There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home. - Rosalynn Carter
Home really is where the heart is. Our walls are adorned with favorite family photographs. Familiar dishes with secret family recipes are prepared in the kitchen and our furnishings are connected to years of memories. It’s no wonder that given the choice, most seniors would rather remain in their own homes during their golden years. In fact, according to research by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “The great majority of older adults have a strong desire to live in their own homes and communities.”
As an advisor, you can serve an important role in helping your clients plan for the future and for the potential financial implications of aging in place. Working in partnership with The Center for Innovative Care in Aging at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, we identified key issues to review with your clients to determine if they’re ready to age in place:
Aging in place can be a viable option for your clients that are generally in good health. However, even for those that are generally in good health, a home safety assessment should be conducted to make sure that the home is safe, secure and accessible. Most people will find that there are home modifications that will need to be made. In some cases, modifications may be minor such as equipping a bathroom with grab bars and shower benches. However, some modifications may be more substantial such as widening doorways for a wheelchair, or building out a first-floor master suite. In addition, should a person’s health deteriorate, necessitating a network of caregivers, the costs can add up very quickly. Another factor that many people tend to overlook is the cost of maintaining a home and paying for chores (e.g., housekeeping, lawn maintenance and snow plowing) that your clients used to do themselves. That home maintenance may be essential not only for your clients’ safety, but also for maintaining the value of their home.
If your clients’ homes are located near other family members, it may be easier to rely on others for support. However, before placing additional responsibilities on family members, a discussion should take place:
- What are the specific needs?
- How much time will it take to manage those needs?
- Who in the family is willing and able to handle these needs?
- Will there be any damage to family dynamics due to unequal responsibilities?
If family members are not a good option, then encouraging your clients to think through potential solutions and their associated costs will increase the likelihood of successful aging in place.
Social support is essential for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of those aging in place. Without the appropriate level of involvement from family or friends, a senior living at home could become isolated, potentially leading to loneliness and depression.
Driving and transportation are critical factors for ensuring the success of aging in place. It’s important that your clients stay connected to the outside world. If your clients were to lose the ability to drive, they could have difficulty in accessing medical care, or even things as simple as groceries. Successful aging in place should include a plan for transportation.
Your clients continue to live longer and have healthier lives, which means having independence and the ability to stay in their own homes as they age will likely be a priority. As an advisor, your focus should be to help ensure that your clients can afford to live where they choose and get the help they need for as long as they can. Be a resource to your clients and their families by proactively discussing their plans for aging, sharing educational materials (from Legg Mason) to help them think through their options, and creating a financial plan to help them fund the choices that they make.
To obtain a copy of the Legg Mason brochure, Aging and Its Financial Implications: Planning for Housing (which includes a home safety assessment checklist and additional resources for aging in place), please visit http://www.myleggmason.com (and quickly register if you are not already a user). Look for the aging program content under Business Building> Business Development> Wealth Management.
About the Author
Kathleen Pritchard has over 28 years of experience in the financial services industry, and has spent the last 8 years providing advisors with innovative ways to look at their practice and client base. Kathleen is a dynamic, engaging and passionate speaker and coach and is committed to ensuring her ideas lead advisors to further distinction in the marketplace. She is a National Spokesperson for Legg Mason serving the wirehouse, regional, independent, bank and insurance channels. She represents Legg Mason at industry conferences and events across the country. Please look for her at the next industry event you attend.
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 AARP, Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices, December 2011
 Legg Mason Global Asset Management Aging and Its Financial Implications, June 2013