Today, in this sixth blog in the retirement series, I’m going to focus on the repercussions retirement may have on your home. Specifically, I’m thinking of your desire to stay in that home for as long as possible. I’m assuming that’s a goal of yours. How do we make goals happen? We plan for them, don’t we?

When people retire, they do tend to look around their homes with a critical eye and think about what changes – usually cosmetic – they’ll make now that they have a tax-free lump sum burning a hole in their pockets.

In relation to cashflow planning, I wrote last week about the poky kitchen, the mossy garden and the pot-holed driveway; all prime candidates for an injection of cash – but this week I want you to think about refurbishment at a much deeper level.

If you’re going to the expense of knocking down walls, why not go the whole hog and future-proof your home for your later years? Otherwise, you could be wasting the money on an expensive renovation that will ultimately become obsolete. I mean if you’re doing up the bathroom it would make sense to install grab bars and a walk-in shower while you’re at it, even though you’re in the pink of health right now.

Age-in-place fixes

Grab bars are just one of many age-in-place fixes you can make. Others are a contrasting coloured stove top in the kitchen to overcome impaired vision, a moveable island (which can be pushed out of the way to aid mobility), wider doorways and hallways, on a bigger scale a downstairs bedroom with wet room ensuite. You may not need any of things features now, but you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing the house is ready when you need it and you won’t have the upheaval of a major renovation to face when you are much older and frailer.

Falls the most common accident type

There are two things in particular you should address. Paying attention to these simple things could actually keep you alive for longer.

I’m not being dramatic. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults. In the US, an older person dies from a fall, or complications from a fall, every 19 minutes. What’s more, if you have one fall, you’re more likely to have another.

Those two things are flooring and lighting.

Slip hazard

Do you know how slippery your floors are? There is a slipperiness scale, believe it or not, the one used by the HAS (Health and Safety Authority). It’s called the British Pendulum Tester.

The scale runs from 1 to 100. Ice is 1 on the scale and your typical floor tile is between 12 and 25.

There are specialists who will assess your floors and apply treatments to bring the rating to a safe level. There is a lot you can do yourself, including removing rugs, fixing raised edges or uneven flooring. Experts also recommend removing clutter and keeping electrical cords off the floor. This may require the addition of storage – something to task your interior designer or interior architect with. They are so good at spotting dead space in your home and putting it to practical use.

Let there be light

Poor lighting is another cause of falls and accidents in the home. There is a certain amount you can do yourself but I would again suggest talking to an interior or lighting designer who will know all the up-to-date solutions available.

Light anywhere there are steps or changes in the floor levels such as door saddles. Take the opportunity to move light switches to more convenient places – I’m sure we all have a switch in our homes that is in the stupidest place. Upgrade to LED lighting – it’s brighter and lasts longer (meaning less temptation to hop up on that shaky stool and change the light bulb!).

A virtual butler

Consider a virtual assistant like Alexa (‘she’ comes with Amazon’s Echo Dot) so that you can use your voice to turn lights on or off, or to phone somebody from your smart phone – think of the difference that would make if you’re lying on a heap on the floor having fallen, and can’t get up to reach the phone or panic button.

Throw in a yoga studio overlooking the garden

It’s worth saying here that by keeping active, you have a much better chance of ‘catching yourself’ before you hit the ground and of recovering from a fall, so why not include a small gym or yoga studio – Tai Chi is a great way to improve balance – in your refurbishment plans?

So what am I saying? If you want to stay in your own home for as long as possible, take a long-term view and factor the changes you will eventually need to make to your home into your post-retirement remodelling project.

This is a text-book example of goal-based financial planning. Coming up to retirement, you probably already know you’d like to stay in your home for as long as possible; it’s a goal of yours, yet you might not even have discussed it with your partner or family never mind made financial provision for it.  By making it an explicit goal, we can arrange our assets in good time so as to make sure you achieve it.

Happy to make your acquaintance here.