Aging in place is popular, but does it always make sense?

It’s been a mantra in recent years: most Americans want to stay right where they are in retirement. Aging in place is the preference expressed by older Americans in most surveys – a view that springs, in part, from rebellion against the notion that retirement communities in the Sunbelt states or institutional settings like nursing homes are the right place for all older people.

Aging in place can be a good option – but it’s not always realistic. Issues to consider include the cost of upkeep and healthcare and proximity to family, recreation, leisure activities and transportation.

Housing expense is, of course, a key component of any retirement plan – and a big item on the client’s balance sheet.

Stephen M. Golant, a gerontologist and professor at the University of Florida, advises looking at your home as a financial commodity.  “Is it, from a cost-benefit viewpoint, still a reasonable assumption that you should stay where you are?”

Golant weighs these issues in Aging in the Right Place (Health Professions Press, February 2015) a new book that examines the relationship between location and aging successfully. Golant agrees that aging in place can be an appropriate strategy – but he’s a skeptic. His book already is making some waves among aging policymakers, and he raises some important test questions that advisers can put to work as they work through the issue with clients.

The conversation can be difficult, since planning for housing in retirement raises touchy emotional issues. I explore the issues in my new column at WealthManagement.com.

Comments

  1. For most elders, aging in place is an important and fundamental right. Medical and caregiver support keep people independent. I have never had a client tell me when asked where they want to live, “In a facility.” Aging in place needs to be accompanied by plans that help avoid isolation.

  2. Mark Miller says:

    Marsha, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Golant’s point (and mine) isn’t about rights or facilities. This isn’t an argument about pushing people into institutional settings. It’s more about lifestyle and access to community in retirement vs isolation, wasting money on housing that may no longer fit needs, etc. (e.g., condo vs 5-bedroom three-story home).

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