonomous vehicles during massive snowfall (10″ or more of lake-effect snow at least once a week during winter) just ain’t gonna happen. During those times such vehicles may be a source of amusement as long as I didn’t have to share the road with them.

        Reply
        1. Duck1

          Not to mention that the roads will not be extremely useful when they continue to fall apart. Or are we just talking about rich folk areas?

          Reply
    4. Math is Your Friend

      “I simply can’t see the advantage to renovating over moving to an appropriate location. ”

      Here we may be looking at another case of “it doesn’t work the same way everywhere”.

      Remember that the US is the land of cheap housing.

      I am constantly surprised how inexpensive houses are there. That, and lower taxes, and probably fewer applicable taxes and/or fees make moving to a new house in the US far less financially punishing. The costs (obligatory fees and taxes) of selling my house and buying another are probably greater than the total cost of buying a similar house in the US.

      This reminds me of a period when US based vendors were trying to sell us geographically distributed IT solutions involving a lot of inter-site data transfer. They really weren’t aware that telecommunications costs were 5 to 10 times higher here than in the US. That really changed the analysis.

      Reply
    5. Yves Smith Post author

      You obviously have not moved recently. Even with spending a fortune on moving helpers (and I do not mean just packing, I hired a moving concierge), I found moving PHYSICALLY extremely stressful. All the standing and supervising was hell on my joints. And that’s before getting to all the stress.

      And pray tell, where are these miraculously elder-friendly free-standing structures in central areas with public transit and where you can do most things on foot? You are talking New York City, which I can tell you is a very hostile city to the elderly and infirm.

      Reply
  3. JohnnySacks

    Curious to how well that’s going to work out in the long run, it’s quite a gamble. The build out assumes one will be in a wheelchair but one may end up bedridden? Or maybe simply need a walker until the end?
    Managing a revolving door and scheduling of live-in caregivers hanging out in one’s home idling in standby mode most of the time will not be easy either.
    I’m going through this now with aging parents in a ranch, well past the time-frame where the scope and scale of a bathroom retrofit can be managed. The square footage of 50’s spec house bathrooms is unable to support roll in showers and 3 foot doorways without structural modifications.
    Trying to get the point across to them that what you want (aging in an untenable situation) may not necessarily be what you’re going to get and it’s time for an apartment in an assisted living arrangement, the independent living boat having left port at least 5 years ago. There are no easy answers

    Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    I’m going to get all biblical here as when I was reading this story of that couple, I was reminded of that old parable that I heard in my youth. Anybody remember this one?

    ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ “But God said to him, ‘You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared—whose will they be?’

    At 75 you may want to think in terms of having a forever home that has been modified for you needs but the truth is that you cannot count on what happens next year. A partner takes sick, passes away, or something else happens and then what happens to that home? Having read this article, I do wonder if housing stock will tend to split into two groups.
    There will be those average homes and then there will be an ever growing stock of homes modified for the elderly. With the costs involved, you cannot keep modifying a house back and forth depending on who moves in. Thus long term you may have homes with nicknames to designate the fact that they have been heavily modified for the elderly.

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      Also:

      Psalm 92:12-14:
      The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
      He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
      Planted in the house of the Lord,
      They will flourish in the courts of our God.
      They will still yield fruit in old age;
      They shall be full of sap and very green,

      To declare that the Lord is upright;
      He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
      [bold added]

      Isaiah 40:30-31:
      Though youths grow weary and tired,
      And vigorous young men stumble badly,
      Yet those who wait for the Lord
      Will gain new strength;
      They will mount up with wings like eagles,
      They will run and not get tired,
      They will walk and not become weary
      .

      I get impatient with people, especially with my siblings, when they equate getting older with getting less healthy. Not necessarily …

      Reply
      1. Shonde

        “I get impatient with people, especially with my siblings, when they equate getting older with getting less healthy. Not necessarily …”

        I agree. When my 81 year old sister’s husband died, her sons took her to a local dealership and asked her to try out a zero turn lawn mower. Her favorite activity is now mowing her acres of lawn. She takes zero meds by the way. My 85 year old sister, also with acres of lawn, cancelled her lawn service this summer after her 89 year old husband died and now mows her own lawn again with her 54 inch riding lawn mower. She would love a zero turn but can’t justify it since her John Deere is in good condition yet. She is on zero meds.
        My 81 year old sister still has a garden which provides for her and many others in addition to a small orchard that provides apples to food shelves and people much younger than her in an assisted living facility. She also is on zero meds.
        Frankly, at 72 it is hard for me to keep up with them. To my sisters, adapting to old age must have meant getting riding lawn mowers!

