Dear Rajiv: My wife and I are both 59 years old and in good health. We are starting to think about where we will live after we retire in a few years. We don’t want to end up in nursing homes like our parents did when they got old and sick. What should be doing now to prevent that from happening to us? Signed, Worried.
Worried, thank you for this question. You aren’t the only one concerned about ending up in a nursing home. According to a 2019 poll from Nationwide Retirement Institute, more than half of adults over age 50 say they would rather die than be forced into skilled nursing care. Yet research from Stanford University shows us that 70% of Americans end up dying in institutional settings.
That’s a big disconnect.
Fortunately, you are asking the right question at the right time. If you start planning now, it is entirely possible to avoid having to move into a nursing home when your health fails.
When it comes to choosing a place to live in retirement, I advise my clients to think about where their last home will be. Think of it as your “forever” home. This is the place you can continue to live no matter what happens with your health. If you become incapacitated, you won’t have to move into a care facility because you will have arranged in advance for the care to come to you.
Your forever home can be anyplace that is age friendly: your current home, a more appropriate home, a mother-in-law unit in your child’s home, or a retirement community. You just need the assurance that you won’t have to move when your health fails.
The issue then becomes one of timing. When should you move into your forever home? The best time to make the move is when you still have about eight to ten years of good health ahead of you. Since no one has a crystal ball, you will have to give it your best guess. Research on this subject points to age 75 as the ideal time to be in your forever home, but it depends on your individual health circumstances. If you’re still climbing Mount Rainier at age 75, you may be able to push it out to 80. If you are not healthy at 65, then you should probably be in your forever home by age 70. In any case, early planning is key.
Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals. For more information, visit AgingOptions.com, LifePointLaw.com or call 877-762-4464.