Facilitators of Aging in Place
12 September 2017
"Aging in place” is a term broadly used to describe a person living in their preferred residence as they age. For most Australians this means staying in the family home for as long as they are able. Three quarters of Australian retirees want to see out their retirement in their current residence. Reasons why this desire is strong include an emotional attachment to the place where they raised their family, social connections to community and services and comfort and familiarity with their area. From a financial perspective, many see the value of their home as a form of precautionary savings.
There are several ways retirees can access equity in the place of residence. Most commonly downsizing is touted as an option. However this option
- Ignores the attachment households have with their dwellings
- Puts at risk established social connections
- Potentially increases levels of discomfort and lack of familiarity.
Further, it ignores the fact that
- Options to downsize are limited, and
- Moving to a smaller residence does not necessarily mean moving to a less expensive one. This is particularly true if the dwellings are “age in place” friendly including for example, mobility and accessibility aids such as larger doorways, bathroom aids, lighter doors, safety railings.
These are just some of the reasons why downsizing is not suitable for everyone. Other options are available such as reverse mortgages (where you borrow against the value of your home) and home equity reversion arrangements (where you ‘sell’ part of your home in a financial contract). These products can assist retirees to access the wealth stored in their home. In Australia, as in several other countries (eg Canada, the UK, and arguably the USA), there are currently very few providers and the range of products is limited. Further, the products themselves are not well understood by retirees or advisers. There is a real need to educate key stakeholders including retirees and advisers if retirees are going to optimise their wellbeing in their latter years.
Stuart Thomas and Ashton DeSilva
Placemaking Economics Group
Heartland has partnered with the RMIT University's School of Economics, Finance and Marketing to develop a series of articles on aging in place. We are pleased to be able to provide their knowledge and research through our Reverse Mortgage News.