Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day in North America and the life expectancy is 81 years old! Seniors are healthier and living longer than previous generations. They are also wealthier then their previous generation which means seniors typically have bigger homes. As we become an aging population, we need to make difficult decisions for ourselves or our loved ones. Should your loved one move into a retirement living style or live in their own home with accommodations, or move in with the adult children modifying their home?
To Downsize or Not to Downsize:
5 Things to Consider
At What Age Should you Downsize?
A realtor friend of mine would come across seniors from time to time when he was door knocking and looking for business. He would ask the homeowner the question when they came to the door “When do you plan on moving?” In some situations he would receive the answer “I’m leaving in a pine box!” Some seniors want to age in their home, and with the proper accommodations they can do that. However, with other seniors, how long they will stay in their home, will depend on a number of factors like the size of their home, fiances and health conditions.
Size of Your Home
Some seniors I have worked with have moved from a large 2 storey home with a big lot to a bungalow where they are on one floor with a smaller lot. They still want their independence, they are healthy and want to stay in a single family home. But the former family home was too large for them to manage with all the kids gone.
Some seniors move from a bungalow to a condo. They wanted to move while they were still able to and not be a burden on their family. They also didn’t want the upkeep of a house and property so they moved even though they theoretically could have stayed. They just wanted to spend their time doing other things.
Another senior who hadn’t fully retired but had a 4,000 sq. ft. home sitting on a couple of acres decided to downsize. All but one child had moved out and they were off to university next year anyways. They wanted to redirect their funds elsewhere. So they decided to downsize based on the size of their home.
Size seems to be a big consideration when downsizing. The bigger the home, the bigger the property, the more apt seniors are to downsize. Also with larger homes, neighbours tend to come and go more because they to face downsizing concerns. Therefore in neighbourhoods with larger homes, you typically see more turnover in neighbours with new neighbours not bonding as the original home owners had when you had all your kids growing up together. Therefore the tie to the neighborhood probably is not that strong as it used to be.
Whereas with bungalows, its easier to stay longer in a bungalow as there is not as much upkeep as you would have in a larger home. Bungalows can also be accommodated alot easier for walkers, wheelchairs etc than a two storey home can. Many seniors will downsize to a bungalow where there tends to be a number of seniors and thus develop a sense of community among the seniors.
Finances can definitely play a role in the decision of whether to downsize or not, when to downsize, and where to go next. Some seniors can live comfortably in their home, while other seniors need the money to live on. Reverse mortgages are also giving seniors more options than what was available previous in previous generations.
Going through the numbers of how much it costs to stay vs. how much it costs to live elsewhere will help you with that financial decision.
As we age, health can become a determining factor on whether you downsize or not. Mobility issues can make living in a two storey home much more challenging. However, purchasing or leasing a stair lift to enable you to go to the second floor, can make living in a two storey home more doable. Chair lifts that go straight up a set of stairs cost less than chair lifts that need to curve around a set of stairs. However, a stair lift may still cost less than moving into a retirement home.
Bungalows are typically easier to adapt for mobility issues. Ramps can be built for a person with a walker or wheelchair. Door frames can be widened to accommodate larger wheelchairs. Kitchen & bathroom counter top heights can be accommodated for a wheelchair to roll underneath them.
The bathroom is the number #1 place for accidents to happen in a home. However there are now alot of options to make the bathroom alot safer for seniors. Accommodations such as grab bars for the shower and toilet area, adding a shower chair to sit in the bathtub, adapting the bathtub to be a walk in tub and ensuring the floor is a non-slip flooring can make the bathroom a safer place for seniors and eliminate some of the dangers that the bathroom can have.
Some seniors may have a serious health condition where they require regular medical attention. In those situations, moving to a seniors’ home may be the better option.
Where Should You Move To?
Not knowing where you’re going to live can be stressful for anyone. Never mind a senior who has lived in their home for 30+ years and are very comfortable there.
There are alot of different housing options out there right now for seniors. Some seniors want to move further north to a waterfront community just for seniors. You can live in your own place but can join other like minded seniors at their community centre for games & other activities. Others want to stay in the city closer to their adult children & grandchildren. They might purchase a condo, buy a bung-aloft in a retirement community or choose among the many different types of retirement living options out there. The selection has never been better and the options are continuing to grow.
Some seniors decide to move in with their adult children & kids. This increasingly popular living option is called multigenerational living. Multigenerational living has many benefits not only for the senior mom/dad, but for the adult children as well. They can benefit from momdad helping out with the grandkids, and the grandkids get to spend time with their grandparents. Three generations can live harmoniously under one roof with the right accommodations and modifications to the home to ensure that everyone’s needs are taken into consideration.
Looking at various housing options, and narrowing down your options & visiting your top 3 – 5 on your list, will help you decide where you could move to and if downsizing is the right option for you.
The decision to downsize or not can be an emotional one. Its not a one size fits all. What works for one senior may or may not work for another senior. Going through each area to consider your options, will help you make a decision that is just right for you!
I’m Debi Collinson. A Designer Helping Seniors with their Living Options. I’m an Aging-In-Place Specialist, Multigenerational Living Designer & I downsize seniors. In 2006, at the request of a realtor, I staged my first home. The sellers liked their newly redesigned home so much that they turned down an offer for full asking price. I never looked back. Since then, I have been helping clients make their homes look like they came out of a magazine. I have helped clients earn money for their home beyond their expectations. Due to an increasing need, my services have expanded to include downsizing seniors, helping seniors age in their home safely by recommending accommodations they need, and helping families make changes & accommodations in their home to create a Multigenerational Home where everyone can live in harmony under one roof. As a real estate investor, I have bought several “fixer uppers” and have either flipped them for a healthy profit or turned them into profitable rental properties.