        Reply
        1. eg

          Genetics matter — my Dad died before 81; Mom’s in her early 80s but had to give up driving because of a narrowed carotid artery

          Hope your pattern mimics the family members you describe rather than my own …

          Reply
        2. John Wright

          And riding lawn mowers have served as transportation for the elderly.

          “Alvin Straight’s 80-year-old brother Henry had recently suffered a stroke. At the age of 73, Alvin Straight could not see well enough for a driver’s license, so he decided his only option was to travel on his 1966 John Deere riding lawn mower.”

          He went 240 miles..

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Straight

          Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        I know that to ‘equate getting older with getting less healthy’ may not be a popular idea but the statistics suggest otherwise. I am seeing friends and family as they age drop like second-lieutenants in a combat zone. There is a reason that geriatrics is a thing unfortunately. Homes like you see in that article are not so much homes as way-stations for the next stage in their lives.

        Reply
      3. Brooklin Bridge

        Err, I don’t know about the righteous man, but the rich one will probably live longer and overpopulate more.

        Anyway, putting religious requirements of purity and moral behavior, not to mention religion itself, on people as a condition of longevity, good health and rabbit habits seems a bit of a lot restrictive; then again, I may well be missing your drift.

        Reply
        1. notabanktoadie

          I see two problems to be solved first.

          1) Knowing what righteousness is.
          2) Knowing what waiting on the Lord is.

          And the ONLY way to know those for sure is to read the Bible yourself and to actively DISTRUST any so-called authorities such as churches, priests, ministers, nuns, religious books, authors etc. And turn off or ignore the footnotes, chapter headings, commentaries, and everything else except the text of the Bible itself. Any reputed translation should do if you read it enough.

          I’d start with Proverbs. Also, Psalm 37 if you’re envious of the wicked. And to really understand the New Testament, one must know the Old Testament.

          One last thing, I sympathize with your concerns about sexual purity but that’s probably one of the LAST things God will expect of a human being, not anywhere near the first things, which are kindness and truth.

          Reply
          1. Brooklin Bridge

            The ONLY way?

            What about the Bhagavad Gita or the Koran or Science or mere love of truth?

            I’m a huge fan of kindness and wish I were more intimate with love of truth. But it seems contradictory that these would be selfishly monopolized by one branch of wisdom to the exclusion of others.

            Perhaps you are offering the Bible and it’s underlying religion, with your Emersonian emphasis on an individual understanding and relationship as merely one approach at which point I have no tiff, but words lilke “ONLY,” especially in connection with the Bible bring to mind brutal episodes of history, including very recent history, that are pure distilled evil; as far from kindness or truth as one can get.

            Reply
            1. notabanktoadie

              I simply meant that if one wants to know (and know one knows ) what the Bible says about righteousness and waiting on the Lord then one must read the Bible themselves.

              In other words, what others say the Bible says is NOT to be trusted.

              I know this from personal experience; e.g. some well known “Christian” denominations who CLAIM the Bible is their authority actually DENY it by insisting the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic, i.e. mere grape juice, because, in their minds, it would be wrong for Jesus to make wine with alcohol in it.

              But this is absurd since what sense would the following passage make if “grape juice” were substituted for “wine” in the following passage?

              Proverbs 31:6-7
              Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
              And wine to him whose life is bitter.
              Let him drink and forget his poverty
              And remember his trouble no more.

              Ironically one of those same denominations ruled that charging the poor 36% interest for loans was acceptable even though the Bible condemns the taking of even 1% a month (year?) in Nehemiah 5.

              Reply
    2. anon y'mouse

      people already want homes that are “universal(ly) designed” or what you call “designed for the elderly”.

      open floor plans, minimal hallways, roll in showers. these are all design elements that people commonly put in at great expense now. or would like to, but don’t have the dough.

      Universal Design is just that–it is also good for children, or others of all ages with disabilities, or pregnant women, or…..

      http://www.universaldesign.com/housing/

      Reply
    3. eg

      “The Parable of the Rich Fool” — one of my favourites from childhood: I had a cartoon illustrated version that I’m sure I wore my parents out asking to read to me (along with “The Little Engine That Could”)

      Reply
  5. Lee

    Whenever the subject of public transit is raised, I twitch and utter an epithet. Overcrowding with attendant traffic congestion continues unabated here in the SF Bay Area.

    The other day I drove out to one of our town’s ferry landings to catch a ride from Alameda to San Francisco. It’s a pleasant trip and for seniors like myself it’s affordably discounted. Alas, there was nowhere to park within a half mile of the landing and there was no way I could park and still catch the boat. All of the remarkably few disabled reserved spots were taken. As I left the lot to go home I saw on the road a man being pushed in a wheel chair about 1/8 of a mile from the landing. Don’t know if they made it on time.

