Tina McManus' Blog
Baby Boomers remain the single largest demographic, and their transition into retirement age continues to change the senior living landscape. At more than 74 million strong, this generation will completely cross the retirement age threshold in the next decade, and 52 million Americans are already enjoying their golden years. That being said, the quality of life needs impacting our valued elders are likely to shake up the status quo going forward. These are senior living trends that are expected to unfold in 2020.
1: Location Matters
Today’s health and wellness conscious seniors are living more energetic lifestyles. With that in mind, retirement communities are increasingly being developed in close proximity to robust shopping, dining, and cultural arts facilities. Gated communities that offer amenities such as health and fitness centers, recreational spaces, and public transportation for day trips are enticing places for seniors seeking improved quality of life.
2: Embracing Technology
It wasn’t many years ago that the complexities of emerging technologies limited their usefulness to Baby Boomers and older generations. But innovation has all but eliminated the user unfriendliness of those early desktops and hand-held devices. Seniors are increasingly pleased with Smart-home technologies that are voice operated, such as the friendly Alexa. Beyond controlling lights, televisions, and other home items via voice command, tech gadgets are topping lifestyle wish lists.
3: Fifty-Five & Older Communities Prove Desirable in 2020
The 2019 housing market saw modestly inflated single-family listing prices. That was largely due to low inventory and fierce competition between downsizing Baby Boomers and upstart Millennials. The latter struggled through some economic adversity, such as student loan debt, that caused them to buy starter homes a tad later than previous generations. A log jam between the two groups over smaller homes has developers creating more 55-and-older communities that eliminate competition of younger homebuyers.
4: Aging in Place is a Thing
While some aging parents and grandparents opt to downsize, buy into communities with other seniors, or move into assisted living facilities, many are determined to remain in their family home. The priceless memories of holiday gatherings and children’s first steps are not worth trading. Aging in place continues to trend among independent-minded seniors, and family members may want to consider augmenting this lifestyle rather than try to persuade mom or dad to relocate.
Support systems such as community groups, volunteerism, and having a visiting nurse check-in on parents and grandparents are more likely to enhance the quality of daily living. It may seem logical to children and grandchildren to have your elders come live with you. However, it’s essential to respect their independence.
5: Isolation Issues
It would be something of an understatement to say that our valued elders enjoy an independent spirit. As admirable as that sense of self-determination may be, the loss of a spouse or community members tend to reduce the human interactions our elders have on a daily basis. Isolation can be the downside to independence, and it’s up to friends and family members to maintain the communication channels open.
It’s worthwhile to set up group texts and emails to make sure loved ones consistently visit. Getting involved with pastimes such as going to sporting events and impromptu family get-togethers can go a long way to reduce feelings of isolation.
If you’re planning to stay in your home as you age, or "age in place", it’s wise to begin planning to renovate your home for your future self sooner rather than later. This will save you money and headaches down the road. I know it’s not an exciting topic of conversation to discuss aging and how to make your home more accessible. However, it’s certainly an important one. And even if you never use these features yourself, they are great to have in a home even if just for visitors, such as your parents.
Renovating before retirement ensures you have the cash flow to fund each change you make to your home. By making these changes now when you don’t need them, instead of as you go, allows you time to do research on best pricing and how to add features that will look seamless in your home. Just because you are “senior proofing” your home doesn’t mean it has to look like an assisted living facility.
The best, and arguably most important, place to start is in the bathroom. This is also a room that accommodations can double as accessible and chic. For example, a lipless walk-in shower, also known as the European Wet Room, eliminates the need to step up which can result in tripping. But it also opens up the room to appear more spacious and allow natural lighting to reach every corner. When renovating choose dimensions that leave enough room for a wheelchair to enter.
You may also want to consider adding a built-in shower bench. This could be a seamless tiled addition styled like a window seat or a chic wooden seat that folds up and out of the way. Grab bars don’t need to be an eyesore either. There are so many options on the market for bars that integrate with your bathroom’s style instead of looking like an afterthought.
When house hunting for a new home, look for one-level open floor plans. Open floor plans are very on trend and a feature many buyers are looking for anyways. They come with the added bonus of having plenty of room for someone in a wheelchair or walker to get around. If a home you are looking at has any hallways measure them to make sure they are wide enough to be accessible for these kinds of mobility aids.
Choosing a home that is a one-floor plan is another subtle way you can “senior proof” your home. Stairs can become troublesome when mobility becomes limited due to arthritis for example. A lack of a staircase to climb also means never having to buy a chairlift down the line. Potentially saving your future self-money and the integrity of your home’s decor.
While there are plenty of weekend projects to take on that would be more satisfying to complete than “age-proofing” your home taking the time to make these upgrades will make your home more accessible. Both to older family members visiting and even for your future self. These small changes will make a big difference and you might just find them helpful for your life now!
Replace doorknobs with handles. It’s easy to take what, to us, feels like the simplest of actions for granted. The twisting action of a doorknob can be difficult and even painful for arthritic hands. This is a quick project and one that can add a fresh new look to the doors in your home. IF you’re looking to switch things up or modernize your home opt for a different, more modern finish for your hardware. Bronze and satin finishes are very popular choices.
Install a hand held
Railings along stairs, ideally on both sides. When mobility and balance are an issue stairs can become dangerous. If your staircases don’t already have railings installed this is an ideal feature to add. Make note of the dimensions of each of your sets of stairs and research what sort of style would best fit that area of your home. This is a project that adds an element that is seamless to a home and doesn’t stand out. In fact, you may find guests of all ages will appreciate this addition.
Less furniture in each room. Keeping less furniture in a room makes it easier to navigate a room and ideally fit mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers. It also can bring new life to a room as well as make it feel more open and spacious. Keep only the most necessary elements to a room and take out shelves or bulky furniture designed to hold and/or hide knick-knacks. Make each element in the room really count. You’ll have a much more chic, magazine-