Consider the following timeline as an example...
Whether it was university living or some branch of the military, you likely enjoyed a bunk and small closet situated near several people who would soon be your closest friends. While the quarters weren’t exactly stellar, they were miles away from parental lectures, pesky siblings, and midnight curfews.
This modest, yet chic, abode was well equipped with hand-me-downs from the grandparents and mix-and-match furniture from local garage sales and thrift stores. With handmade artwork and photos of family and friends, your humble space was yours to call home. Chances are you had your fair share of drop in guests, couch surfers, and a few who, according to your parents, probably should have paid you rent.
While it wasn’t exactly the Taj Mahal, it was your first taste of the American Dream and it was yours -- including the maintenance, yard work, pipe breaks, roof replacements, and new carpet. The local hardware store knew your name and sweat equity took on a whole new meaning. Remodeling meant new paint color and rearranging the furniture.
With kids in mind or already on the way, this purchase came with requirements: Good schools, at least a couple of spare bedrooms and an extra bath, a garage, a yard, and - if at all possible - close enough to the grandparents for built-in babysitting. Modest yet comfortable was the goal.
To accommodate growing kids and more stuff, it was time for an upgrade. With a thriving economy and a promising career path, a bigger house with a few luxuries just seemed like the next natural step. This time you added a pool, extra garage space, bigger yard, a second (or third) living space, room for entertaining, and bedrooms on an entirely different floor to reclaim a little privacy and much needed breathing room. Oh, and don’t forget an extra bathroom or two.
Sometimes it’s just easier to expand than move. The kids enjoy their schools and the neighbors have become family, so remodel it is. You add a room over the garage and bump out the back wall for a walk-in closet and master bath. Next, it's time to install a storage building out back with a small workshop for the home based business. The extra square footage helps accommodate the frequent influx of teenage bodies and accumulation of multi-holiday decor and unwanted annual dirty-santa gifts.
The last child has graduated and the nest is now awkwardly quiet. Cherished neighbors have moved on and new ones with small noisy children have moved in next door. Now with only a few family gatherings during the holidays and the occasional “can we rent a room” call from distant relatives, it just makes sense to downsize. No need for all that storage space, big yard, or extra game rooms, you just want simple and quiet -- let someone else cut the grass, whack the weeds, and trim the shrubs for a change.
Enjoying the grandkids scattered across the country and exploring distant places marks this phase of life. You make time for hobbies, a nice bottle of wine, and gorgeous sunsets. Life is good. Looking ahead, you are taking care of yourself to ensure lifelong health and wellbeing, but you also have concerns. What about caring for mom and dad as they age? How can we also continue to live in our home in our later years? Time for a one level with two master suites! We can still enjoy retirement, our home, and manage to move our parents close by if necessary.
Thankfully, you have lived a long and healthy life, but now things just aren’t as easy as they used to be. Family responsibilities are a thing of the past and you travel less and less each year. Cooking isn’t an option and eating out is no longer fun. The house needs some work and it’s time for new paint and carpet, so what’s next?
Simple just became simpler. In an independent active adult community, you get to come and go as you please, eat chef-prepared meals in a formal dining room (or order them in), take trips with people who share your interests, exercise and try new hobbies, and leave the maintenance and housekeeping to someone else altogether.
With some exceptions, most people can relate to these changes in lifestyle as they progress through the seasons of life. For the vast majority, each and every move, relocation, transition, and adaptation was necessary and acceptable -- until the last one.
Is it because we view homeownership as a rule for adulthood?
Are we somehow ‘giving in to aging?’
Does senior living somehow imply that we are no longer independent or capable?
Where’s the rub?
Sadly, many people hold on to their home for dear life. Literally. As if to say, our accommodations somehow define us.
Do they? Or is this new kind of lifestyle merely another adaptation designed to accommodate our next stage in life?
A question each of us must answer sooner or later.
|Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment.