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What to Do with the Empty Nest

Your children have all grown up and moved out. You are beginning to wonder why you need the suburban four-to-five bedroom home with the large lot. You have two options: Option One is to “re-feather” that empty nest, renovating to make it possible for you to “age in place.” Option Two is to “downsize” by selling your home and moving to a smaller condominium or townhouse in a closer-in, walkable community.

Option One: Aging in Place

An excellent source of aging-in-place guidance is the D.C.-based National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC). This organization has published Act III: Your Plan for Aging in Place, a unique online tool designed to enable retirees and seniors to assess their needs for successful and fulfilling aging. Users answer a set of questions about critical areas of life. The accumulated information remains private and is then used to help him or her evaluate needs for the kind of aging lifestyle desired.

Once the decision to “age in place” has been made, seniors can obtain financial assistance with renovations to help them stay in their home. The State of Maryland offers the Accessible Homes for Seniors (AHS) program, which provides seniors with financial assistance for aging-in-place renovations, offers low- and no-interest loan options for home renovations, and has expanded to include grant money for those who do not qualify for loans.

Option Two: Downsizing

Downsizing usually begins with casual conversations between spouses. Typically, one wants to stay in the family home and one wants to go. Neither has the desire to get the house ready for sale after so many years of living there. The couple goes through various stages from resistance, to realization of the facts and embracing change. Urban locations near a Metro stop and using services such as UBER or LYFT help the decision along. Consultation with a financial advisor is an important step not to be overlooked. Eventually, the couple finds a property which fits all their new life needs and moves in, “rightsizing” to their current stage of life.

Whichever route you choose concerning your empty nest—aging in place or downsizing—the sooner you get started the better because both processes can be time-consuming. While most of us want to do this on our own terms, there is a natural tendency to put off making these kinds of late-in-life decisions until it’s absolutely necessary. But that approach can be risky because it might lead to other people making crucial decisions for you.

About the Author

Rory S. Coakley is founder and president of Rory S. Coakley Realty, Inc., a Rockville-based full-service residential and commercial real estate company providing property management, asset management, sales and leasing, tax appeals, appraisals, litigation support and more to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area since 1989.