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This article is part of a weekly series that will help each of us plan for a life of our choosing as we age.

With the advancement of medical care and the resultant longer average life span there is a question that bears asking for many of us: how do we want to live out our retirement years? A key component for most people is that they would like to be as active, independent, and self-sufficient; as much as they can, as comfortably as they can and for as long as they can. The independence component of aging contributes to maintaining a sense of dignity.

Atwul Gwande, author of Being Mortal, Medicine and What Really Matters in the End, believes “there is arguably no better time to be old.” He says that while in the past and in many cultures, it was considered shameful for an elderly loved one to live alone, many no longer live by that value. Our modern life says Gwande, “gives us more liberty and control including the liberty to be less beholden to other generations”. That should be encouraging to all of us! We will each face many challenges, but the good news is that we have tons of resources now that can help us succeed longer in that independent mode we have come to value and love.

Figuring out the right solution for yourself or a loved one might require some creative thinking- but planning is key!

Some of the solutions that we have seen working for people we know:

  • A mature couple, close to retirement, has plans to downsize proactively. They will move to an independent living facility at the point they do retire. They believe that staying a step ahead will allow them to make better decisions as they progress through retirement and beyond.
  • An older couple has converted one bay of their garage to an apartment for a caregiver for themselves if that is ever needed.
  • A single retired woman is happy to stay in her home of 50 years. At 80 years old she works hard to care for her home to maintain its value. At the point she can no longer do so, the sale of her home will allow her to move to an assisted living facility.
  • Multi- generational living is a common choice we see. Most of these families that we know prefer some privacy and independence within this model.
  • Some of the arrangements we have seen include:
    • Conversion of a guest bath and bedroom to a homey space. The guest room becomes a bit like a hotel room with a coffee maker, a microwave, TV, mini fridge, and a reading chair.
    • A garage closed in with a set up like a small apartment with a sitting room for daily activity, bedroom, and bathroom.
    • Backyard casitas are on the wish list for many families as well. With the event of Covid and the restrictions and isolation that occurred to many in nursing homes and facilities, this trend has gained even more momentum.

Setting the Stage for Staying at home:

In October of 2016 we had a broadcast about aging in place. At that time Rosie said he had not had one remodel that included this concept. But currently he can attest to the fact that many of the remodeling projects that he sees are requests to add a casita, convert a garage or add a second master bedroom suite. The conversation with the homeowner generally starts with the question, ‘Rosie, how viable would it be to bring mom and dad to our home to live with us and what would our options look like?’ The question is often generated when the family has started looking for communities for the folks to live in and sees the monthly cost of independent and assisted living care. The monthly fee can range from $3,000 to $10,000 a month and beyond!

Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking through the challenges of aging in your home:

  • Physical abilities of the person aging-An aging person typically experiences a decline in their 5 senses, strength, dexterity and balance. Are there things that can be done to enable a person to perform activities of daily living (ADL) like eating, bathing, toileting, getting in and out of bed or their favorite chair?
  • What about access to Services- Dr’s, shopping, emergency services, transportation- Can we get to where we need to go and can others get to us?
  • Staying connected- one of the down sides to staying at home is having too little human contact. This was especially true and challenging during the lockdown. Nothing replaces human touch and contact but we will take a look at technology that has helped fill in some of the gaps. With a little support the learning curve needed to use technology provides big dividends in staying connected.

We know that not everyone has the budget for a remodel or casita. Over the next couple of weeks, we will present possible solutions to consider for some of the living in place challenges.

The Dilemma of Aging:

In the words of Andy Rooney, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”

Men and women who have lived full, capable lives find themselves slower to respond and daily tasks become harder. But the physical limitations do not have to diminish who they are, the wisdom gained from a lifetime of learning and the contributions they can continue to make to others. It benefits all of us to provide ways for the elderly to thrive and even shine during this season. Life can be greatly enhanced by learning what helps a person to function independently to the amount they are able. Our hope is that this series will help to open the conversation to ideas and resources that help to maintain quality of life.

We would like to hear from you! If you have solutions, questions or comments on this topic, email us at We would love to gather and share as many resources as possible with those who need this info.


Photo Credits:

  • Shutterstock

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