    Meanwhile, Alameda County Transit Bus service for some incomprehensible reason does not provide a line to the ferry terminal. The nearest stop is a mile away on the road that leads to the ferry. If you are going to suggest Uber or Lyft, just don’t. I’ll twitch and utter an epithet.

    The study showed that San Franciscans spent 62 percent more time sitting in traffic in 2016 than in 2010, before ride-sharing went mainstream. The researchers behind the study, a joint effort of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the University of Kentucky, found that ride-share cars were responsible for more than half of the increase.
    https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/ride-sharing-firms-say-they-help-ease-traffic-congestion-new-ncna1003051

    Reply
    1. Lord Koos

      “Alameda County Transit Bus service for some incomprehensible reason does not provide a line to the ferry terminal.”

      This lack of integration of public transportation is absurd. One of the things we noticed (and loved) about Thailand when living there was the efficient public transport. In Bangkok, a crowded city of 8 million people, it is possible to get around pretty easily. The subway and sky train systems are integrated well with the airports, buses and ferries, and if needed, for the last mile you can either walk or catch a cheap taxi. The USA is far behind in this regard, especially in the west where the automobile still rules.

      Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          “Over an hour.” Are you nuts??

          Go read our Policies. We commit to clearing the mod queue only once every 24 hours. Did you miss that this site is run by all of 1.5 people? Where do you think moderation comes from? Fairies?

          Reply
    2. anon y'mouse

      California is one of the few places that has the population density to justify it. but because transit was deliberately destroyed there to make way for the freeway (and the bus service), and because of how hard things are to get to at all or in a timely manner due to inadequate transit, you still need a car. which adds an additional $10,000 yr overhead to living there.

      considering the size, population and economy of CA, it should have the infrastructure of a Scandinavian country. that it doesn’t can only be by design.

      it’s Chinatown, Jake….

      Reply
      1. jrs

        Yea it’s not that the infrastructure is wrong as discussed above as actually any road could be used for buses (but the usual traffic would apply of course, so it wouldn’t be faster). So it’s really not the infrastructure.

        It might be not enough density, but that’s changing with a push toward more density. It is that good public transit hasn’t been on offer, that our politicians seem unable to ever provide it. Buses that come only ever hour when they come isn’t the solution to anything.

        Reply
    3. Angie Neer

      And I do a twitch/epithet maneuver every time I read a news story that refers to Uber and Lyft as “ride-sharing.” Every use of that term is a win for the Uber myth-making machine.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “unregulated slave taxi”

        year ago, while wife was in hospital for almost a month, I’d walk to a bar and grill that had a patio where i could read and smoke with my pint.
        turned out it was a hangout for uberlyft drivers…throngs of them.
        i eavesdropped extensively, of course….hypercompetitive, but with a weird comradery.
        once, i determined that my body wouldn’t allow walking back(5+ blocks, plus traversing huge hospital complex)
        but, no plastic!
        waitress hooked me up for an off book ride, for cash.
        woman driver had her kids with her…husband was uberlyft, too…said they worked 80 hours a week, at all hours…that it wasn’t worth it, but that they had no option, since his “good job” had gone away, and she had been laid off from whatever retail thing she’d been doing.
        it appeared to me that they were living in their cars(at least part time).
        i talked about the Wobblies , for the ride, and the 20 minutes in the hospital parking lot, because she ws interested, and didn’t really know what a union was(it’s Texas, and such knowledge has been driven out of us)

        of course, for the alternative—regulated taxi—i needed a ride again, so called yellacab.
        dispatcher was in Columbia(the country) and didn’t know squat about san antonio.
        driver was afghani, run off by his village for helping cia,etc.
        cost about 3 times as much as the uberlyft lady’s cash price….and i could smoke in her car,lol.

        Reply
    4. Dan

      Also in the SF Bay Area. Much to my regret I’ve begun avoiding public transit, as there are no useful buses in my hilly neighborhood, and finding parking anywhere near a rail station takes 15-20 minutes. I hate driving, but even driving in gridlock is faster than trying to use our anemic transit infrastructure. For older people in neighborhoods with steep topography this is a real problem.

      Reply
    5. Dan

      Then there’s the threat of crime. BART at certain times is taken over by young cigar smoking thugs who will rob you of any obvious valuables. Maybe they wouldn’t bother an older person out of a sense of decency, but that’s a gamble. Same thing happens to a lesser extent on many bus lines in San Francisco and the east bay.

      “The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.”
      https://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/BART-takeover-robbery-50-to-60-teens-swarm-11094745.php

      So much for “vibrant” communities.

      Reply
      1. flora

        Then there’s the threat of crime. BART at certain times is taken over by young cigar smoking thugs who will rob you of any obvious valuables. Maybe they wouldn’t bother an older person out of a sense of decency, but that’s a gamble.

