Not that long ago people were interested in purchasing a home as an investment to grow their wealth. They would purchase a home that they liked for the investment or potential appreciation in value, live in it for a few years, sell it, and move to an even nicer, more expensive property. Over a lifetime, people would typically do this several times. In fact, the Census Bureau reported that people moved an average of every five years - meaning some people moved more often than this and some less often.
Rather than purely as an investment vehicle, many people are looking for a home that they can live in for the rest of their lives. They really are looking at what they see with a more practical eye than just the financial viewpoint. They are asking themselves if they could be happy living in this home they are considering for the long-term and are acting accordingly.
It may turn out that a home that someone purchases today - new construction or existing - may well serve them at some future date as the home they will remain in as they grow older without thinking about ever replacing it. However, someone can't buy a future condition today. That's the point.
While people can and do shop for a home that they think is designed well for their current conditions and needs - and one that they are projecting may continue to serve them well in the future - they can't be totally aware of how their lives might change over the years. Still, they can find a home that appeals to them that is easy to access and presents few challenges to enter and move about inside the home. Even if mobility becomes a challenge at some future date, they have taken this into account now.
People make home purchases for a variety of reasons, from pleasure, financial or economic considerations, proximity to activities they enjoy or need to attend (such as employment), the way it is designed, and what it includes. Sometimes, as the days pass, it may turn out that this home doesn't make as much sense as it did when they purchased it.
That's where aging in place home modifications are possible and highly recommended, but the basic location, size, style, and appeal of the home needs to be there first before someone decides to undertake the improvements to maintain it as their long-term dwelling. Unless people like a home well enough to want to continue living in it - or they procrastinate doing anything about it until several years have passed and they resign themselves to remaining in that home the way it is - they aren't going to devote the energy of planning and executing an improvement program, whether they do some or all of the work themselves or they have someone like us help them.
While it's wise to look for a home that meets a person's current and anticipated needs, it is a real treat for that home to be able to provide for their longer-term needs and remain the only home they will need without any modifications over time. They may rightly conclude that they will be quite comfortable living in that home for a long time or that this might be their forever home. They can envision that this could be the case, but it has to evolve over time.
People are looking at home purchases differently today than they once did - not as stepping stones to wealth but as something that they can be happy living in long-term and one that can meet their anticipated needs as it is or with some easy-to-complete modifications.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.