Wherever older people gather (particularly those of the baby boom generation), you can pick up on a prevailing vibe. We like to describe it as the energy of empowerment. These days, elders are not like their Depression-era parents. They are more active and have more expectations in growing old.
Seniors make up an exceptionally large “piece” of the consumer pie, and they know what they like and want. With more Americans aging into this demographic every year, they are actively looking for places to remain active, keep learning, and age well.
Per this MarketWatch article about boomers, “households with people age 80 and over jumped 71% from 4.4 million in 1990 to 7.5 million in 2016, according to Harvard’s Join Center for Housing Studies in its ‘Housing America’s Older Adults’ report. As baby boomers age, the number of households in this group will more than double by 2037.”
Every year, outlets like U.S. News publish the best places to age in the United States. The locations share common attributes that appeal to older Americans—at least, those who are in that group today. Often, they are warm, urban, and affordable cities with lower tax rates. This year’s list of high-ranking cities for retirees includes several based in Texas.
When it comes to aging in place, elders look to balance where they live with the amenities that matter most. For you and your aging story, make it a point to assess the amenities available wherever you want to live. Weigh pros and cons of location in comparison to the perks. Then create a plan that will set you up to age and live well.
The Amenities Seniors Want
The truth is, no matter where you live, the amenities only matter if you use them. It’s essential to know yourself, do your homework, and make sure the benefits match with what will be most important to you.
Of all the offerings, we’ve found that there are three that top the list:
1. Affordable appropriate homes: Seniors, like everyone else, want affordable and appropriate housing. Per Urban Wire, what may be less factored in when determining the age-in-place strategy is the long-term financial impact.
This is especially true for determining whether to remain in a current home or right-size to something smaller. “According to the 2017 American Community Survey, over 40 percent of seniors age 55 to 75 years, and 38 percent of seniors age 75 and older live in 3-bedroom houses, suggesting a potential mismatch between the size/maintenance for the home and the needs of the inhabitants.”
This decision will require a balance between budget and your emotions, too. Since housing is the primary amenity, it’s critical to plan in advance and bring in an expert.
Make the investment of time and a consultation fee to call in a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS), too. That person will walk you through the options required to modify your existing house or one you’re about to buy.
The good news is that many of the modifications to your home won’t always cost a lot of money. Making doors wider, installing ramps and bars can all be done at affordable rates and as needed.
Beyond updating a house for mobility requirements, it’s essential to factor in regular ongoing maintenance investments of your house, too. With more information, you’ll know if you’re better staying in an existing home or aging in place in something smaller.
2. Social connection: No matter where you age, staying connected to people is key to your mental, physical, and emotional health. Per the CDC, the health risks of loneliness for elders can be associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, 29% increased risk of heart disease, and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
Today’s seniors realize the value of social connections and keeping the relationships they’ve built, especially in the wake of 2020 and worldwide lockdowns. This basic need might be one of the primary reasons elders often choose to age-in-place in a home they’ve lived in for many years, since they have connections nearby.
When it comes to communities, seniors are less interested in outdated models where they’re warehoused away. More seniors are opting for intergenerational communities where they can remain for every stage of life instead.
To be and remain connected, you’ll want to plan your social calendar early. Volunteer for what you value, join a group or two, and dive into your favorite hobbies.
Go ahead and reach out to family to build on existing bonds. And for those connections that have gathered dust, accept that the ball is in your court to reach out. You’re older, wiser and can take on the responsibility.
For most of us, it’s the family ties and/or friendships that enrich our lives most. Connect with your life-long loved ones and make a point to form new ones and foster them. Make connection a mission in your later years in organizations where you have things in common. Be the friend to others by reaching out first and often.
With retirement, you will discover there is a whole world of things that happen during the day. A great way to connect with services and friends is through senior centers in your area. Over at FYI 50 plus, they have a robust list of them available in the state of Texas, for example.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, we’ve discovered the huge universe of social activity online, too. You can join any number of groups on the internet. Over at One Family, they suggest a list of 20 of them! You can find those who have had a “similar walk of life” in Silversurfers, for example, or groups devoted to a passion such as dog or cat owners.
Ponder your story of aging as it unfolds and make decisions about how you’ll stay involved in the word with others. Then take action now! Whether you’re a social butterfly or more of an introvert, you’ll want to tap into the resources available where you’ve chosen to live.
3. Services access: One major interest to seniors is the ability to get the services they want and need with ease. Whether you maintain a car, select public transit and rideshare, or prefer to walk, take proximity to services into account.
You can start by exploring what’s available at the state level. A review of your state’s human services website will provide insights of issues you’ll want to keep in mind. In Texas, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services outlines their areas of responsibility to support and protect the interests of seniors.
Another worthwhile investment could be to walk through your options with a professional. Whether your several years away from your older years, or they’re just around the corner, consulting with a certified Aging Life Care Professional will give you a better sense of what is available.
It’s essential to map out the logistics of the services you’ll need. Are you within walking distance of a grocery store, some restaurants, a walking trail, and entertainment outlets? How close are your doctor and other medical services? Where is your nearest community center and indoor exercise facility?
Research and Prepare
Aging in place is preferred by more seniors than ever because it can be affordable and far more comfortable than the other options. But to live well, it’s essential to do your homework and plan for different possible outcomes with changes in health.
In addition to where you live, it’s vital to maintain and expand your social circle. Take a look at the opportunities to engage in the community and consider how you’ll continue to grow and learn.
Note the services that are needed now and think forward to which others will be necessary as you age. You’ll want easy access to a grocery store, pharmacy and shopping in your area, for starters.
Aging is a journey that includes joys and challenges. Reduce the fear and uncertainty you have about this natural process by preparing in advance. Do your research, form a plan, and then go on and enjoy aging well.