Photos: Courtesy of Manchester Living

When is it the right time to think about aging in place?

I recently visited my last living uncle in St. Petersburg, Florida. My uncle is 99 and in amazing health. 

His wife, age 96, is not in such good health and is confined to a hospital bed at home. They are living with my cousin, who is taking loving care of them. Watching them interact was both heart-grabbing and wrenching. They have been married for more than 70 years. They live life as a unit, finishing each other’s sentences, recalling words for each other, and yes, fussing at each other.

And watching my cousin go full-circle and take care of his mother was beautiful.

Would my son do the same? Could he? My cousin and his wife feed her, patiently dole out medications, get up with her during the night, clean up after her, and even sponge bathe her all the while keeping an eye on my uncle as he “putters.” Caretakers do come to the house to relieve them, occasionally, under Florida’s Medicaid program. As you can see, everyone wants to retire in Florida.

But most children are not able to care for their parents the way my cousin is. For one thing, he is retired and already lived in Florida. Like his dad, he is healthy, vibrant, and active, and his wife is an active participant. But caring for ailing parents or relatives is a 24/7 job that can take its toll on the caregivers physically and financially.

Planning For Retirement

Recently, PropertyShark, the folks who are usually telling us what Millennials are doing, conducted a survey with Americans aged 45 and older on housing, retirement, and finances. Key take-aways have profound implications for real estate:

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Recently I wrote about how construction since the Recession has not kept pace with population increases and household formations leaving the nation with millions fewer homes than it needs, which has driven up prices. Because construction isn’t keeping up the supply end of things, people are staying in their homes longer – especially older people.

You see, the real estate market is a “circle of life” industry whereby the young start out small and move their way up until the kids are gone and they’re older, at which point they downsize to lower-maintenance properties. This makes room for the next generation to move up to the next level.

According to FreddieMac, 1.6 million senior-owned homes are not shuffling along the real estate conveyor belt to make way for a new generation. That’s essentially a typical year’s worth of new construction and over half the estimated 2.5 million home deficit the country struggles with due to over a decade of underbuilding.

The hot term is “aging in place” and I see the appeal of living independently – just maybe not in an oversized house I can’t take care of. Of course part of the reason those 1.6 million senior homeowners aren’t moving is because there’s nowhere to move. It’s not like the construction industry was building retirement facilities instead of homes for the past decade.  There’s not a ton of empty Shady Pines and Gossamer Meadows out there gathering dust.

And that’s not all.

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As more and more Baby Boomers are struggling to downsize from larger, family-oriented properties, the appeal of “aging in place” has grown. In AARP’s “Survey of Home and Community Preferences,” 76 percent of Americans aged 50 and older said that they wanted to remain in their current home as long as possible. So, if you’re already planning to make a move, choosing a home that will work into your retirement is key. 

A home that works well for Baby Boomers looking to “age in place” will have plenty of security, a first-floor master suite, an elevator to access the upper floors, a low-maintenance landscape, and plenty of room for visiting family and friends. Of course, many Baby Boomers don’t want to waste precious time redecorating or remodeling, so finding a home that is move-in ready is absolutely key.

Today’s High Caliber Home of the Week presented by Lisa Peters of Caliber Home Loans is all of those things and stylish, to boot! It’s a gorgeous brick traditional listed by Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate’s Stewart Lee and it’s perfect for all of those beautiful Easter brunches with your loved ones! We’re also in love with the neighborhood — Glen Lakes

“Glen Lakes is a fantastic gated community conveniently located and close to major shopping,” Lee said. “It has friendly neighbors and wonderful recreational facilities including a spectacular 2.5-mile trail for walking in a park setting with private lakes and fountains. It also includes a pool, heated spa, and two tennis courts.”

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Left: This outdated shower/tub unit was rarely used and presented a fall hazard. Right: Bruce Graf updated the bathroom with trendy tile and frameless glass, which is now wheelchair accessible. (Photo: Graf Developments)

Left: This outdated shower/tub unit was rarely used and presented a fall hazard. Right: Bruce Graf updated the bathroom with trendy tile and frameless glass, which is now wheelchair accessible. (Photo: Graf Developments)

“For most folks, their home is the biggest investment they own,” said Bruce Graf, a home remodeler with more than 30 years of experience in working with multiple generations of families.

Graf has helped families remodel a house to accommodate growth, and then returned years later to adapt their home to special health needs so they can continue aging-in-place within that same residence filled with lots of memories.

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empty nesters

Aging in place is a big trend in real estate and housing.

Oh man, I’ve got to start this post with a quote:

“The back to the city” meme appeals to urban boosters and reporters but in reality the numbers behind it are quite small. A 2011 survey by the real estate advisory firm RCLCO found that among affluent empty nesters, 65% planned to stay in their current home, 14% expected to look for a resort-type residence, and only 3 percent would opt for a condominium in the core city. Most of those surveyed preferred living spaces of 2,000 square feet or more. RCLCO concluded that the empty nester “back to the city” condominium demand was 250,000 households nationwide, a lucrative but small market out of the 4.5 million empty nester households in the metropolitan areas studied.

