In Search of the Ideal Home for Seniors

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. April 17, 2016

In Search of the Ideal Home for Seniors

I’m currently searching for a home for a senior who is near and dear to my heart. She absolutely does not want to move into “one of those nursing homes.” So it’s an ongoing process to find the right home for her. Finding a home that is comfortable and accessible for folks in their 70s, 80s or 90s may be a challenge but it is doable. And in reality – the best home for seniors is essentially the same as the best home for anyone of any age.

I asked my favorite senior to make a list of the factors that she wants in a home. I have encouraged her to find a home that offers safety and convenience. And I have asked her to prioritize the factors. Together, we have come up with the following list. Each person is different in terms of their needs and wants. But these are the factors that I believe are critical to allowing someone to stay in their home and stay safe for as long as they want and are able.

Here are some important senior safety factors to consider when finding a home that works for your favorite senior. You can use the checklist to compare different houses. I have put them in order of priority from our perspective. Of course the factors can and should be changed and re-ordered to reflect your priorities.

Location, Location, Location

  • Close to family and friends
  • Located on a route that is regularly traveled by family and friends so that they can conveniently stop by for visits and check in
  • Near to shopping, hospitals, health care and other regularly visited facilities
  • Quiet street – with clear views when pulling out of the driveway
  • Close to public services – fire department, police department
  • In an area (county, city or village) that offers special senior services – transportation, meals on wheels, house cleaning
  • Low crime, well-lit area
    • Neighborhood watch program in the area
  • Sidewalks or other safe-walking areas

Home and property layout

  • Single story – no stairs
  • If not single story then at the minimum have the garage, bedroom, full bathroom, kitchen and laundry on the main floor
  • Lot grade and driveway are walkable and not steeply sloped
  • Driveway is wide enough or has a turnaround that allows for cars to enter street frontward – not backing into the street
  • Ample size garage with automatic door opener

Essential Items

Are their certain items that your senior cannot live without? Are the items really “essential” or just nice to have? Can they be added later? Everyone is different in what they consider to be essential. You can eliminate a lot of potential homes from the list at this stage when essential items are not present or you do not want to spend the money to add them later.

My favorite senior considers these to be essential items: a room for her exercise equipment, a view of the yard from the window above the kitchen sink, and a fenced yard for her dog. Make sure that your senior tells you his or her preferred items and add them here:

General home condition – this is where it pays to hire a good home inspector before the home is purchased

  • Electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems are relatively new (updated within the last 10 years), in proper operating condition and meet area building codes
  • Structurally sound
    • Roof does not leak and shingles newer than 10 years
    • Floors are level and solid
    • Foundation is solid – no cracking in basement walls
  • No mold in bathrooms, basement or any other part of the house
  • No hazardous materials in home – such as lead, radon or asbestos

Accessibility and Fall Prevention Features

  • Safe access into home – no steps into house from garage or entry
    • If there are steps or stairs – make sure there are solid hand rails on both sides – non slip treads that are in good, solid condition, 10” or deeper for sure footing with equal height risers (see our blog on stair safety for more information)
    • Good lighting – motion detectors
  • Low pile carpet or wood, vinyl or tile floors
  • Solid windows and doors that are easy to operator, have good locks, and meet current codes – wide door openings are important for mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs
  • All floors are the same height from room to room – thresholds of ½” or more are tripping hazards
  • Kitchen layout works for the senior – proper countertop height, plenty of storage within reach of the senior, properly functioning appliances at the right height
  • Adequate Internet, cable or satellite access for computers and televisions
  • Strong cell phone connectivity

Other Safety Amenities – Important but could be changed or installed after home is purchased

  • Back-up power generator
  • Walk in, curb-less showers
  • Grab bars inside and outside bathtubs and showers and next to toilets

Cost Factors

  • The price is within the seniors’ means and accounts for all cost factors including
    • Principal and mortgage
    • Utilities – especially heating fuel and electricity – get copies of utility bills from the current owners
    • Property taxes – there can be a huge difference between counties and towns and townships
    • Cost for Internet and cable or satellite TV
    • Transportation costs
    • Moving costs

Aesthetics

  • The senior feels safe, happy, and comfortable
  • There is plenty of natural light
  • Views from the house are pleasing to the senior
  • The house has a pleasant smell and is naturally airy
  • Most important -- the senior wants to live there – in fact this is really the top priority!

Hopefully, having a checklist of factors will help you, help someone, find the home of their dreams. Having a good real estate agent helps – and communicating your priorities to the agent can smooth the process and result in a move to a home that fits the needs of your favorite senior and that keeps them safe. 

Once your senior finds a home he or she likes, make sure you and your favorite senior visit the home more than once. I like to go to the home at different times of the day. Sometimes I will park near the home and just listen. Are there barking dogs, the steady roar of traffic, lots of emergency vehicles or a budding rock musicians in the house next door? Are there odors that you find unappealing from nearby farms or factories?

And before you buy – make sure you have the home inspected. Introduce yourself to neighbors. Picture yourself (and your furniture, pets, guests and family) in the home. Does it feel right? Is your senior committed to the decision to get this home? If yes – then it’s time to close the deal, pack and move! By the way, my help with the move will be to find a mover – my back is not what it used to be!!

 




Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.

Author

Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.