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Cost of growing old at home

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

Baby boomers are going to give new meaning to the phrase "home alone." More than 80 percent of people older than 45, told AARP that they want to remain in their own homes as they age -- even if they need special help.

Consider what that could mean. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1900, there were 122,000 people older than 85. By 2000, there were 4.3 million, and by 2030, there are expected to be 8.7 million.  Between 2030 and 2050, that number is expected to double, reaching 19 million.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute has estimated what it takes to keep us at home instead of in a nursing home. Met's gerontologists named several aspects of a home that may need to be modified to make aging at home safe and comfortable. When retirement planning, consider how much these modifications will likely cost:

  • Project assessment and design: $300 to $10,000.
  • Building a wheelchair ramp, planting landscaping around it, adding a lift to get a wheelchair in the car and house: $2,500 to $20,000.
  • Installing grab bars where needed: $250 for every two installed.
  • Updating the bathroom: $3,500 to $35,000.
  • Widening doors to accommodate a walker or wheelchair: $800 to $1,200.
  • Adding an elevator: $20,000 to $35,000.
  • Installing a stair glide (lift): $3,000 to $12,000.
  • Building a first-floor master bedroom addition: $35,000 to $100,000.
  • Installing a ceiling lift: $5,000 to $12,000.
  • Purchasing and installing a telemedicine system: $2,400 to $3,400, plus $49 per month for monitoring.
  • Personal emergency panic button: $50 to install and $15 to $35 per month to monitor.
  • Pill dispenser monitor: $160 and $15 to $35 per month to monitor.

Yes, it sounds like a lot of money. But put it in perspective. If you add up the maximum costs for everything but the master suite addition and the stair glide (I'm opting for the elevator), it will cost $117,060. This is a little more than what it costs to stay in a nursing home for a one year in some parts of the country.

So, bring on the elevator and the "Help-Me-I've-Fallen" monitor. It sounds like a reasonable price to pay compared to the misery of ending retirement in a nursing home.

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November 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Far from a crock ... the vast majority of market rate homes were not designed or built with the challenges of aging in place in mind. With 80% - 90% of all older adults, by choice or necessity, growing old at home and not in institutional settings, the issues and costs associated in retrofitting their homes to ensure their safety and quality of life is a valid topic of discussion.

November 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

What a crock! Most need none of the above, and will continue to live as everyone else does. When did you worry about the cost of a baby, the cost of a teen, the cost of a young adult buying a home? These are all considered normal and good costs. Living costs at all ages, and we older folks have as much right to living wherever we want as the rest of you!

November 20, 2010 at 8:23 am

If you think about the isolation factor, it might be prudent to move to shared housing before retirement, learn to live communaly, and re-imagine it as a healthy, positive move instead. If your family, however, has resisted the nuclear selfishness of every person having their own stove, bathrooms (2) , and house, then you would probably learn to better tolerate them, and stay with them until spiritual re-union with your maker.