While not every senior is in the market for a new home, you may find that it’s one of the best options for aging in place. Whether you currently own a home or are renting, there are ways to ensure your comfort and stability well into your golden years. Here’s what to look for in a senior-friendly home—whether it’s a purchase or renovation.
ENOUGH SPACE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)
When contemplating a home purchase, your primary concern should be space. You want enough living space to be comfortable, but not so much that you spend all your time cleaning or going up and down the stairs. This means, by default, your ideal home will likely have less square footage than where you’re currently living. Because many older adults have mobility challenges, a single-level home may be your best option.
When preparing to move to a smaller home, downsizing your belongings might be next on the list. Downsizing can help eliminate your home’s need for upkeep and reduce your expenses each month. But if you have items that you’re not sure you want to part with, the process can be tough.
Short-term storage offers a convenient way to clear out your home without giving up prized possessions. You can rent a storage unit while considering what to do with those belongings. It’s easy to find affordable temporary storage units in Charleston. While the cost varies by size, the average price per month is only $91.
ACCESSIBLE FEATURES FOR AGING IN PLACE
Part of your retirement plan likely involves living at home for as long as possible—or even forever. Therefore, looking for accessible features is crucial when buying or renovating a home. Unfortunately, more than 95% of homes lack accessible features, which means you’ll either need to buy an adapted home or make changes on your own.
Features like low countertops for seated access when using a wheelchair, wide doorways to accommodate mobility issues, and grab bars in the bathroom may be crucial for the safety and enjoyment of your home. But also consider less noticeable elements, such as ground-level entry and doorknobs that don’t require significant grip strength.
In many newer homes, universal design elements are friendly to people of all abilities—not just seniors. Pulls instead of knobs on drawers, under-the-counter appliances, and varied-height countertops are a few highlights. A newer construction property may check all the boxes for your home accessibility needs.
PROXIMITY TO COMMUNITY
Whether you’re moving across town or the country, finding a community is vital for older adults. Especially if you’re single or widowed, being near friends and family can help keep you connected.
Research has shown that seniors with strong friendships and community ties are healthier than those who spend more time alone. Conversely, seniors who experience social isolation and loneliness may develop or worsen health issues. Happily, Charleston and its suburbs have numerous public activities and volunteer opportunities to keep retirees busy.
Think about what features you want in your community—such as a senior center, fitness facility, parks, or shops, and then center your home search in areas that suit. Fortunately, Charleston has recently been named the #6 city in the US for longevity. Our walkability, gyms, sports opportunities, dog ownership, and healthy food options all help you live a longer, healthier life.
THE RIGHT LOAN TERMS FOR SENIOR HOMES
Wherever—and however—you decide to move, buying a home can be a stressful experience. But the rewards are greater than the drawbacks for many seniors. Owning a home provides security and comfort that renting or even senior community living simply can’t—making it an excellent choice for many older adults.
If you are considering a home purchase, think about using a VA loan. For example, PennyMac VA Loans are an excellent benefit for senior veterans. These loans require little to no down payment, they don’t charge private mortgage insurance (PMI), and the rates are often superior to those of conventional loan options.
Other loan types—including down payment assistance programs and special purchase credits—are also available for seniors. And in some cases, a first-time homebuyer program may be appropriate. Speak to a knowledgeable real estate agent to determine the best choice for your financial situation.
Disher, Hamrick & Myers offers a variety of senior-friendly housing options. In-city condos (such as those at Dockside Condominiums) are perfect for those looking to achieve a more maintenance-free lifestyle, yet remain close to everything downtown Charleston has to offer. Many of our listings also include accessibility features, one-story floor plans, or elevators to help you age in place. No matter what type of retirement living is right for you, our team of local real estate agents will help you find the perfect place to call home in your retirement years!
Author Jim Vogel is founder of elderaction.org.