        Um, so, uh… ‘thugs’ have a better sense of decency than the tbtf banks? That’s clarifying in a horrible sort of way.

        Reply
        1. Dan

          Just being charitable…there’s a streak of humanity in even the worst criminal.
          A corporation? There mission is to take as much as legally possible.

          The Ten Commandments do not apply to big corporations. Especially those that pay zero taxes. i.e. Use Amazon as a free rental and return agency for all your needs.

          Steal from them with absolutely no guilt. Make a game of it.

          Reply
  6. Wukchumni

    My sisters & I tried to talk mom into selling the 2 story 5 bedroom house I grew up in, and moving to an assisted living place, and initially she was ok with it, and then decided she was alright by herself @ 88. Didn’t need any help with anything aside from her once every couple weeks maid from Guatemala, who was ‘the Queen of Clean’, in a couple hours she’d have the house sparkling.

    Fast forward to 90, and she tells us she’s ready to do it, and it wouldn’t have mattered how much age-proofing you did on the house, it’d still be a lonely place, not that she didn’t have plenty of friends.

    Reply
  7. Steve H.

    I remember seeing photos, when I was young, of my mother visiting her partner’s familial home in Italy. It had been in the family for generations, thick masonry and passive lighting, gardens…

    The notion of elderly living separate from family, and even more in communities with an elderly cohort, is so recent that there’s still a selection process as to what can work. (By recent, I mean people alive who remember when this sort of thing didn’t exist.) I’ve seen the comfort that an elderly community can take from each other, but also big sort dynamics without the leavening of youth in the mix.

    It’s not so far from the fallout in China’s ‘one child’ policies. Each kid became responsible for more than one adult. The western way seems to be to put a financial middleman in, have youth work at non-living wages to support the individual lifestyle of their grand-generations through investments. But hey, you get to visit…

    > It would obviously be a lot more efficient if more of this sort of thing could be done on a collective or group basis

    Coherent with Boyd writing “join another collective body in order to improve their capacity for independent action.”

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Yes both my grandfathers were gone before I was 2, so both grandmas lived with my aunts (who were older than my parents).

      When I think about them, both pretty gregarious, I can’t imagine them enjoying living by themselves no matter what the amenities were.

      Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      aye. one of the reasons for living next door to my mom…in addition to never being to afford a 20 acre hermit kingdom on my own. the deal, verbal, on my honor, is that i’d never put her in a home.
      we wanted to buck that trend of disparate, disconnected lack of extended family…with it’s attendant redundancies and lack of supports.
      problem is that affordable location often equals no way to make a living.
      I’d love for the boys to come back after college, or whatever(rumspringer)…but do not expect it until world grinds them up first.

      …and, as so often these days with boomers…what a smug, entitled bunch!,lol. do they have “f&&k the kids, lets party” bumperstickers, too?(yes, this is a thing)
      I’ll certainly never be able to “retire”, and i doubt my wife will, either.
      pensions? what are these pensions you speak of? we can’t count on social security or medicare being there, let alone whether the teacher retirement system will remain functional
      my retirement plan involves permaculture, chickens, etc, and never leveraging the property(and first thing i’ll do when mom goes is put it in a trust or something(hard headed woman!))
      my perfect-world goal is one where the only $$ i need is for property taxes.
      i don’t want anybody to live in a box, but these sorts of articles make a lot of assumptions, and totally disregard the precarious nature of life for a whole lot of our fellow americans.

      Reply
  8. Joel

    Two story buildings retrofitted to be two homes and then rent the top floor out or even better bring back generational living with kids and grandkids on top. Best sollution I can see.

    Reply
  9. Ancient1

    In the ancient days of my youth, when a father and mother reached that point where their health and age prevented them from continuing in what they had always done, day in and day out, a child would step in and assume the responsibility of their care. It was usually the youngest of their children.
    This was the days of farming and large families. That farm passed to the child that had been slowly taking on the duties of the parents and saw to their care till their passing. This was the time when there a unity of community and neighbors who care for one another. Leaving that community and travelling away one hundred miles was unheard of. Families were related through marriage. There was little crime but there was alcoholism. Religion played an important role in everyday lives.

    There was the Great Depression and WWII which changed everything and not for the better. I visit these places today . It is sad and desolate.

    Reply
  10. shinola

    “I hope I die before I get old”

    I concurred with that line the 1st time I heard it on the radio many, many moons ago and still do. (It’s just that my definition of old keeps moving).

    But seriously, the type of thing that Texas couple is doing is only an option for the top 10% (and in keeping with American, particularly Texas, tradition overdoing).

    There may be some hope for us boomers in the lower 90%; in my area, suburbs of Kansas City, there appears to be a building boom going on right now in “senior living facilities”. Essentially 1 & 2 BR apt’s with the buildings equipped with dinning rooms & common areas and assistance available if needed.

