This article was featured in the November 23, 2019 edition of "Condo Conversations" in the Virginian-Pilot..
According to a recent AARP study, three out of four adults age 50 or older want to stay in their homes as they age. What exactly does it mean to “age in place?”
“Aging in place” doesn’t necessarily mean staying in your current home. It means staying in the right home. The options are wide open; the home you live in now could be modified to meet your current and future physical needs, or it may be best to find a new home that fits the bill completely.
Condominiums can be a great choice for aging in place as they are most often low maintenance, and many communities offer amenities such as workout rooms, pools and activities. As we grow older, it is important to remain active and socially engaged.
Both high-rise condominiums and 55-plus communities offer many social opportunities for those wishing to keep their independence while avoiding becoming socially isolated.
Here are examples:
• In a high-rise setting, conversation with other residents and building staff present themselves throughout the course of any day while picking up your mail, taking your dog out for a walk, etc.
• Front desk and building staff often get to know their residents and their habits, recognizing if something is off.
• Resident events are a common occurrence in high-rise settings as well as 55+ communities. You’ll most likely have plenty of chances to join your neighbors at a movie night, ice cream social, or holiday event.
• Many communities will have a pool and fitness center offering ways for you to keep active.
• Join a club or group. If there isn’t already a club or group that matches your interests, perhaps you could be the one to get it started. Whether it’s a book club or Bunco group, there’s a good chance there’s someone else with the same interests.
Here are other common benefits to condo communities:
• High-rise buildings will most likely have ADA-compliant building access and elevators.
• Oftentimes condos are one-floor living.
• Condos are low maintenance. Whether it’s a high-rise, townhome or detached style of condo, usually the association will handle exterior maintenance, so no more lawn mowing, taking care of the pool, etc.
For someone on a fixed income, condo assessments could be good or bad.
In a properly managed association, they could be a benefit since you pay a set monthly fee that includes saving for future repairs and replacements for common large expenses such as roof replacement, rather than having to spend $12,000 out of pocket at one time to replace an aging roof.
Look at it as a forced savings account. The key is to understand what common elements the association covers and to ensure your association is putting enough away in reserves. If it is not, you could be faced with a large increase in dues or even a special assessment.
How do you know if the association is saving enough? Ask for a copy of the reserve study and compare with your association financials that spell out how much is in reserves. Always expect for dues to increase over time as condo associations are subject to the same cost of living adjustments as everyone else.
Condo living is not for everyone, so regardless of whether a condo is the right fit for your forever home, there are some easy low-cost updates that can be made to any home to make it more user friendly for all:
• Lever door handles
• U-shaped drawer pulls
• Rocker switches
• Single-lever faucets
• Shower seats
• Grab bars
• Raised toilet seats/comfort-height toilets
• Clear the clutter — This is by far the lowest-cost solution that provides the biggest reward. I often see dining rooms so full of clutter that they are not functional for dining, never mind anything else. If this space were reimagined, maybe it could serve as a home office, eliminating the trek upstairs where your office has always been.
Of course, there are some situations that cannot be solved with easy low-cost solutions, such as the lack of a bedroom on the first floor. Much more extensive solutions costing thousands of dollars would be installing a stair lift or renovating the downstairs to allow for a bedroom.
Keep in mind if you are currently living in a condominium, you’ll most likely need to get approval from the association before making any major renovations.
Do you feel like it’s time to make some lifestyle changes for yourself (or mom and dad), but you’re just not sure where to start?
There’s plenty of help and information available, and many professionals who specialize in later life transitions:
• Seniors Real Estate Specialists are Realtors trained to understand and meet the special needs of maturing clients. They have the knowledge and expertise to guide homebuyers and sellers over the age of 50 through major financial and lifestyle transitions. (Visit sres.realtor.)
• Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) — This is designation program developed by the National Association of Home Builders. (Go to nahb.org.)
• NASMM@Home Specialist — This is a designation program through the National Association of Senior Move Managers. (Learn more at nasmm.org.)
• Occupational therapists
• Find additional resources at aginginplace.org.
Whether you’re planning for your own future or helping a family member, consider what the needs may be five, 10 or 20 years down the line. It’s never too early to plan for the future.
Julie Ulrich with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty, is a co-chair of the Hampton Roads Realtors Association’s Common Interest Community Forum. This column is not legal advice nor a legal recommendation.