Thus, the question is framed as can you really afford to age in place? I'd like to reverse that and ask can you afford not to age in place? Of course there are unforeseen events that can dramatically alter someone's economic position. Barring any significant demand on someone's bank account, of course people can afford to age in place and should do all in their power to see that this happens.
Nevertheless, you don't need to take just my word for this. Everyone likely is familiar with AARP's statistic that say that roughly 90% of the people surveyed by them want to age in place and continue living in their present homes. AARP also discovered this past summer (as published in their report "The Longevity Economy") that "the median household wealth among older adults is 1000% greater for those who avoid staying in nursing homes than those who stay in nursing homes for more than 180 days."
That is a substantial reason to remain living at home. We're not just talking about a small financial benefit here for continuing to remain at home, but a very significant one. There is the financial cost of moving, disposing of many of their belongings, and giving up housekeeping. One just doesn't simply move their household contents and lifetime accumulation of stuff from one address to another and go on as before. This is a major, radical, life-altering move.
Often, someone's home will have been paid for at this point in life, meaning no monthly mortgage payments. However, this freedom of a monthly payment will change into a major monthly obligation. Staying in some type of managed care facility ranges from the high 4 figures to low 5-figures per month and will go through the proceeds of a home sale and other accumulated assets fairly quickly.
Contrast this with remodeling of someone's existing space. Even a very elaborate remodeling would not approach the annual amount required to live in a manged care facility, and remodeling is a one-time event as opposed to a recurring expense.
There also is the emotional impact of moving from a home that someone has grown accustomed to and loved for a few months to most of their adult life and going into a totally different type of lifestyle. There is a major adjustment required, and there might be some long-term regret.
Studies have shown that while some people thrive in a social atmosphere like a group living situation, most decline more rapidly than those who remain living independently - even with various ailments that they might have. The ailments don't disappear just because someone changes their address.
The whole idea behind aging in place is that people desire to remain in their homes. With today's health care delivery system that can provide quality care inside the home, people don't need to be in a facility near as much as used to be the case. Often, they can receive the attention they need and still remain at home. Also, there is no uniform pattern to the way people age. Some people are going to need much more attention to their needs than others, and others are going to remain physically vibrant and mentally alert throughout their lifetime.