    If, as would be typical, they over build these things, it could mean they become relatively less expensive after a while. (That’s the way “The Market” works isn’t it?)

    Reply
    1. Lord Koos

      “…the type of thing that Texas couple is doing is only an option for the top 10%…”

      Exactly my thoughts when I read this piece. The vast majority of elderly Americans will not have the money to do anything but stay where they are and hope for the best. Assisted living places are very expensive. We have a friends who are creating an informal community to help each other age in place. My wife and I are both in our late 60s and currently have no firm plans. We have discussed joining some of our friends in a small town in northern WA near the Canadian border, but the winters there are harsh, it’s very rural, and it’s a long way to the hospital if anything happens. We’ve also discussed moving to another country where we can live more cheaply and more simply, but it’s difficult to start over in your 70s as far as making a new network of friends etc. We have no children, so we are not tied down that way, but that also means we have no one to help us out. Our health so far is good, but that will change as we get into our elder years. We have no debt but limited savings. We feel lucky that at least we do have some options, unlike so many.

      With most younger people unable to afford houses at current prices, it seems that housing values must come down as boomers move on and there becomes a glut of homes on the market. Corporations may seize the opportunity to buy up vast amounts of houses as they did after 2008.

      Reply
  11. unhappyCakeEater

    currently building an addition for Grandpa. In a few years, probably Ma and Pa will live there. If i am very lucky probably ill live in it when my- no, my family’s- house is full of grandkids.
    For immigrant families in my area, this is normal and expected. Not so much for working class whites in suburban southern California. Possibly this is changing though.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Note all the economists (ensconced in their tenured locations) telling people like you to keep moving around the country….chase those jawbs!!

      Reply
  12. Whoamolly

    Results of informal age-friendly city survey after a recent drive up Northern California coast.

    – Downtown Portland Oregon is walkable but expensive. Good cultural amenities.

    – Downtown Eureka Ca is walkable, surrounded by nice looking small houses built in early 1900’s. A University campus is nearby, so a good cultural base there too.

    Both cities are in a tsunami destruction zone in case (when) Cascadia fault lets go.

    Reply
  13. sharonsj

    I’ve already replaced the front stairs with a ramp, raised the toilet, added bars around the tub and shower, and don’t go up to the second floor much. Plus I sleep downstairs in an electric lounger closer to the bathroom. Somebody comes and mows the grass and somebody else comes and plows the drive. I’d probably move if I didn’t have a bunch of cats and dogs.

    I remember my father gave up driving a car when he was in his 70s. But since I’m in a rural area, I’m still driving long distances at age 76 and yell at other drivers like I was back in New York City. It’s probable I’ll still be in the middle of nowhere when I die.

    Reply
  14. Tomonthebeach

    This article touches a part of retirement preparedness that few retirees even consider until — oh-oh.

    This boomer relocated for weather and taxes – i.e., Florida (my family home state). We left our 2-story in Bethesda for Happilyeverafter, our 2600 sqft, 1-story pad on the beach. We spent the first several years, while still healthy, renovating to make the house more elder-friendly. It was already built with things like pocket doors that do not snag walkers. Toilets are of varying heights, etc.

    Eco-concerns about wasting horizontal space are misguided. Many 1-floor advantages exist in condos too. Elevator up to a 1-floor apartment with a nice view. Other eco-concerns likewise are mostly regional. Living on the beach, our heat & air cost is 60% of what we paid for a 2-story up north (ocean breezes). Main entry Door width should be 36 inches before move-in as widening could cost a lot if even allowed but the HOA. Narrow wheelchairs that fit 30″ doors are available. Widening some interior doors is not a $300K remodel. We jerked a deep mega tub and put in an easy-access shower with benches DIY with plumbing help for under $10K.

    Finally, retire-in-place does not equate to die-in-place. We never considered Happilyeverafter as our ultimate destination. Almost certainly, barring a fatal stroke or heart attack, we will migrate to assisted living and maybe even a nursing facility. Another consideration is that turning one’s home into a hospital ward probably narrows the field of potential buyers when it comes time to relocate that last time. That means attention to appreciation value ensures ample coin to pay for that last round-up.

    Reply
  15. bassmule

    We tried retirement in Asheville, NC. It didn’t work out. Asheville is quite the hip little city, but we could never stop being Yankees. So we came back north. Bought a three-storey house in a college town in central Massachusetts where we could walk to downtown shopping. Our gut renovation included none of the items referred to in the story. Climbing stairs is good for us. Walking and biking is good for us. The idea of putting in a wheelchair ramp that we may someday need seems kind of creepy. Some catastrophe occurs, we’ll deal with it then.

