Posted March 26, 2011, By CAROL YIP, The Star Online, biz.thestar.com.my
MOTHER Earth can take a lot of abuse, but as we continually strive for a more advanced lifestyle, it’s as if we just go for the “style” and not the substance. And our environment is now beginning to show the effects of these misplaced priorities. If you and I want to help save the environment, there are plenty of methods to do so. One of the best ways to help preserve the environment is to transform our homes by making them more eco-friendly.
As much as I would like to invest in a next property that is eco-friendly, I am even more hopeful to buy one that is age-friendly. At some point I will need a place that will accommodate my old age needs. I don’t want to be the slave to my house.
And I want to have more time to enjoy my life doing things that I like. I’ll need some conveniences. Do I wish to overspend paying utility bills and up-keeping the house? No! I’ll need my savings for living expenses (cost of inflation) and my personal old age care.
Call me old-fashioned or stubborn; but I will still want to continue to live in familiar surroundings and near the people I love. Unless there is a retirement place with facilities that I can afford to pay, like many of my friends, my current house will be my dwelling place until I pass on to the next world.
Simply put, my dwelling place must fit my ageing needs. An old folk’s home will be my last resort: only if I run out of retirement savings or no family members want to look after me. I believe these inner thoughts of mine are being shared by many others. We want to live independently and not financially burden our children. With an age-friendly home, equipped to meet our old age needs, we can do it.
Green home can be age-friendly
An eco-friendly home can be an age-friendly home: with healthy by-products. Installing improved ventilation systems improves indoor air quality without air-conditioning (as we age, our body can’t take the cold too well). Sun-roof or sky-light panels allows natural light to enter our homes which encourages better visibility in the day without having to switch on the lights (as we age, our eyesight gets weaker even in daylight). Solar panels will replace the old water heater for my warm shower (older people prefer a warm shower to prevent joint pains and arthritis problems). These features in the house will lead to lower electricity bills.
I can save money by paying less water bills when I recycle rain water for my washing and gardening. I can plant organic vegetables, herbs and fruits for personal consumption which helps to save money and lead to better health. Gardening is also good for physical exercise.
With a house filled with energy-efficient appliances, I will enjoy great savings from my utilities expenses. It is surprising how several small changes can add up to stretching my retirement savings further.
I will need to invest some money to convert my current house to a green home because, like most Malaysian homes, it was not built with green specifications. Alternatively, I can purchase a new home with green features but it has to be price-affordable because I need to conserve my retirement funds for old age.
My Age-Friendly Green Home Scheme
Most houses appear to be built for people who will never grow old. But as I age, I need to think of all situations: most importantly, will I be able to navigate my home without help? Does my condominium building cater for my old age needs?
Can I easily access the wall switches or switches for my electrical appliances? Do I need to convert a ground floor room if I can’t climb the stairs to my present bedroom?
My house will need modifications if I am in a wheel chair or walker: I need to consider grab bars and non-slip tiles in the bathroom to prevent falls. I need extra space in bathroom and toilet.
I should install ramps around the house and consider lower work and storage areas to prepare meals and allow easier access to food, dishes, and cooking tools. All these additions of age-friendly features to an existing home will no doubt cost me.
If our friendly property developers have a sense of social responsibility and foresight for age-friendly features in their new eco-friendly housing project and make it affordable, many of us will welcome the idea. This growing demand for age-friendly homes will only increase as our society ages.
And if the government adopts the “My First Home Scheme” model to deliver a “My Age-Friendly Green Home Scheme” for senior citizens, then green and age-friendly conversions could be subsidized or tax-incentivised to further enhance our seniors’ quality of life.
Meanwhile if you are keen to know more about age-friendly housing, there is a 50+Expo “My Life, My Home” organised by C3A at Suntec Singapore on April 2-3 showcasing housing, services, and product options that seniors can leverage on to age happily and comfortably in their homes.
See you there.
Carol Yip is the founder and CEO of Abacus For Money (www.AbacusForMoney.com)