In this blog series, we are celebrating hobbies, and new projects that are engaging, fun to do, can connect us with others of like mind, and perhaps help make extra money. Sometimes Baby Boomers and older adults need to shake up the routine a bit to feel healthy and engaged in the world. The goal is to do something different – even rearrange the furniture to get inspired.
Our surroundings play a vital role in how we feel, and reflect both our inner and outer world. While our lives are constantly changing, often our home remains static, and at a certain point no longer serves our everyday needs. Try taking a new look at your home with a “lens of longevity” to explore if your house is truly ready to best support you in the next phases of life.
Does your home look exactly the same as it did twenty years ago? Are the kid’s rooms still filled with teen posters even though your “baby” is now married? Studies show nearly 89% of those over age 60 want to “age in place,” and it is certainly much more affordable to remain at home. Yet, most modern homes were not constructed to support anything other than a fully functioning bi-pedal human. All it takes is an injury on crutches, or even sore knees, to render a good portion of the house inaccessible.
“Nobody likes the term ‘aging in place’ because it makes us feel static and old,” said Francesca Alonso, author of; Nesting for Empty Nesters- the Vacation Style Living Approach to Aging in Place. “But we have to remember we are aging in place the day we are born – and we have to all get over it and do what needs to be done to stay in your home, which is always the main goal.”
Alonso is an expert in reconfiguring and redesigning an existing home to prepare for the third stage of life. She has found the biggest reason these projects don’t get projects started is “Overwhelm Paralysis.” Alonso stressed, “We don’t know where to start, so we do nothing. My advice is to take smaller bites, and the sooner we start these projects the better.”
Here are three steps to transforming your home to prepare for older adulthood living, as well as creating an entirely new source of income with high quality home sharing space:
Step 1: Declutter-
De-cluttering the house is the cheapest way to re-envision and prepare for something new. It is inspiring, and sometimes can bring in extra cash for projects. “People have way too much stuff – everywhere,” said Alonso. "After so many years there is stuff in the cupboards, on the floor, or in the closet that we haven’t touched and don’t need. It brings the whole psyche down.”
Alonso suggests if de-cluttering is overwhelming and emotional, to hire a professional organizer to help make piles of what to keep, donate, and trash. “It makes a huge difference!” she laughs. “Now you have a clean palate to work with, and can make some money on the process. You can write off on taxes, sell in consignment stores, and use that money for the next steps."
Step 2: Focus on Re-designing the Main Floor
The main floor is where we spend most of our time, and Alonso feels it is optimal to be able to live, eat and sleep on one floor if possible. Most homes are built with the main floor featuring the kitchen, living room, family room and dining room; with bedrooms upstairs. For those living with this design, Alonso suggests reconfiguring a bedroom to the main floor.
“It is fundamental to have the bedroom on the main level,” said Alonso. “The #1 cause of injury is falling down stairs. The main floor is where you spend most of our time and has the highest impact on well being.” Alonso stresses rethinking how use the main spaces in your home. “Your house doesn’t have to be used as it was originally intended; but it should serve you now. There is no reason to go upstairs when most people can have functional living all on the main floor.”
As an example, Alonso suggests transforming an unused dining room into a new master bedroom. “As we get older, the dining room is a museum room." she laughed. “No one uses it so start with that space. Simply add door, put in some curtains and add a free standing closet. And very easily a bedroom has been created with very little budget.”
Step Three: Prepare the Upstairs for a Roommate or Tenant:
Once the main floor re-design is complete, for very little investment, Alonso suggests re-designing the upstairs bedrooms into a suite for a roommate or tenant to rent for sizable extra income. “The upstairs master bedroom can be rented, with the other guest room used as their office or sitting room, and the hallway bathroom can easily be converted to a kitchenette. Suddenly, you have a sizable space for a compatible adult roommate to rent for a great price, and if you decide to sell the house, it can stay the same, or be put back to original form.”
Check out Francisca Alonso’s thoughts in the video below, further exploring techniques to turn your empty nest into a fun and profitable hobby.