By Rachel Hemmingson

I will always remember my visit with a healthy, vibrant retiree in Oregon City who lived up on a bluff. She and her late husband designed their home and loved it. 

Built on a slope, there were 200+ steps to navigate between the outside and inside. She had a great social circle, but not one of her friends could get into her house. 

You’ve possibly heard the idiom: “loneliness is the new smoking.” While different sources offer slightly different numbers, it’s well known that the majority of people in later years – like her – wish to spend the rest of their lives in their home, or at least in a home versus a senior community/facility. 80 percent is generally quoted, but it varies at different age points. 

Over the last 15 years, this percentage has declined somewhat among the 65-68-ish group. Close to one third of Baby Boomers indicate a desire to move from their home, but to where, has not been made clear. 

Some senior communities with life planning, non-profit and buy-in models are booked up and expanding. Other models, including independent and assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing units are still only serving about 12 percent of the population. Memory care is on the rise.

For those planning to stay where they are, consider not only your own current and future mobility but also that of your friends. 

You may not be motivated to invest in age-friendly upgrades to your house for yourself but thinking about your friends may inspire you. In the end, it will be good for you as well. 

Some Portland homes are difficult to renovate internally for accessibility, are situated on hills or lack sidewalks. In that case it may be more suitable to search for a more age-friendly house. 

The Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) all Realtors use as a search engine for homes now has an “accessibility” field where agents can search for specific features. 

Many houses can be modified adequately to keep them workable for impending age-related needs and accessible for friends. 

Ramps can be elegant and integrated into the yard design and powered lifts can be placed behind side-entrance stairs, minimizing any visual impact. Scissor-lifts can be placed inside attached garages to help surmount short staircases there. 

Ensuring that there is an accessible bathroom on the main floor is another important consideration. While widening doorways can be complex (and spendy) it may be worth it. Sometimes installing a pocket door will make the difference. 

Sometimes a bathroom may need to include a neighboring hall closet to make changes you want. These may include a walk-in shower or a sink with space under it to accommodate a wheelchair. In some cases, you may need to have a bathroom built on the main floor. 

The features like accessible entry ways and a bathroom on the main level are the basics of universal design for aging-in-place renovations. 

There are many designers and renovation companies in the area who can assess these and other options.

Our friendships, old and new, become more and more vital to our emotional health while access to everything generally becomes more challenging with age. 

Consider doing what you can to be a port in the age-related-changes-storm for your circle of friends, for your benefit and theirs.

Rachel Hemmingson facilitates age-related housing choices and changes for older adults.

971-207-2806  | rachelhemmingson@gmail.com