7 Hidden Costs of Aging in Place

November 1, 2022

A recent survey from the American Advisors Group found that 74% of adult children of baby boomer parents prefer that their parents retire and age in their own homes—this to relieve the financial and emotional pressures stemming from elder care and growing retirement insecurity.

Staying in your home as you age allows you to stay close to your friends and family, remain in a home you love, and (possibly) save some money on assisted living or nursing home care. We talk a lot about the common costs of aging in place, like continued housing expenses and remodeling prices, but other unexpected costs can come up as you prepare to age in place successfully. Let’s take a look at those hidden costs.

elderly couple holding hands

Source: Getty

1. Home Health Aides

Home health aides and skilled nurses can come to your home and help with medications, companionship, and other health-related services.

The national median cost of a home health aide is $26 per hour, but will vary based on the services provided. A healthy, independent senior can get assistance with part-time (two hours daily) housework, meal preparation, hygiene, and cleaning for about $1,500 a month.

The costs of aging in place can add up but are still lower compared to other senior housing options like assisted living. Medicare may pay for short-term care when you are recovering from an illness or injury but doesn’t cover personal care or housekeeping services. Buying supplemental Medicare insurance could ease the cost of getting help in your home.

2. Transportation Challenges

If you can’t drive a car, it becomes harder to leave the house and socialize. Isolation and depression are common among the elderly, and studies show it increases your risk of sickness. To increase your mobility, consider low-cost public transportation, such as a bus line or a paratransit service that provides curb-to-curb service. The Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that paratransit companies can’t charge more than 1.5 times the cost of bus fare in your area if the driver is on a regular route. Medicaid holders can access paratransit services for free.

To find services in your area, contact your local National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Also, many healthcare networks with hospitals and clinics offer free ride programs for patients with doctor appointments. If you have a smartphone, consider rideshare programs with Uber or Lyft, which can offer last-minute transportation for a reasonable fee.

paratransit

Source: Getty

3. Home Technology and Security Upgrades

Seniors today are more open to technology as safety and convenience solutions. Home security systems add an obvious layer of protection, and smart home technology can allow for greater mobility and convenience. Fitness devices and trackers can also help seniors and their caregivers monitor activity levels from anywhere.

4. Vital Energy Efficiency Improvements

You must also consider how much time you’ll spend in your home as you age. Springing for energy-efficient upgrades can help you save money and stay comfortable. Some valuable energy-efficient improvements include:

skylight

Source: Getty.
  • Re-blowing insulation: Around $1,000 to $1,500 per 1,000 square feet of wall space (not floor space). The final cost will depend on the insulation type and labor rates in your area.

  • Adding skylights helps to reduce electricity usage: Up to $1,300 for a basic tubular skylight or $3,800 for a vented model. Costs may vary depending on the finished work.

  • Using LED light bulbs that last longer and use less energy: $4 a piece for an ENERGY-STAR-qualified bulb.

  • Installing new windows for greater energy savings and comfort: $800 to $2,000 per window. This includes professional labor, as a pro should always install windows to ensure they meet building and safety codes.

  • Buying a generator to protect against power loss: You can buy a reasonably sized portable generator for around $4,000 to run vital systems during an outage. A whole-home generator can exceed $17,000.

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, certain home upgrades are eligible for a residential energy efficiency tax credit through 2032.

5. Meal Prep Assistance

Accessing healthy meals can become another costly challenge as you veer away from cooking, shopping, and using large appliances. Here are your options:

  • Your local senior center likely offers meals through the Older Americans Act. Seniors can access meals for free or at a deep discount while also socializing with others.

  • Meals on Wheels operates in nearly every community in the U.S., offering needs-based prices with low-cost or free meal delivery. Enter your ZIP code on the Meals on Wheels website to find your local chapter. Costs vary by community.

  • A personal chef is also an option for preparing tasty, nutritious meals in your home. This option is expensive and can cost from $75 a meal to $500 a week.

  • A meal delivery service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh considers your food preferences and allergies to design a week’s worth of meals delivered to your door. You can choose from pre-cooked options that you reheat as needed or pre-packaged options you cook quickly. These subscription services start at $60 per week and increase depending on the number of meals you buy.

  • Grocery delivery services are now standard practice at most supermarkets. Simply add items to an online cart using an app or website, place the order, and wait for delivery. A small delivery fee will be added to your grocery bill.

6. Outdoor Maintenance Help

Decreased mobility makes outdoor maintenance tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning gutters, or shoveling snow more difficult as you age. Here are a few costs of yard maintenance tasks to consider when budgeting for retirement. These costs will vary based on your location and yard size.

  • Basic mowing and edging: $25 to $50
  • Weeding: $20 to $40
  • Trimming hedges and plantings: $200 to $600
  • Snow removal: $30 to $75 cost per hour

If you can still do some landscaping yourself, consider replacing your current shrubs with ones that are easier to maintain. This project can reach $700 to address larger areas. Check with your church or local senior center to ask about volunteer or low-cost programs for seniors who need help with snow removal, lawn care and other tasks.

lawncare

Source: Getty

7. Caregiver Stress

When we weigh the burden placed on caregivers, it’s important to consider it a physical, mental, and monetary cost. More than one in five Americans (55 million) are unpaid caregivers—usually family members or close friends—who spend over 30 hours per week caring for their loved ones.

Leading with a servant’s heart can be immensely gratifying and also stressful. Caregivers must monitor how they feel and continually watch for signs of overwhelm, such as weight fluctuations, sadness, and less interest in social activities. Employing strategies like accepting help, incorporating exercise, eating a healthy diet, or joining a support group can help.

Respite care is also a great way to snag short-term relief, though most insurance plans do not cover these costs (usually $75 per day on average).

Getting Help with Aging in Place Costs

Help is available for seniors through state and federal programs to maintain or modify their house without exhausting savings. For low-income earners in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants provide low-interest loans or grants projects such as remodeling a bathroom for wheelchair access, installing walk-in tubs, building wheelchair ramps, or widening doorways and hallways.

Veteran seniors may be able to get help with remodeling costs from programs for veterans, such as SAH, SHA and HISA grants. You may be eligible for an HCBS waiver through Medicaid as well.

Resources like Benefits.gov and BenefitsCheckUp can help you discover possible benefits you might qualify for. You may be eligible for an HCBS waiver through Medicaid as well.

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