A Deeper Shade Of Green: How To Age In Place While Staying Eco-Friendly

Millennials currently make up 45% of U.S. homeowners, but Generation X isn’t too far behind. Representing 28% of homeowners, Americans between the ages of 40 and 55 have been gaining a foothold in the real estate market in recent years.

However, with the U.S. housing supply expected to reach an all-time low in 2020 and housing prices continuing to rise, it may be a good idea for house-hunting Gen Xers to look not only for a new house but also for a house in which they can age in place.

What is aging in place?

Aging in place refers to living in your own home independently rather than moving to a senior community once you’ve reached the age of 65, at which point 70% of Americans will need some type of long-term care. Chronic conditions like heart disease and chronic non-healing wounds can increase your chances of needing long-term care.

Aging in place is becoming increasingly popular due to improving technology. But it’s also becoming more desirable because of the growing costs of long-term care.

Many Americans can’t afford an unexpected $400 expense, let alone the costs associated with a care home. Fortunately, you’re exempt from federal estate taxes unless your estate is valued at more than $5.43 million.

Houses are also becoming more accessible, inhabitable, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly for people of varying abilities and ages. The trick is finding a home that meets your needs not only right now but also in the future.

House-hunting for a long-term, eco-friendly home

According to Marianne Cusato, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, many people make the mistake of waiting too long to make renovations that facilitate aging.

“You don’t wait until you have mobility issues to make changes to your house,” said Cusato.

That being said, it can be helpful to look for eco-friendly housing features that make aging in place that much easier even before you renovate. Here are a few features to look for during your own house-hunt if aging in place is your plan:

  • A walk-in shower. Walk-in showers are a big trend for homeowners of all ages. They also help to conserve water and make showering with mobility issues that much easier.
  • A first-floor master suite. If you’re interested in buying a two-story house instead of a ranch, be sure that it has a master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. This ensures you have everything you need on one level so you don’t need to climb the stairs when you get older. You also save energy costs because you only need to heat one floor rather than two.
  • High-end security. Security is crucial at any age, especially considering 2 million home burglaries are reported every year. But seniors are often targeted by thieves. Look for homes that have deadbolts and secure windows. Features like alarms, security lights, security cameras, and sensors can all be installed when you move in.
  • Carpeting. Hardwood floors are a big trend right now, but they can also be slippery. This is especially true when they’re covered with rugs. Rugs can create a hazard because they change the grade of the floor. Slip-resistant flooring like carpet is a good choice and it can cushion a fall better than a hard surface. New carpeting is also made from natural, renewable fibers, which makes it more eco-friendly than it was in years past. However, one thing to keep in mind is that most walkers and wheelchairs don’t roll well over carpet as they do on hardwood floors. Look for carpet that’s no higher than a half-inch and that the padding beneath it is firm.

When you’re considering looking for a new home at the age of 50, it might be a good idea to consider houses that will make aging in place easy to do. Up to 78% of recent homebuyers said their real estate agent was a great source of information, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your own agent for information on housing styles and features that meet both your current and future needs.

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