SOUTH COUNTY – With more than 7,000 Americans turning 65 a day for the next 19 years, there’s a huge market out there for anything that can help them stay in their homes.
Realtors see it already, said Roberta Rowe recently. “There’s a group of us who meet regularly to discuss new trends,” she told me.
Builders, companies that retrofit existing housing, the AARP, and agencies that work with the aging population are all seeking plans, devices, and adjustments to existing housing and home services that will keep people from having to go into assisted living facilities and nursing homes if they don’t want to.
“People want to age in place,” said Patty Suarez, vice president of marketing and communications at the West Central Florida Area on Aging, Inc. “The baby boomers don’t even see retirement in the same way as their parents did.”
To “age in place” to the agency means being able to stay in the home they’ve lived in when they get old.
Already, 211,864 residents of Hillsborough County are more than 60 years of age. That’s 17.6 percent. 21,000 of those are below the poverty level; 20,000 are medically underserved; and 12,000 are raising grandchildren.
The current figures will grow so quickly with the Baby Boomers (the 7,000 turning 65 every day mentioned previously) that think-tanks are working madly to try and figure out how community life will change.
According to statistics kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 76 million Boomers (which make up 43 percent of the current U.S. work force) will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years but an AARP poll conducted by Woelfel Research Inc. in 2010 says many of them say they don’t plan to retire.
“That’s because they either can’t afford to retire or they look at meaningful work as a part of a good, healthy life,” Suarez said. “Many even plan to start new careers or maybe their own small business after retiring from a full time job.”
But whether they work or not, how and where they will live will be a major concern and should be planned for early; not when the time comes that changes must be made.
“A person may seek a referral from their health provider for a referral for an occupational therapist to evaluate needed changes and maybe even recommend home and environment modifications,” said Leslie Dent, Information and Referral Supervisor for the Area on Aging’s Elder Helpline. These recommendations may vary from minimal changes in lighting, layout, and rugs, to hooks or grab wands to help with dressing, or improvements such as adaptive equipment, mobility aids, and ramps.”
Dent suggests consulting with programs that provide financial assistance for home repair, modifications, and ramps.
These can be located through the Elder Helpline (800) 963-5337 which also has lists of volunteer agencies that can assist with modifications like grab bars and ramps, she said.
Local Centers for Independent Living and the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology, found at www.faast.org, can provide resources about mobility aids for homes and automobiles, as well as visual, communication, and personal care devices.
Their information and referral staff can assist with referrals to assistive technology providers, or you can search their database online.
These two agencies may also have loan closets for equipment qualifying people may try out before making major purchases or for temporary use.
If a contractor is needed to modify the home or for construction, the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency provides a helpful guide with checklists and resources for hiring a contractor. The agency also provides a list of resources for consumers to contact to check on the license of a business and how to file a complaint, if necessary. This list may be found on line at: www.hillsboroughcounty.org/consumerprotection/homeimprovementandnhouseholdmoving/homeimporvementsandrepairs.cfm#WheretoComplain.
“Jank” Sulker and Jeff Stavish (president and vice president respectively) of Lifestyle Remodeling specialize in walk-in bathtubs.
“So many people stop taking baths and use only showers because it is hard for them to step up over the side of the tub,” Stavish said as he demonstrated the ease of walk-in tubs at a recent Trade Show. “There’s no reason people should have to give up pleasures like taking a bath simply because they get older.”
For this reason, Lifestyle Remodeling studied the technology that would enable it to earn the CAPS seal; CAPS meaning Certified Aging in Place Specialists, a designation awarded by the National Association of Home Builders.
Bill Bullock, vice president of the West Central Florida Division of Minto Group Inc., current developer and builder of Sun City Center, said his company looks toward “aging in place” by concentrating on things that will leave more money in resident’s pockets.”
Minto builds Energy Star Certified Homes, Bullock said.
“You can’t force people to buy non-slip tiles or enlarged doorways, especially if they don’t think they need them yet,” Bullock said. “So we concentrate on energy savings that will reduce their monthly bills.”
Minto officials looked at the type of features older people wanted and were willing to pay for and tried to add them to most of their models, he said.
Channa Calzone, a marketing agent for Minto’s home office, said using energy efficient appliances can save residents between 30 to 70 percent; as much as $14,000 in a 10-year period.
“Keeping money in your pocket helps you stay in your home,” she said.
With so many things to contemplate, it looks like people should begin their thoughts about “aging in place” long before they think of themselves as “aging.”