Aging in Place: Understanding Your Options

Marguerita Cheng |

Most individuals approaching retirement age begin to think about where they plan to live in their older years. And while there are many options to choose from, most seniors want to stay in their own homes or private residences. In fact, the Home and Community Preferences Survey conducted by AARP found that over three-fourths of all adults aged 50 and older prefer to remain in their homes long-term. This is referred to as aging in place.

Seniors who age in place tend to be happier, have a more positive outlook on life, have higher self-esteem and feel more independent. To make aging in place possible, many existing homes must be modified to accommodate an aging adult, including installing wheelchair ramps, downstairs bathrooms in two-story homes, grab bars, lowered cabinets and emergency call systems. Some seniors choose to move to a retirement community where new homes already have these features. Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to find the right home for retirement.

This guide offers more information on aging in place, including how to choose the best area, what to look for in a retirement home, information on senior apartment and retirement communities, financial assistance and how professionals can help you find a home to best suit your needs as you get older.

Where Should You Age in Place?

For many, one of the greatest things about retirement and aging in place is the potential to live anywhere. Before making a housing choice, think about where you want to reside. Would you prefer living close to your family so you can see your loved ones more often, or would you rather pack up and move to a part of the country you’ve always dreamed about, such as the beach or the mountains? If you’ve always lived in the north in a cold climate with snow and freezing temperatures, maybe you’re ready to relocate further south where it’s sunny and warm. 

Large cities offer a constantly changing cultural scene and plenty of ongoing activities, while rural communities provide a slower pace and quieter way of life. Choosing the right location to age in place can significantly affect your overall happiness and ability to thrive.

Once you’ve decided where you want to live, consider your living situation. Owning your home provides privacy and the ability to invite family and friends to stay for extended periods. Homeownership can also foster a greater sense of independence. Services like home care and home health care make it easy for seniors to get the care they need in their homes rather than retiring to a nursing home or assisted living community.

Residential care communities and senior apartment buildings require less upkeep and allow you to live with others of the same age. They also offer a wide range of social activities. It’s important to choose a dwelling you feel most comfortable in.

Things to Consider About the Environment for Aging in Place 

Aside from accommodations and location, the environment is another thing to think about when aging in place. Consider the following:

  • Number of hospitals and health care facilities close by
  • Overall rate of crime within a community
  • Regional climate, including seasonal high and low temperatures
  • Number of social opportunities, including senior organizations, senior centers and volunteer openings
  • Access to grocery stores, shopping centers, movie theaters, fitness clubs, restaurants and local parks
  • Location of major interstates, bus depots and airports

Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Where to Age in Place

Choosing a location to age in place is an important decision. Be realistic about your fitness level, recreational interests and what type of community you want to live in. Make a list of your priorities. Rank each one from the most important to the least, and use this information to evaluate each potential community. Some questions to ask include:

  • Would you prefer to remain in your hometown, or are you willing to relocate?
  • Will family and friends visit and plan on staying?
  • Do you have grandchildren who like to visit? Can the area or place you’re considering accommodate young children?
  • What are your personal interests and hobbies? Are there plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy these activities?
  • Are you planning to downsize to reduce your expenses or upsize to obtain your dream home?
  • Does the potential community fit your budget now and in the future?

Senior Apartments Versus Retirement Communities for Aging in Place

Two of the most common housing options for seniors in residential care are senior apartments and retirement communities. Each has its specific benefits and amenities. Senior apartment homes tend to focus more on the social aspect of living in a building with others of the same age, while retirement communities provide varying levels of care depending on individuals’ needs.


Senior Apartments

Retirement Communities

Housing/Room Types

Age-restricted studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments (private or shared)

Apartments, single-family homes, condominiums

Costs Per Month*

Home Care: $4,957
Home Health Care: $5,148
Adult Day Health: $1,690

Home Care: $4,957
Home Health Care: $5,148
Adult Day Health: $1,690
Assisted Living: $4,500
Nursing Home (semiprivate room): $7,908 

Level of Care Provided

Independent living, home care, home health care, adult day health

Independent living, assisted living, memory care, respite services, skilled nursing care, adult day health

Common Amenities

Walk-in closets, fully-equipped kitchens, spacious living spaces, outdoor walking spaces, 24-hour security, personal emergency response systems

On-site beauty salon/barber shop, art studio, technology center, business center, fitness center, swimming pool, tennis courts, theater, library, spa, walking paths, 24-hour security, personal emergency response systems

Common Lifestyle Services

Maintenance-free, regularly scheduled activities and programs, guest speakers, spa and fitness center

Transportation, weekly housekeeping and laundry, landscaping, emergency call systems, concierge services, health and wellness services, all-day dining

*Based on the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey

Checklist: What to Look For in a Home for Safe Aging in Place

See Checklist Here

Which Professionals Can Help With The Home-Buying Process for Aging in Place?

Working with professionals who are specifically trained to help seniors buy a home can make the process much smoother. Several types of professionals address these different needs. 

Senior Home Safety Inspectors

Senior home safety inspectors evaluate homes for the maneuverability and safety of aging adults. They identify potential hazards and recommend modifications and adaptations to help prevent injuries. The majority of these injuries come from slips, trips and falls. They also check for plumbing leaks, carbon monoxide and fire risks. The recommendations may include:

  • Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Repairing or replacing missing, loose or broken stairs and handrails
  • Adjusting the water temperature on hot water heaters to prevent burns
  • Addressing moisture by repairing or replacing leaky roofs and pipes
  • Removing environmental hazards like mold
  • Upgrading unsanitary plumbing conditions
  • Installing wheelchair ramps
  • Removing shag carpeting, loose electrical cords and other trip hazards
  • Repaving driveways and carports
  • Repairing broken and loose flooring and removing floor seams

Seniors Real Estate Specialists 

Seniors Real Estate Specialists (SRES) are Realtors who’ve received additional training to work with aging adults when purchasing or selling property. These Realtors complete advanced coursework on reverse mortgages, the federal Housing for Older Persons Act and how retirement income and federal benefit packages affect homeownership.

These specialists also offer referrals to additional experts who can provide home evaluations, identify safety hazards and suggest home modifications to make a home safe for aging in place. They may be able to direct seniors to public and private financial assistance programs pertaining to homeownership, including government weatherization programs, energy efficiency programs and home repairs for low-income individuals. To locate a Seniors Real Estate Specialist near you, visit the National Association of Realtors.

Senior Move Managers 

Senior Move Managers help older adults pack, relocate and downsize their homes. During the packing process, these professionals organize and sort belongings, making it easier to unpack at a new location. They offer decluttering strategies, help you consider your storage options and assist in designing and redesigning specific rooms in your new home. These specialists are also on hand to supervise the movers during the loading and unloading process and ensure your belongings get to their new destination safely. You can locate a Senior Move Manager through the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers.


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