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Don’t Let Marketers Tell You How to Age in Place
posted 09.07.2017

By Stacy Canan

We often hear that older Americans want to “age in place.” Aging in place means living at home in the community, rather than in an institutional setting, like a nursing facility. This is the choice most people want to make even if they need services and supports to do so.

With over ten thousand people turning age 65 every day, and with a majority of them homeowners, a growing number of businesses are increasingly using the phrase aging in place to market financial products and services to homeowners in the baby boom generation. Many reverse mortgage lenders, for example, advertise that a reverse mortgage loan will enable you to continue living in your current home so you can age in place.

Many of these businesses and lenders, however, are incorrectly implying that staying in your current home is the only option for aging in place.

Although the promise of staying put is attractive to many, remaining in your current home may not be a good plan for everyone. For example, your home may have many stairs, be expensive to heat and cool or repair, require costly taxes and insurance payments, have limited or no public transportation nearby, or be far from family, friends, and community activities.

Though it’s hard to envision an older you, think about what you want to be doing and what you can afford to do in ten, twenty, or more years from now. If you’re in your sixties, there’s a good chance you’ll live into your eighties or your nineties.

Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about aging in place in your current home:

  • Will you be able to keep up with home maintenance, repairs, taxes, and other costs over time?;
  • Will you be living near family or friends when you may need their help?
  • Does staying in your current home give you the freedom to do the things that you like to do, such as traveling?
  • Will you be able to get to the places you want or need to go, such as to doctors’ appointments, friends’ homes, and places of worship, if your ability to drive becomes limited?

Before borrowing a reverse mortgage loan to pay for expensive home modifications or for other expenses to stay in your current home, consider all available housing options. There are many ways to age in place. Whether you live in the same home you’ve been in for decades or in a new place that fits your current needs, aging in place, most importantly, is about your right to live independently in the community of your choice.

The new marketing pitches can appeal to the emotional ties we have to our homes. It’s hard to imagine leaving a home you’ve lived in for many years, even if growing older in your home no longer makes sense. Moving can be overwhelming if you’ve lived in your home for many years, raised children there, or accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. If you’re nodding your head as you read, you’re likely the precise demographic that these businesses are targeting.

Try not to let emotions or worries influence a decision that could put at risk your future financial, as well as your physical, well-being. Think about what makes sense for an older you, both personally and financially. Some decisions you may make about your home today may limit your options down the road, which in turn may prevent you from aging in the place you most want to be.

Stacy Canan is Assistant Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office for Older Americans, in Washington, D.C.

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