Friday, March 27, 2015

After the family home: Great Spaces for Aging Gracefully

You may be familiar with the term “aging in place”, which refers to the appealing idea of staying in one’s own home as one gets older, as opposed to entering a retirement home. While our futures don’t always unfold the way we'd planned, I do encourage my downsizing clients to consider homes that are the most likely to gracefully accommodate them in their elder years.

For instance, a flight of stairs may not present a problem to an able-bodied couple in their sixties. A decade later, they may be wishing they’d chosen differently. High-rise and low-rise condominiums with elevator service are by far the most popular housing choice among my clients who move to the city after retirement. Freedom from upkeep is a huge selling feature, while safety and recreational amenities also play key roles.

But there are certainly other options out there. Many of my baby boomer clients love to garden, play outside with grandchildren and entertain friends outdoors. They’re simply not prepared to sacrifice a private lot. Some communities offer condo ownership of semi- or fully detached bungalows, taking the burden of yard maintenance and snow removal from your shoulders. 

Alternately, freehold owners may hire yard help when it’s needed.

In addition to their lack of stairs and bright main floor laundry rooms, today’s bungalows can easily be built with features that make them more accessible to people with mobility issues. Most builders are happy to widen doors and hallways, substitute lever door handles and add sleek-looking handrails in bathtubs and showers.

You’ll also want to weigh the benefits of living in an adult lifestyle community versus a more diverse neighbourhood. Some baby boomers thrive in a community of peers who share similar interests, finding their social lives completely reinvigorated. Others prefer to be surrounded by families of all ages, in neighbourhoods where Halloween brings dozens of miniature princesses and superheroes to the door.

For a small percentage of downsizers, an in-law suite is the answer. When grown children have a larger home, and are able to provide parents with the type of surroundings – and relationships – they desire, both parties can benefit financially and emotionally.

Whatever path you choose, take it from me: once you have a plan for the future, it’s easier to live in the moment.

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