With most Seniors already in retirement and a large number of Baby Boomers quickly reaching retirement age, they face the dilemma of whether to age in place or downsize. Both options carry benefits and risks, making it a very difficult decision. Since the choice varies based on each person's interests and needs, this post will outline some of the recent housing trends as well as general guidelines for beginning the downsizing process.
Benefits of Living Smaller
One point that most Seniors and Baby Boomers still agree on is that they want to age at home - not in a nursing home or an assisted-living community. With shows like Tiny House, Big Living and Tiny House Hunters highlighting the current trend of "tiny living", the concept of "home" has shifted into many forms.
Both generations can downsize - both their home size and their bills - without moving somewhere that doesn't feel like home. According to an article from CBS News, 40% of current tiny home owners are over the age of 50.
The article goes on to highlight some of the benefits of living smaller:
- Leaving a mortgage behind. Many Seniors or Baby Boomers have paid off their mortgages, but even those who haven't can use the equity in their home to purchase a smaller living space. Most will be able to do so without needing a new mortgage.
- Freedom to travel. Without the burden of mortgage debt, retirees find more time and money to travel. It is even possible to build a tiny home or buy an RV that can move with you, though this isn't recommended for people with mobility issues.
- Less work and maintenance. Downsizing to a tiny home means less stuff - fewer carpets to vacuum, dishes to wash, and windows to clean. It also means less stuff to break and repair. This creates more time and energy to do other, enjoyable things.
- Lower bills. With less space to cool, heat, and illuminate, the utility bills downsize too.
- A richer relationship. For couples seeking smaller living, the close quarters tend to build better communication, understanding, and patience.
- A personalized space. For aging individuals, this creates the opportunity for design of an environment safe for future disabilities.
Downsizing Tips For Seniors & Boomers
Tiny house living isn't the only definition for downsizing. Some retirees still opt for Senior Living Communities or smaller spaces like apartments and condos. No matter what form downsizing takes, there are some key points to consider. Jeff Reeves outlined these points in an article for USA Today. He encourages the following:
- Consider the taxes. Income and property taxes vary widely depending on where you live. Do some research before moving. For those on a budget, it is wise to choose an area with lower tax rates.
- Public Transportation. Is there housing available in an area that also provides public transportation? This can eliminate the need for multiple - or even any - car payments and maintenance services.
- Health Care. It is important to choose an area that offers access to doctors and other health services within the network of your insurance.
- Overhead. When choosing a smaller place to live, consider the overhead. While this new place mows the grass and shovels the snow for you, is the cost of those services budget friendly?
- Look Beyond the Price Tag. While cost is a major factor for those on a reduced or limited income, it's not the only factor. It is important to maintain social and community ties - be it friends and family, familiar stores, or a regular doctor.
- Check With A Local Realtor. One of the road blocks today is the housing market itself. The Baby Boomer generation matured in a time when building equity in a home came easily and they "traded-up" from their starter homes to something bigger and better. However, the current housing market might not be in their favor if they choose to sell. Forbes.com reports that the Gen-Xers are not "trading up" like their predecessors. Changes to the financial landscape created a plateau in their careers, forcing them to shoulder the brunt of the recent economic downturn. They are working to maintain what they have, not invest in something bigger. As for the Millennials, home ownership in general a possibility, but not a probability. Burdened with school loan debt and a poor job market, they don't want or can't afford home ownership. This ripple effect through the generations can have a direct impact on Seniors and Baby Boomers as they hope to sell their large home for top dollar while searching for an affordable smaller home.
Downsizing Without Moving
For some individuals, downsizing needs to happen without leaving their current home. How is that possible? Aging in Place Transition Services offers these tips:
- Evaluate the current home and consider how needs and mobility will change with age.
- Contact a contractor to discuss renovations or alterations needed for the home. Use a company such as Aging in Place Builders, Inc, which has experience in design and renovation for the aging population.
- De-clutter. If necessary, hire a professional organizer to help sort through all household items. Then, dispose of anything unneeded or unwanted. Donate or sell it through a yard sale or a service such as Ebay.
- Research local sources of assistance, such as meal delivery or in-home care - your local Council on Aging should have plenty of helpful resources.
- Consider Multi-Generational Living. Family is a flexible term. For Seniors or Baby Boomers who want to Age In Place without facing the burdens of home ownership alone, living with extended family is a great option. Outside assistance services can still be utilized to reduce stress on the younger generation, but a multi-generational household allows for a gradual shift in responsibilities while maintaining ties to home, family, and community.
Downsizing Has Never Been Easier
Downsizing takes many forms, but the benefits to an aging population make it a wise decision. We also live in a time where helpful services are a mouse-click away. For further assistance in downsizing as you or your loved one ages, please schedule a free In-Home Assessment from one of our experts - you can find comfort in knowing that we help an awful lot of people in this situation.