How To Think About Housing As We Age
Our homes do more than provide shelter. They facilitate connections–whether that be with neighbors, friends, or family living nearby.
Being in the right house can improve your stress levels and elevate your life experience. Researchers have been working hard to bridge the gap of knowledge in how those deeper connections affect our lives as a whole.
How Housing Matters, a research institution created by a partnership between the MacArthur Foundation and the Urban Institute, has made some important discoveries in how size, amenities and location of our housing make a difference in our happiness and quality of life:
- Look for stability: You want to be in a neighborhood where few people are moving in and out.
- Pay more to drive less: A common trade off people make is taking a longer drive to access necessities in exchange for a bigger house. But they don’t factor in the cumulative costs of wear on the car, gas, the stress of commuting and less time at home.
- Get the right size: While many studies have been done on the impact of overcrowding on families, newer research is revealing that too much space in a home can be as bad as too little.
- Avoid the “Forever Home” concept: When buyers choose their homes, they look at how great the community is for them right now, but rarely look at whether it has the amenities they might want in their later years. By the time they become seniors, they find their home is no longer ideal.
Beyond these factors, one of the most important things about our homes is proximity to our families. Family, especially spouses and adult children, are a central source of support to older adults. Retirement is the ideal time to focus on giving our time and love to those closest to us. And if we’re geographically close to our family, that benefit can only increase over time.
The time we spend together isn’t a small thing. Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) in Vancouver, says, “I think one of the major issues for adults as they get older is to maintain their social connection. An example of this is the fact that 70 percent of baby boomers see retirement as a time when they want to spend more time with their families. Yet people can often get isolated as friends and family move away or pass on. This can become a significant issue, leading to depression and a downward spiral with one’s health.”
One of the best things we can do as we age is to choose a place to reside that’s close to our adult children and other family members. It’s one of the most important ways to stay happy and healthy!