When You Can, But Maybe Shouldn’t, Stay In Your Home
By Sally Abrahms
If you had a choice between staying in your own home, in familiar surroundings, or moving when you get older, my guess is
that you’d opt to stay. According to studies, most people are with you.
It can beat other options, including long-term care—as in independent or assisted living or a nursing home. (Of course, there
are some wonderful facilities with great activities, help if you need it, and companionship.)
But what if your beloved house has steep steps, narrow doorways (where would a future walker go?), no first floor bedroom
or full bathroom, hard-to-navigate bathtubs and showers, too high kitchen counters and cabinets, and safety hazards galore?
Perhaps you could make slight changes, retrofit the space, radically renovate or build an addition so it’s better suited
for the older you. There are resources to learn what you need to do to make your place safe, accessible and easier to
navigate. Check out the AARP HomeFitGuide, Aging in Place and the National Aging in Place Council. (Tip: Before you do
an upgrade, ask a realtor how it will affect resale value.)
You might prefer to move to an apartment or condo with an elevator, for example, but live in the same community where you
have rich friendships and history.
Let’s do some more imagining: your current house has everything to make it work for all stages of life. But, it’s not near
public transportation or amenities like restaurants, stores, movies or medical offices. You drive now, but what if you
give it up down the road? You may be isolated in your leafy cul-de-sac or rural refuge.
When evaluating whether to stay or go, where you live when you’re older is not just about the suitability of your house.
It’s also about living in a community where you feel valued and connected. It’s about having opportunities to meaningfully
engage with others and being able to get what you need as your needs change.
As one geriatrician recently told me, “You can have the most wonderful house in the country with the most wonderful view
that you thought was perfect for growing older. But, if you can no longer drive and there are no community resources
to help you, that wonderful house can be impractical and unrealistic.”
So yes, having to leave a house you don’t want to leave is difficult. But think of the bigger picture.