What do you think of when you imagine living arrangements for older people? Perhaps a nursing home or assisted living facility. Maybe an older person living alone in the family home after the death of a spouse. In the best case scenario, you might picture retirees who fled south to a sunny condo complex.
We all know people in situations like these, whether by choice, happenstance, or necessity. But there are a number of new and different housing options available for older people, options that can help preserve independence and health, save money, and stave off isolation, building a sense of connection and community instead.
Does it sound too good to be true? It doesn’t have to be. Depending on your circumstances and needs, one of these arrangements might make your golden years even brighter.
Shared housing is an arrangement in which people who have unused living space in their homes are matched with others who need housing. Generally, one party in the arrangement, often the one with the extra space, is over 60. Shared housing arrangements can be a win-win: they offer the homeowner companionship, help around the house, and extra income. The tenant may get to live in a nicer space or better location than they could otherwise afford; their rent is often lower than in a place of their own; and they get the benefit of companionship, too. Home sharers can work out an arrangement that is best for their needs. For instance, an older person might offer a tenant lower rent in exchange for providing transportation or other assistance.
While shared housing can be arranged through an ad online or in a newspaper, there are an increasing number of home-share agencies that facilitate these arrangements. The background checks and compatibility reviews these agencies offer offer greater reassurance to seniors. Even so, living with a stranger can have its challenges, and it may take more than one try to find the right tenant. There are only about 50 home-share agencies in the country right now, but the trend is on the upswing. If there is not a home-share agency near you right now, there could be soon.
Shared housing can be a good option for older people who want to remain in their own homes, but are lonely or are having trouble managing household chores by themselves.
In co-housing, the community usually predates the housing arrangement. People of like mind get together, decide to form a community, then acquires a building or purchases land for a housing complex in which community members can reside.
Though it sounds similar to shared housing, co-housing is structured very differently. In co-housing, the community usually predates the housing arrangement. People of like mind get together, decide to form a community, then acquires a building or purchases land for a housing complex in which community members can reside. Unlike shared housing, in which two or three people share a living space, there may be dozens in a co-housing setup.
In co-housing, residents typically have a living space to themselves that is on the small side, but access to common areas for socializing, meals, and activities. Most existing co-housing groups are multigenerational, a boon for those who don’t want to live in a retirement community where all they see are other retirees. But there are some co-housing groups designed specifically for older individuals, and there will probably be more as the concept increases in popularity.
Co-housing could be an excellent option for a person who is in generally good health and wants the security of having a private home along with a ready-made community and opportunities for socializing.
Villages are organizations designed to help people age safely and securely in their own homes. Members pay dues to the village organization, typically around $250-$450 per year. In exchange, they get the benefit of a village coordinator who oversees services to members, such as transportation. In addition to paid staff, an army of volunteers is usually needed to run the village.
The village vets service providers like handymen and home health services for members, helping to reduce the risk of elder financial abuse. The bargaining power of the village also means that service providers may offer discounts to residents. Like co-housing arrangements, villages also often arrange social events and outings for residents, helping to promote a sense of community.
A village arrangement might be a good choice for an older person who already has a home they want to stay in, but is not comfortable sharing it in a shared housing arrangement, and who also wants to partake in some communal activities.
Shared housing, co-housing, and villages sound great; who wouldn’t want to choose one of these options? There are a number of reasons these housing choices aren’t for everyone.
First and foremost, home-share agencies, co-housing setups, and villages, though growing in popularity, simply are not available everywhere. Second, building such an organization from the ground up can take years, along with a core group of people who are dedicated to the concept and have the time and resources to see it through. And third, there may come a point where even an able-bodied senior develops enough health issues that he or she needs more care than the community can provide, making long-term care or extensive in-home care the only viable options.
For those who have access to them and the ability to enjoy them, though, these increasingly-popular housing options can extend independence and make life more enjoyable for longer. If you have questions about housing arrangements for seniors, or planning for your own future, we invite you to contact our law office.