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I have to say, moving to a small or relatively small college town is a great idea (and I’m pretty sure I know the one you chose and it’s awesome). Smart move! All kids of, oops, kinds of things to do and great restaurants.

      As to the ramp, some people correctly assume that while they have the money for such a project now, they may not in the future. And it can be used in the event of an accident (like if one slips and falls down the stairs while exercising – can happen to a 20 year old) and/or by friends /relatives who have difficulties. Nothing creepy at all about it. And if you are as healthy as you sound, you can build it yourself and pay comparatively little.

      Reply
      1. JCC

        I bought a place with a ramp already in place. My friends laugh about it, make a few wise-guy cracks, and always ask when I’m going to tear it out.

        The day I moved the couch, bed mattress, and a few other large pieces of furniture into the house was the day I decided that the ramp is staying put. Plus, the previous owner hand built a beautiful wrought iron railing up both sides. It would be a shame to tear that work out.

        Reply
  16. Off The Street

    Aging, a first step.

    You begin by acknowledging the wisdom of holding the handrail while on the stairs. It may be due to that recent stumble, or to missing the last stair in haste and then repenting while sprawled out on the floor nursing a new ache. Better that than a broken arm, wrist, shoulder or ankle.

    Reply
  17. doug

    Right in the middle of this now. Expensive. Not many single level homes. Older homes often have small passage ways. All true.

    Reply
  18. Janie

    The sentence that jumped out for me was the survey showing that about 60% of 1,000 people in Cali age 65+ had $10,000 or less in all forms of savings and retirement plans.

    So, yes, even adding grab bars and a ramp will be unaffordable.

    Reply
  19. katiebird

    I go around and around about this. We live in a raised ranch and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life lugging sacks of groceries up ten steps to the main level. And laundry up and down levels. Stairs don’t bother my husband at all, but my knees and hips hate them!

    But selling house and moving? That’s a lot of work too.

    And this place is impossible if either of us become wheelchair bound.

    I wouldn’t mind an apartment. But I would rather not rent and have the fear of being priced out of my home sometime in the future.

    I have never heard of people gutting houses like the story above. Around here (Overland Park, KS) people get additions that are accessible but, leave the original bedrooms and baths as is.. Maybe these issues are one reason open floor plans are popular?

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Have you considered outdoor stair lifts? *https://101mobility.com/products/stairlifts/outdoor-stairlifts/

      If you can afford it, it might solve at least the problem of getting to the main floor.

      A few years ago, I priced out such lifts, for a relative that I had living with me for the last 20 years and was surprised at how affordable they were (everything is relative – for many they would be simply out of reach); a simple indoor one (and you can find them second hand) can cost as little as a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars. Even with a curve in the stairs, you can get them for around three thousand (I believe. It’s been a few years). https://www.thumbtack.com/p/stair-lift-cost (Average cost 3,500 including installation)

      While this is expensive, it’s very often a lot less so than the cost of moving when you take everything into account if it solves the major problems.

      Just a thought.

      *The link is from a quick query and I have no knowledge of the company or how good it is. I included the link just to show outdoor stairlifts apparently exist. I imagine they are more expensive than their indoor counterparts but it might be worth looking into.

      Reply
      1. katiebird

        I have thought about them. And we might do that rather than move. For us there are almost too many options!

        I have promised myself a ranch house for years but, now that circumstances have opened up, I find my head spinning. Which probably means I’m not ready for a big decision.

        Reply
  20. McWatt

    My great grandfather wanted so to live out his old age in his home. Towards the end he was hard to take care of and went to a local nursing home and died not long after.

    One of his daughters wanted to stay in the same home until she died. She did until she was feeling poorly one day and went to my folks house and died two days later. We found a very touching poem she wrote on the night of her death next to her bedside.

    My mother, who cared for all the people above, wants to live in her house until she dies, she has had a stroke and has been in a wheelchair for the past five years. We modified door openings and her bedroom shower in her home and she has been there all this time with a caregiver.

    It’s difficult, when someone has led a solid life, to not live up to their wishes. It’s their life, they have earned it,
    and where ever possible it is up to us, their children, to do those things that are within reason and financial ability.

    She also wants to go a casino everyday, but we don’t allow that. Just once in a while. Love you Mom!!!!!

    Reply
  21. Phacops

    As retirement approached we were torn between staying in a nicely walkable, and bikeable, community with commuter train service (near the old city center of Libertyville, IL) versus moving to property we had in N Michigan to take advantage of the outdoor recreation we enjoy.

    We learned much about the tradeoffs in building rather than buying a spec. built new or existing older house. So, thinking a little into the future we designed it for single floor living with sufficient room for wheelchair accessibility with very little modification. There is a walkout lower level partially dug into a hillside where my shop is but can be easily converted to a residence. The hard decision was where to spend the building budget. We decided to spend on a highly efficient envelope and HVAC. Once during a 3 day power outage and without any additional heating, the passive solar worked well, so when the outdoor temp. was -6 F the house never dropped below 62 F.

