Home Modifications for Aging in Place-Risk & Return

by Louis on April 8, 2011

In light of recent statistics – a Harris Interactive poll,  stories in the Washington Post and elsewhere reporting how few Americans have significant savings and how many have essentially none at all, (though I am not sure we should be surprised…)

And in light of increasing longevity..meaning what savings you may have needs to last a long time once you start relying on it for your life expenses….

And in light of how social supports are being withdrawn or reduced in congress and in state houses

And in light of lost home and other equity in the current economic downturn…

Are we really surprised that people are not doing home modification planning? Hardly anyone even knows about it. It is much more substantial, difficult, involved, complex and requires so much more input and pro-activity than financial planning – A known idea, available wherever you turn – in your face all the time, with ads, punditry and cold calling from brokers and insurance salespeople- which people don’t do either.

{Even Tin Men don’t cold call like the broker and insurance folks!}

Couple that with the fact that probably only 20% will have significant difficulty {an estimate I am using with some VERY indirect scientific basis. An AAHSA (Now Leading Age) white paper on reforming long term care finance says that about 20% of the population has significant trouble in their older years. And they mostly mean financial trouble but I am taking the liberty of using that number in this sphere.}

So – how far from reality is it for us to expect people, who do not do easier planning they are aware of, to do this planning they are unaware of?

Human nature is NOT about planning.

Besides that Are Home Modifications a good investment?

Is Atlanta going to buy lots of snowplows because they had some snow this winter, a rarity?

Would it be a wise investment if they expected significant snow once every five years—20% of the time?

If 1 in 5 families are going to have problems…are Home Mods a good investment?

From this it is no stretch to conclude we have a tough row to hoe expecting people to do this sort of planning for their retirement.

We need to create some pushes, nudges, subsidies, to get people over the hump, to get people to plan. Nudge is a great book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein on behavioral economics to improve decisions about health, wealth and happiness. We need to enlist guys like to figure out how to get folks to pull the trigger, to invest in decisions in their own, stated, self interest.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Karla Gustafson May 31, 2011 at 7:23 pm

invest in decisions in their own, stated, self interest.

This is the only way to get a true buy in from anyone on anything. We are motivated by our own interests. Although it is interesting to note that Stanford University has been studying how to communicate across cultures for healthcare information. They have recognized through studies that the Latino population in California receive information better through novellas. They have developed novellas for this population. In another study they found that an asian group in Long Beach were continually crossing the road without the aid of a traffic light and were being injured. Signs were posted warning of the danger but they did little good until signs were posted with messages of how getting hurt affected their loved ones. This was the message that made the difference. Aging in Place faces the same perplexities how can the message be translated to the various stakeholders? Each stakeholder including end users have a different “own, stated, self interest” that drives their decisions.


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