Many Americans dream of moving into their "forever house" someday, or their dream home that should last them the rest of their lives. However, when shopping for a forever house, many people forget to consider one universal fact of life -- you're going to get old.
Here are three things you can do to make sure your house will still meet your needs no matter how long you live.
Easy to get into
When you begin searching for a "forever" house, one of the most important things to notice is how you enter the home.
If you plan on being in the house for the rest of your life, a zero-step entry is ideal, but at the very least you don't want to have to climb a flight of stairs just to get into the house. If you end up needing a motorized scooter to get around, this can eventually require very costly renovations, like putting in a ramp.
And, avoid lots that are especially hilly, for the same reason. If you feel like you need to hike up a hill just to get to the front door, imagine how that's going to feel when you're 70 or 80.
The layout of the home
Some things about a house are easy to change as you get older. For example, you can install "grab bars" in your bathtub for less than $100 or put in a senior-friendly showerhead relatively easily. However, the layout of your home can be expensive to change later on in life.
If you truly intend to stay put in the house forever, you'll need substantial first floor living space. Specifically, you need a master bedroom (or another space that could function as a master bedroom) on the first floor.
There is a good reason that most houses in senior living neighborhoods are single-story. Stairs get much tougher to navigate on a regular basis as you get older, and become next to impossible when you need a walker or scooter to get around.
And, this is not an issue that is easily solved later on. Renovation costs to add on a bedroom and master bathroom on the first floor of a house can easily reach the six-figure range, so make sure to take this into account if you really want your forever home to last forever.
Close to essentials
As you get older, are you really going to be up for a 30 minute drive every time you need to get a prescription filled or need a loaf of bread? The thought of living far out in the country might be appealing, but consider how much more difficult it could make your life as you get older.
While there is no set age that determines when it becomes unsafe for seniors to drive, it's an indisputable fact that reflexes, vision, and hearing begin to decline at some point.
In fact, the traffic accident fatality rate for senior citizens over the age of 85 is four times as high as it is for teenagers. And any driver age 65 and older is more likely to get into an accident than a younger driver.
Many older drivers insist on maintaining their independence, so it's important that essential services like medical care and conveniences like a grocery store are within a short drive of the house, if you intend on staying well into your latter years.
These concerns might not just be for you...
This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to "age-proof" your forever house, but these are three good examples of things that are tough or impossible to change at a later date. Many other adaptations are relatively easy and inexpensive to make, such as installing lower light switches or automatic night lights.
And another reason you may need to think about these things, even in the shorter term, is if there is a possibility that an older relative, like a parent, may eventually need to move in with you. Even if it's difficult to think about, it's a lot easier to have a place for mom or dad to sleep already in place when you buy the house than it is to be stuck with expensive renovations later.
The point here is that if you want your "forever house" to truly live up to its name, your criteria when purchasing it should go beyond your choice of kitchen appliances or exterior finishes. Make sure you take into account these practical considerations – not just for the present, but for years down the road as well.
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