Aging in Your Next Place: What to Look for in a New Home

By Lisa M. Petsche

As we age, there’s a good chance that eventually our home will no longer suit our lifestyle or our needs.

Common reasons for relocating include simplifying home ownership responsibilities, reducing living expenses, maximizing accessibility and safety, and increasing personal security, community access or opportunities for activities and socializing.

There are many options for boomer and senior home ownership, including moving to a comparable-sized home with a different design, downsizing to a smaller house or an apartment-style condominium, and moving to an adult lifestyle community containing detached homes or townhouses.

If you or a loved one are planning to relocate, it’s important to consider not only your current needs and preferences but also potential future needs. By doing so, you can maximize your chances of being able to age in place.

The following are some questions you may want to consider when checking out properties.

Building Features
  • When was it built? Does it appear to be in good condition?
  • Is the exterior maintenance-free?
  • Is there an entrance at ground level? Is it sheltered?
  • If there are steps to enter, or to navigate once inside, is there plenty of landing space?
  • Does the entrance door have a wide angle viewer (peephole)? Are door locks easy to operate?
  • Is there a sizable foyer with room for a bench?
  • Is there a one-floor plan? If not, is there a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and laundry room on the main floor? Is there an open concept layout?
  • Are hallways and doorways wide enough to accommodate a mobility device?
  • Is there non-slip flooring? Does carpeting have a low pile?
  • Are there sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs? Are steps deep enough to place the whole foot? Is the stair rise a comfortable height, and are risers closed? Are stairwells wide enough to accommodate a stair lift? Are they well lit?
  • Is there a light switch within easy reach at the top and bottom?
  • Is there an attached garage?
  • Is there central air conditioning? A programmable thermostat?
  • Are there plenty of windows? Are they easy to operate? Energy efficient? Low enough to have a view while sitting?
  • Are door handles easy to operate? (A lever type is ideal.)
  • Are light switches easy to reach from doorways?
  • Are there ample electrical outlets and phone jacks? What about high-speed Internet access?
  • Are there smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors?
  • In the kitchen: Do countertops have rounded corners? Is there counter space next to appliances and cupboards?
  • In the bathroom: Are there grab bars in the tub? A hand-held shower head? A walk-in shower? Built-in shower seat? Easy-to-handle faucets?
    (A single lever is best.)
  • Is there a spare bedroom and, ideally, a second bathroom, should live-in help be required?
  • If walls are shared with neighbors, what kind of soundproofing exists?
Apartment Considerations
  • Is the building fully air-conditioned?
  • Are common areas spacious, clean and bright? Are furnishings and decor attractive and modern?
  • Can elevators easily accommodate a wheelchair or scooter? Are the buttons easy to access?
  • Does every unit have a balcony or terrace?
  • Are there in-suite laundry facilities? If not, is the laundry room easy to access? Are the appliances in good condition?
Grounds
  • Is the lot level?
  • If there’s an entrance ramp, does it have a gentle incline?
  • Is there covered parking? Ample space for visitors’ vehicles?
  • Are the grounds child-friendly for visiting grandkids?
  • Does the neighborhood have sidewalks?
  • With a house: Are the grounds low maintenance? Is there room for a garden? Are paved areas in good repair? Are there sturdy railings and handrails on porches and decks? Are there motion sensor lights?
  • With a condo: Are hardscaped areas and green spaces well maintained? Do they include benches? Is there a furnished patio? Shaded areas? A residents’ garden? Walking paths? Water features? Plenty of lighting?

 

Location
  • Is it central to local relatives and friends?
  • Is there easy access to major roads and highways?
  • Is it central to frequently accessed amenities, such as a grocery store, drug store, bank, medical clinic and place of worship? What about proximity to a shopping center, library, continuing education institution, park, recreation center, restaurants and cultural attractions?
Amenities (in a condo or lifestyle community):
  • What kind of security measures are in place?
  • Is there a party room for family gatherings and a community room for group meetings?
  • Are there fitness facilities, such as a swimming pool, gym or tennis court? What other recreation and leisure opportunities are available?
  • What amenities are included in the monthly condo or Homeowners’ Association (HOA) fee, and would you make use of enough of them to justify the cost? What is the cost of optional amenities, such as a golf club membership or a boat slip.

Lisa M. Petsche is a social workerand a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior issues.

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