    Now, we will someday consider where we may live when we can no longer manage a rural life. Again, modest living and walkability, bikeability, and public transport will be exceptionally important. We hope to sell the house at a price point suitable for a household earning the medium income or less in our community. Gotta give something back for the luck we have had.

    Reply
  22. Dan

    The solution for multistory, or large homes is to convert them into two units. One accessible for the aging residents, and the other an affordable rental, the payment for which is maintaining the garden, doing errands and earning their keep, with little or no money changing hands, thus no means testing of any public assistance that the couple might be subject to, were the home transferred to (trusted) family members. The savings in two, or three families, if an outbuilding, sharing one garbage can, one internet connection, one water meter, one set of appliances etc, are large.

    Suburban homes are ideal for growing food and are a wonderful way to live in harmony with nature:

    Geoff Lawton is the maximum exponent of this:

    Permaculture Tip of the Day – Permaculture Suburban Planning
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l-qYVfX95o

    Plus

    “Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025‚Äîthat’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.”

    “What do you do with a surplus of more than 22 million large lot homes during a period of failing industrial agriculture and rising food costs? You establish new microfarms of course. Those people who do continue to live in the suburbs either because they cannot move or because they don’t want to, could feed themselves by using this land to grow food for themselves and their neighbors. The food could be grown largely free from fossil fuel inputs and would be produced very close to the people who will eventually eat it. This solves two of the really big problems associated with the industrial model of agriculture…”

    The Oil Drum
    Discussions about Energy and Our Future
    DrumBeat: April 17, 2008
    http://theoildrum.com/special/archives

    Reply
  23. Medbh

    A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about their ability to hire assistance to live independently. People assume that they’ll be able to hire someone to help with cleaning, bathing, cooking, or yardwork, and that’s not the case.

    I worked in the disability/long term care field, and it’s very difficult to find reliable and safe caregivers. Thefts are a given, and can be especially difficult to detect or manage when dealing with vulnerable populations. After my grandparents moved into assisted living, we discovered that they had given significant amounts of cash to the people that cleaned their home. It can be difficult to determine what’s generosity versus financial abuse when dealing with confused or absent minded elders.

    Yard work is another area where people assume they can just hire help. One of the reasons my parents ended up selling their house was because they could not get reliable snow removal service. In the midwest you get fined if your sidewalks are not cleared within 24 hours or so (varies by city). Unshoveled snow can settle into uneven ice if it’s not removed promptly, which creates walking hazards. My parents tried multiple different companies, but still were getting fined multiple times a season because sidewalks weren’t cleared in a timely way and they could no longer do it.

    I’m not a fan of institutional care either, and it’s not a financial option for a lot of people. But I see people making plans with a lot of unrealistic assumptions. Even if they have resources and want to remain independent, they’re going to have a really hard time finding reliable and safe providers if they need any help.

    Reply
  24. Lemmy Caution

    The numbers in the Cavner example the article leads off with are absurd beyond belief. There is no earthly reason why demo-ing a 2,700 square-foot house down to its studs is necessary to widen some doorways, convert some cabinet openings from doors to drawers and install a roll-in shower. Sure, if you want to remodel a house to suit your tastes or to make it more efficient, go ahead. But this example seems to imply that it costs $300,000 to remodel a house so that its owners can age in place. Ridiculous. For those wanting to age in place, Emily’s list estimates about $25,000 for a kitchen remodel, $20,000 for the bathroom and about $500 per door to widen it. (Even those estimates seem on the high end to me.)

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Depends where you live, but I agree with the gist of what you are saying. Except for kitchen and bathroom renos. Those are really expensive in most places. Professionals charge waaaay too much for kitchens, for instance, because it’s been hyped as the norm and because they can get away with it. And bathrooms involve extensive involvement by plumbers AND electricians unless you are very handy and your local regulations/codes allow homeowners to do it themselves. I don’t in the least begrudge plumbers and electricians making a decent living, but it does make life difficult for those with modest budgets.

      Reply
      1. Lemmy Caution

        I’ll grant you a full-blown kitchen redo can cost $25,000 and waaay up, if we’re talking new cabinets, countertop, sink, appliances, flooring, lighting, etc. But the article says that the kitchen rennovation consisted of changing what I assume are the base cabinets from doors to drawers. That shouldn’t be a $25,000 bill (if it is I’m in the wrong business). I will agree that the changes to covert a bathroom to a handicap accessible bathroom could very well be $20,000.

