Summer is a time when homeowners across the U.S. undertake renovation projects that add beauty, functionality and value to their properties. These days, it appears as though that is particularly true when it comes to older Americans, many of whom are choosing to remain in their longtime homes rather than downsizing as they age.
The amount of money being spent by people age 55 and older on home improvements has increased sharply over the past two decades, according to data from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The total number of people in this group who are spending money to renovate at all increased 60% between 1997 and 2017 - the latest year for which complete data is available - offsetting declines of 21% for people under 35, and 6% for those between 35 and 54.
Moreover, the average amount of money being spent on such renovations is up 57% among older Americans, with the total amount of money being spent on such improvements climbing a stunning 152% in just 20 years, the report said. Average spending among the two other generations was also on the rise, as was total expenditures, but in both cases, the increases were far more muted.
What it costs to age in place
Health care and home renovation experts alike would caution that it's important to make some big changes to home life for people that would age in place, and fortunately many of those accommodations do not cost a large amount of money, according to Retirement Living. In most cases, the kinds of remodeling or additions needed for safely aging in place is less than $10,000, and should include things like installing ramps and handrails, a remodeled bathroom, new kitchen hardware that's easier to operate and so on.
For more extravagant changes that will quickly inflate the price tag of such a project, widening hallways and doorways, adjusting their height of kitchen counters and adding a walk-in tub or shower can cost thousands more, the report said. This may explain why, with many more seniors choosing to live in their current homes rather than move to smaller, more accommodating houses, both total and average expenditures are on the rise.
Government urges action
With this becoming such a massive trend across the U.S. these days - in part because many seniors are having difficulties finding buyers for their often rather large homes - the federal government recommended some major changes nearly six years ago. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has long advocated for more programs to help seniors age in place, as this can not only help those older people and their families save money, but also reduce the strain on the national health care system.
That's true because, often, aging in place is far more affordable than moving into an assisted living facility, HUD noted. Monthly expenses for long-term care in the home can be more than five times less than what it costs to live in a nursing home.
With that in mind, it's important for contractors to collaborate with older homeowners on improvements that will make their lives easier for years to come, with the understanding that there will be a significant incentive to get it right, for all involved.