Reverse Mortgage to the Rescue

aging in place

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

-Francis Bacon

Aging in Place

Jean was 91 at the time of this post. I know she would not have minded my telling you her age—she was proud of it. She was a walking endorsement of “Successful Aging.” And just what is SUCCESSFUL AGING? The most accessible definition comes from the book by John Rowe, MD and Robert Kahn, PhD based on the Longitudinal MacArthur Foundation Study.

The components of successful aging include:

Good health, low risk of disease and disability.

High mental and physical functioning.

Active engagement with life, an active life.

Jean had all 3 in abundance. She did light workouts at the gym daily, along with regular checkups. She was the front-desk-go-to-person at my prior gym, and not only did she drive across town to get to work, but she also kept the books, signed up new members, answered the phone, trouble shoots/problem solved an aging infrastructure, and interacted with a vast generational continuum.

I’ve had even seen Jean baby sit for active mothers in yoga class, watch pets for iron-pumping baby boomers, and consult moody teens—all in the course of my work out. She also had her nose in a book or paper when not busy with her duties.

Without knowing, or pursuing it directly, she had mastered aging successfully by her lifestyle; it was complex, engaging, purposeful, and active. I know, I’ve made an informal study of her over the years. So, when she spoke, I listen…

Aging in Place Remodeling

One day she mentioned to me in passing that she was having her bathroom remodeled. I asked if she was adding any Universal Design features (we’ve talked before about aging-in-place design) and of course she did. “I added a grab bar and a tiled-floor non-barrier shower. The bathroom remodel is so beautiful I want to have a party to show it off!”

I inquired if she had done any other remodeling to her home—turns out she has done extensive work and plans on staying put! Just how much surprised me; not only did she invest in a new lovely bathroom remodel, but also added a new roof, new front door, a full kitchen remodel and painting, as well as having her 47-year-old home’s foundation lifted after many years of settling. “I fixed it so the doors would close correctly.” She also had the decaying and unsafe deck rebuilt and covered—adding a new living space that had been neglected for years.

Reverse Mortgage to the Rescue

Jean had been putting off much needed home improvements due to the prohibitive costs involved—but then she reported: “I got a reverse mortgage, and it made it all possible.”

A well-known financial institution in the area supplied the reverse mortgage, walked her through all the steps and made it happen for her. She was also lucky to find a wonderful contractor who orchestrated all the sub-contracting jobs and overseeing the project. Jean could not have been happier. She loved her “new home,” feeling safer in it, and it added to the quality and length of her life.

Effect of Aging in Place with a Reverse Mortgage on the Economy

As I listened to Jean proudly report the progress of her aging-in-place remodeling it occurred to me how much economic stimulus was being generated by her acquiring a reverse mortgage. Jean was a stimulus package unto herself! Thinking in terms of systems, imagine all the economic transactions involved in the following list:

  1. New Front Door
  2. New Roof
  3. Newly remolded Kitchen and floor
  4. Newly remodeled bathroom
  5. Painting
  6. Redoing the foundation
  7. New deck

All the economic activity generated by just one reverse mortgage—work that would not have been done otherwise. Not to mention the added security, safety, and pure joy of living in a remolded home…what a win-win!

Helping the Economy one Home at a Time

In the United States (not to mention the rest of the world) we have an aging building stock that requires remodeling to accommodate the demographic transition.

The median age of owner-occupied homes is 40 years old, according to the latest data from the 2022 American Community Survey. The U.S. owner-occupied housing stock is aging rapidly especially after the Great Recession, as the residential construction continues to fall behind in the number of new homes built. –

Many of these homes are owned by rapidly aging occupants. Even if limited percentages are reverse mortgage candidates imagine the potential boost to the economy!

Couched purely in economic terms, putting many workers on the job, purchasing needed products, keeping people in the community verses early institutionalization (huge cost savings) and employing companies that provide reverse mortgages, all make sense. Add the value in safety, preserving aging housing stocks/neighborhoods, social equity of an employed public, and quality of life enhancement for older adults—it’s a “slam-dunk.”

The Bathroom Remodel Party

Jean had her party in the new bathroom; I was invited and looked forward to seeing the product. May her ranks grow one-by-one, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, city-by-city, coast-to-coast. It’s been said: If you want a BIG opportunity…find a BIG problem—aging in place is both, and something to consider carefully.


Jean did pass away years after her remodel–and it added much joy for the time she experienced it. We miss her…

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