250,000 nation-wide? I found this story by my pal Joel Kotkin to be very interesting and worth a mention or five. First of all, where ARE the most Baby Boomers living now? They currently make up 15 percent of the nation’s population, that figure expected to expand to 21 percent.

Answer: Tampa-St. Pete, Pittsburgh, Tucson, Miami, Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, Providence, Hartford, St. Louis and interestingly, Birmingham, Alabama, probably because of its manufacturing history. Two sand states and the rust belt.

The cities with the smallest percentage of Baby Boomers are Austin, Salt Lake City, Houston, DALLAS, and Raleigh, NC.

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jeffrey green

In our ongoing series, Interview with an Architect, we speak with leading voices in the North Texas architecture community and learn about their work, development issues in our community, and good design practices and principals (you can read the last one here).

Jeffrey L. Green sees artistry in a home renovation, finding “the potential in what is existing and breathing new life into a home that many might not consider salvageable.”

Jeffrey Green, AIA

Jeffrey Green, AIA

This is something he practices as Vice President of Architectural Interior Design and Construction Administrator at Dallas-based PBH Construction.

PBH Construction is his family’s business, and Green helped with many projects before joining in 2009. His design and build experience includes new constructions, rebuilds, and renovations of single-family and multi-family residential homes, as well as commercial, retail, and institutional spaces.

In addition to older homes, Green is passionate about older people—namely, helping them build or re-create their homes so they can age in place. This is a big topic in the architecture community now largely because of the 76.4 million Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom will turn 70 this year.

Green is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), which makes him part of the growing dialogue on how to manage aging issues like a home’s livability for older Americans. He says this is just good design practice for all people.

“Ultimately, you want a home that is welcoming and accessible to all residents and guests,” Green said.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from Baylor University, and his Master of Architecture degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. While attending Baylor, Green completed a cooperative program, studying one year at Washington University’s Architectural Studio in St. Louis, Mo.

Green began his career with The Preston Partnership, LLC in Atlanta. He was responsible for site planning and due diligence, schematic design and graphic visualization, 2D- and 3D-rendering development, and more.

Green’s talent for design has earned him several recognitions, including a Rosser International Fellowship Award, a winner of the 2000-2001 Otis/ACSA International Student Design Competition in Istanbul, Turkey, and a Presidential Scholarship Award.

He answered eight questions from us about his work, trends in the architectural community, modern design, and Dallas. We learned a lot!

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home elevators

Installing elevators in custom homes is becoming more popular — and more affordable, too. Photo: Elevating Systems

Joe Williams is an evangelist for the “totally accessible home.”

As CEO and founder of Dallas’ Elevating Systems, Williams has spent 25 years helping clients easily get to every space in their homes and plan for the future with residential home elevators.

home elevators

Joe Williams

“I have seen a huge increase in demand, due mostly to the needs of an aging population,” he said. “In areas where ‘building up’ is prevalent, having a totally accessible home has become a necessity.”

“Building up” is happening all over the DFW area, from Park Cities townhomes, to Frisco estates. Many of those people build their dream homes with the goal of living there for years, if not decades. With age can come mobility issues, and stairs can be not only difficult, but dangerous.

Adding a home elevator adds a luxurious, stylish feature that can increase a home’s value and assure total home accessibility for years to come.

Williams didn’t start off in the elevator business—he went to a trade school, then became the sales representative for a large durable medical equipment firm in Dallas. In addition to the usual items such as walkers, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters, they specialized in accessibility products, such as stairway chair lifts.

“With the advent of ADA legislation, we expanded into wheelchair lifts for schools, churches, and businesses,” Williams said. “It was a natural progression to offering home elevators to fill our clients’ needs.”

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Curbless shower master bath Graf Developments

Bruce Graf says that aging-in-place can be stylish with key updates in often-used rooms, such as master suites.

A survey recently released by the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business polled 1,000 people ages 50 to 80 years old. Only about 1 in 5 respondents to the survey had any plan to remodel their homes or incorporate technology to help them as they age, and yet, the vast majority (96 percent) of respondents said they want to remain independent while they grow older, and 91 percent said they wanted to stay in their own home, commonly referred to as ‘aging-in-place.’

Bruce Graf, a nationwide renovation consultant with over 32 years of experience and a Baby Boomer himself, scoffs at these survey results.

“It’s funny, people will spend $50,000 for a car. This is something with a relatively short life and depreciates the very second it’s driven off the car lot,” Graf said. “However, they think twice about spending that amount on their home, a place they could spend the next 30 years in easily, and it appreciates greatly.”

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