Adjustments

Accommodation – making adjustments

My last accommodation article focused on maintaining independence. This one looks at adjustments that can be made to your housing to help assist your Age Life Balance journey.

Depending on your current age and life stage, this could be more relevant to your parents or other older relatives than you, right now.  However, it’s probably useful information to have at the back of your mind, and could help you to help others in the meantime.

I’ll look at catalysts for change, types of adjustments, benefits of taking action and other considerations. In a future accommodation article, I’ll look at some practical steps for getting started.

 

Catalysts for change

As a planner (and a self-confessed selective control freak), this is probably something that I’m likely to have a view on earlier than others, especially given my own mother’s situation that I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier articles.

Mum moved to a bungalow in 2014 in order maintain independence following an unsuccessful hip replacement operation.  Since this time, she has made incremental improvements to her bungalow to help maintain her independence and quality of life e.g. smooth flooring, wet-room installation, entrance ramp, hand rails etc.

You too may know someone that has been prompted to take action, however I appreciate that there could be a wide range of motivations for this.

Health concerns

Health concerns could include a diagnosis, a decline in health, an accident or post-op rehabilitation. These could lead to a reduction in strength and mobility, which could make life more challenging in your normal accommodation.

Status

There could be changes in your personal circumstances e.g. separation or divorce, loss of a spouse or other family member, children flying the nest, financial crossroads etc.

Milestones

The motivation could simply come upon reaching a certain milestone such as retirement, or maybe becoming a grandparent and wanting to relocate closer to family.

Any of these catalysts (and others not mentioned) may prompt you to consider some life changes. So, why not think medium to long-term while you’re at it? Consider where you might end up and how suitable your accommodation will be as you grow older.  The further out you project, the better this will hopefully position you for the longer term.

 

Types of adjustments

There are many options available, but these probably fall into two main categories: staying put and making adjustments, or moving somewhere more suitable.

Adjustments could range from the relatively minor by making some enhancements to your current accommodation e.g. decluttering, installing handrails, safer flooring. Or they could be more substantial including fitting a stair lift, bathroom modifications or installing bedroom or bathroom facilities on the ground floor.

There could be even bigger changes including building out additional living space e.g. ground floor bedrooms, or an entire granny flat etc.

The other main option is moving somewhere inherently more suitable such as a bungalow, a smaller or newer property with a downstairs bathroom, or somewhere with less maintenance needs or in a more convenient location e.g. nearer local shops and other amenities.

Ultimately sheltered accommodation or a care or nursing home may be required. These are often purpose built and will certainly be fit for purpose from a pure accommodation perspective. There will also be advantages in the reduction of maintenance, cleaning etc.

 

Benefits of taking action

Ultimately, it’s highly likely that you will need to either make adjustments to your accommodation or move as you become older, for a variety of reasons. By delaying action, options could become beyond your control by the time you really need it.

As well as the accommodation itself being more appropriate, there could be other associated benefits of taking action sooner rather than later:

–        Location – moving closer to friends and family, more accessible, nearer amenities. This could help address feelings of isolation and also reduce dependence on cars or other people

–        Smaller place to manage – heat, clean, repair etc

–        Moving earlier on could be a much more satisfying solution:

  • Small adjustments over time are easier to manage and accept rather than fundamental ones
  • You’re in control, so it’ll be much more on your terms
  • Your choice of where to live and what type of environment
  • Greater opportunity to build up familiarity and community, while you can
  • More chance to make the accommodation your own
  • Move sooner to enjoy the benefits for longer

–        Opportunity to sort out and declutter (something many of us plan to do, but things amass over time and we often need a catalyst)

–        Financial release – potential for equity release, income, lower costs

–        Smaller or bigger garden, depending on what you are looking for!

Other considerations

Depending on your own circumstances, there may be other factors that you’ll need to consider.

Other people

Any changes may not be your decision alone. You may have a spouse, partner or other family members that have (or believe they have) a vested interest in the matter for a variety of reasons e.g. directly affected, additional demands on them, inheritance etc. It’s good to discuss any changes up front with them, as they may have a valuable perspective that could help find a better overall solution. Regardless of the type of change, you might also need their support and assistance.

Family home

You may live in a family home that has been passed between generations. If this is the case, you may need to consider if the property is suitable for you now and will it be in the longer term. Could it be adapted? Can this be passed on to other family members? (IHT considerations) Could it be sold or rented out to provide an income?

Financial considerations

Changes, whether adjustments to an existing property or moving, could cost considerable money in the short-term. However, it’s definitely worth looking at this holistically as each situation can bring its own pros and cons.

  • Opportunity to sell and rent instead
  • Downsize to a smaller property
  • Newer property – less maintenance and repairs
  • Cheaper area – you may live in a desirable area for commuting / schools which are no longer relevant / required for you.

It’s probably cheaper to invest in adjustments to accommodation to enable you to stay put longer term than to pay out for a care home, which could be very costly. The longer you can adapt and be independent, the better this can often be for all concerned.

Emotional

Your circumstances may have recently changed, e.g. loss of a loved one. Or maybe you don’t feel able to cope with any more change right now and may need some support.

 

Wrap-up

I don’t want to over simplify and say that if you adapt your accommodation this will prevent you from ever needing to move again or needing a care home in later years, but it could certainly help to delay this. Making adjustments to our accommodation as we get older, in combination with looking after our health and fitness levels are all part of the holistic Age Life Balance journey.

 

Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.