        Reply
          1. Ana

            As a now wheelchair using person (broken back), I can testify to the need for lowered sinks and counters. Not to mention enough horizontal space to rotate in place or get out of the way of an oven door. Cabinets that are above counter level are now useless as is the very nice freezer – on – top refrigerator I had to replace. The stove was tricky as most gas fired units are a standard height. This stuff is expensive, and its not just about swapping out cabinets with drawers.

            Reply
  25. nihil obstet

    What’s missing from this is any cost comparison between aging in place and moving to something like a continuing care elder community. Even with all the physical modifications, I suspect that the longer one can live in an independent residence, the cheaper.

    However, a major problem that Medbh notes above is the lack of reliable services. And when you do get someone, they’re likely to leave final steps and clean-up that you could easily do when younger, but now find to be a problem. And in addition to that, taking care of a household is a major management issue. Finances, maintenance, insurance, taxes — I don’t want to paint the elderly as doddering, but all of this takes time, effort, and resilience, and if you forget something, you’ve got more problems to take care of.

    We need a national program to address how the elderly can have reasonable choices in living. This is part of health care, but we’re still at the point of leaving a complex set of interlocking issues to Mr. Market.

    Reply
  26. Mattski

    It’s the (possibly) being alone and cut off from people, services, immediate help that’s the likelier problem than the house itself. As with many people here, I am watching my 82-year-old mother-in-law simply tire, with her husband gone, of managing a house. In former times she would have moved in with one of the kids, period. As close as her immediate family is, that doesn’t look like an option to anyone, least of all her.

    Reply
  27. Joe Well

    Single-family residential areas were built for only two ages of people: young children and parents of young children (we need a yard for the kids!). It’s less than ideal for the elderly, teenagers, and any adults without young children (including empty-nesters).

    Our society has glorified the ideal of starting a family to the extent that we tend to forget that that is perhaps ten years out of your adult life. We need to sacrifice a yard for the kids in favor of neighborhoods that we’ll want to live in our whole lives.

    Reply
  28. Harry

    Im thinking a New York Co-op when I get rid of the kids is the best solution till either the visit to the Swiss clinic or the challenging police to a quick draw competition using an imitation handgun. Both should be quick, although one is clearly much more expensive and peaceful.

    The NYC Coop has the advantage of multiple elevators. Security through doorman, and delivery. No need to drive. The problems are the winter – usually mitigated by tropically strong heating system – particularly on upper floors. And cost. Its not cheap, but what is? My parents swore by cruise liners but those days are past for them. Now its GBP1500 per week for some pretty cruddy service and liquidized food.

    Reply
  29. dearieme

    It’s odd how hard it can be to lay your hands on the simplest of things. We are not good at bending-and-searching for things in the under-the-counter fridge. So we wanted a fridge with drawers rather than shelves. We found a satisfactory one. But it will die eventually and we can’t see that a new one is now available in the UK.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Sounds like an overlooked business opportunity for some appliance maker. There are going to be an awful lot of old people, and wheelchair-bound people in general would appreciate it.

      The disappearance of categories, such as this one, looks like the effect of monopolization. Very few players, so they all make the same decisions at the same time – one reason for things like financial collapses.

      Reply
  30. lyle

    First a lot of folks are moving to independent living, which is an apartment with meals provided maid service etc. Here in Albuquerque you see lots of new independent living/senior apartments being built. A step up is assisted living which provides help with activities of daily living. However today even if you live in a suburban area, between grocery delivery (from Walmart) and all other online stores for everything else you would likely need transport to medical appointments, but some PCP are reinventing the house call also.
    Of course this a back to the future movement as many small stores used to deliver,and lots of folks on farms used to get stuff from sears and wards etc. (but today we save the trees used for catalogs). Of course if I could make a couple of changes in building codes, it would be 36 inch wide doors. An Alternative to get a bit wider doors where wall space permits is the sliding barn door door.

    Reply
  31. meadows

    We have been in our 2000 sq ft 1910 home for close to 30 years, raised two now 30 something sons and now a 5 year old grandson lives a mile away… we are nearing 70 and plan to age and die here unless dragged out. I call it “my toe-tag house”

    We live in a small city in the PNW with decent transport… call and they will pick you up. Shopping and services is a shortish walk. We know our long term neighbors and keep an eye on each others’ homes when away. We’re in a college town so I’m ok to hire whomever to help w/the usual maintenance and we may even take on a student in a spare bedroom to help us.

    However, either of our sons or their wives would take of us in if need be, or they would figure out how to come and care for us. Meanwhile, I think we can age-proof this joint, bit by bit.

    Onward and downward!

    Reply
  32. drumlin woodchuckles

    Dear Moderators,

    Call me tinfoil-minded, but I think ” notabanktoadie” up above may be F Beard returned unto us after long absence.

    Reply

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