In 2023, some 16 million adults age 65+ lived alone—three times more than in the 1960s, reports CNN. And according to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans prefer living in big houses, even if they’re far from amenities.*
Combine these two statistics, and they jibe with my own unscientific sample of friends and acquaintances here in Boise. Many are single women in their 60s, 70s or 80s. Only a handful downsized after their kids grew up, so most still own a house that has 1,000+ square feet they don’t use (or that could be freed up if they wanted to organize/sell/give away a lifetime collection of “stuff”). Property taxes are rising and incomes are not, but no one wants to move.
Do you? If this scenario sounds familiar, this might be a good time to begin thinking about it.
Luckily, we have a great resource: Right Place Right Time. Subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life,” this book will get you started with a ton of information about the many choices we have, their pros and cons, and what we need to focus on as we narrow them down.
Author Ryan Frederick asks us to consider these critical questions:
- Are you in the right place now?
- Where is the right place for you?
- What is the right place for you?
Place, it turns out, is critical to our mental and physical health. Since it’s a given that our health will change as we age, can our current place meet our needs? How do we find out? As Frederick points out, “Choosing home – the right home at a given time and stage – requires more careful planning than ever before.”
It begins with self-evaluation: Am I in the right place for now? First, you create a “dashboard” to determine where you stand in the key areas of healthy aging: purpose, social connection, physical and financial well-being, and place. Frederick offers a number of hypothetical scenarios for people of varying ages—you’ll probably see yourself in at least one of them. Over time, you can return to and update your dashboard as situations change, either through big transitions like loss of a spouse or due to the much more numerous nearly imperceptible shifts, such as increased loneliness, decreased healthy eating or less emotional connection to your home.
After considering characteristics of regions, states, metro areas and neighborhood communities, Frederick moves on to offer a comprehensive list of the many choices we have in housing type and the benefits and drawbacks of each, from single-family to apartments to age-restricted and senior housing to emerging options such as cohousing, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), tiny homes and shared housing.
My personal favorite is the latter, championed by Annamarie Pluhar, who has written an excellent how-to manual, Sharing Housing – A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates (www.sharinghousing.com).
During a livestream interview with Frederick, I asked him about this option, which is briefly mentioned in his book, and he expounded.
“It’s a great idea. Homesharing creates more options for people to choose the right thing for themselves. Housing costs are rising in some locales at very high rates, so it’s expensive to buy land and build on it. There’s growing concern coming about the housing supply and if it will match the demand. We must be creative about creating additional supply. More ‘missing middle’ housing (duplex, triplex, ADUs) is good, and homesharing is an example of creating extra supply. Especially in suburbs, where people have extra rooms unused and their homes aren’t great for an AirBnB, homesharing could enhance their financial well-being by renting rooms out, and a local homesharing program could have the process set up for them to get the right roommate. If you’re looking for housing, you should think of this, relative to other options. It’s a version of Golden Girls circa 2023. I’m particularly concerned about loneliness and the lack of social connection in our society, which will make life harder for more people over time. The more we can put ourselves in places where we will bump into other people, the better. And if a homeshare doesn’t work, they can move, so there’s a limited downside.”
Frederick also gave me food for thought as a home-owner: “If your residence is a high percent of your net worth, you have more risk if you can’t sell your house when you need to or for the amount you need. That equity capital can get a higher return in other places, especially over time in the stock market.”
If all of this stimulates your curiosity, you can take the evaluation and get more information at Frederick’s website, https://www.here.life/. It’s never too soon to start thinking about the future!
*57% of Americans prefer to live where “houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away.” 42% prefer a community where “houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.” (Pew survey conducted March 27-April 2, 2023)
Written by: Diane Ronayne
Diane Ronayne and her husband have shared their home since 1986, making dozens of friends and paying off their mortgage early. She volunteers for the HomeShare Hub, a program of NeighborWorks Boise at CLICK HERE.