But these days, she said, ''We see that people are carrying mortgage debt at older ages, and it's both the percentage of families carrying the debt and the amount of debt that has increased.''
About 42 percent of households headed by someone age 65 to 74 has home-secured debt, according to the Federal Reserve's 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, its most recent study. This compares with just 18.5 percent in 1992 and 32 percent in 2004.
These figures are likely to continue rising as the baby boom population ages -- an estimated 10,000 a day turn 65 -- and remains active in the housing market.
Beth Holland and Chuck Queener, who are both semiretired and in their early 70s, chose to finance the recent purchase of a 2,200-square-foot condominium in a 55-plus community in Newtown, Conn., with a 30-year mortgage fixed at 4.25 percent.
''We could have paid cash for the place,'' said Mr. Queener, a graphic designer, ''but our financial adviser suggested that we get a mortgage so we can get a tax deduction, and our money keeps working for us.''
Their investments, which include Individual Retirement Accounts, along with monthly income from Social Security and annuities -- together with their good credit -- helped the couple qualify for a mortgage. However, both Ms. Holland, a yoga instructor, and Mr. Queener found the whole process more arduous than earlier applications they made for mortgages.
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Lenders ''look at every penny you got coming in,'' Mr. Queener said. ''It was a strenuous process. Every time we turned around, there was more paperwork to fill out.''
Those who have been out of the mortgage-application process for a while and are now looking to buy a vacation or retirement home might be surprised by all the extra hoops they have to jump through.
The 2008 financial crisis brought about more stringent lending regulations, which have made qualifying for a mortgage more difficult for just about everyone, but especially so for the self-employed with fluctuating earnings and retirees on fixed incomes. Lenders must now adhere to guidelines that include lower debt-to-income ratios.
Older borrowers ''shouldn't be making assumptions based on what happened in the past,'' said Brian Koss, the executive vice president of the Mortgage Network, a lender based in Danvers, Mass. '''Oh, I can get a mortgage anytime -- I have all this money in the bank and great credit.'''
''After the financial crisis,'' he added, ''the regulators rightfully built in ability-to-repay regulations using a spelled-out rule book of how to qualify to ensure monthly payments are made.''
But retirees were also given some latitude. Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprises that buy mortgages from lenders, have since instituted policy changes that allow eligible retirement assets to be used to qualify under certain conditions.