Housing Options for Seniors

Life Transitions Planning

About three million American adults aged 65 and older have moved in the last year, or roughly 6% of that age group. While each individual has their own reasons for moving, it’s not hard to imagine some of the more common reasons. Some seniors move because they no longer need all the room in the home that formerly housed their family. Some move because their existing home is too expensive or difficult to maintain. Some move because their health or mobility issues make their current home unsafe or impractical. Some move to be closer to family, or find a sense of community.

Whatever the reasons, housing options for seniors have expanded well beyond the retirement home or an adult child’s spare bedroom. Depending on your (or your loved one’s) needs and resources, there are an array of choices. Here are some of the best housing options for seniors.

Aging in Place

Let’s face it: many seniors would prefer not to move from the home where they have lived for years, but safety or mobility issues may make it impossible to stay in the home as currently configured. “Aging in place” means that a senior may be able to remain in their current home—with some modifications and help.  Home modifications may be necessary, such as grab bars in bathrooms, moving a bedroom to the first floor, widening doorways, and installing slip-proof floors to prevent falls. Assistive technologies and in-home help can also make it possible for seniors to age in place.

The upside of aging in place is that it provides comfort and familiarity and allows seniors to maintain their autonomy and dignity. The downside, as you have probably guessed, is that it can be very expensive. If you hope to remain in your current home as you age, keep your future needs in mind as you make needed home improvements over time.

Living with an Adult Child

Living with family is one of the most affordable housing options for seniors. Sharing living expenses means that everyone saves money—that’s no small thing in this economy. Seniors can get the help they need, and may be able to contribute to the household through providing childcare or cooking. A multigenerational household can strengthen family bonds, and give young grandchildren the chance to make real memories with a grandparent.

Multigenerational living can be a great option—if all involved want it and are prepared. It’s critical to discuss needs and expectations and establish guidelines for all parties. It’s also important to discuss what will happen next if the arrangement isn’t working.

Sharing a House with a Roommate (or Two or Three)

If you don’t want (or can’t afford) to live alone, and living with family isn’t an option, having a roommate (or multiple roommates) might be the solution. You might move in with someone who has extra room, or rent out rooms in your own house.

Sharing a home can provide company and lower expenses, two things that are important to many seniors. But choosing to live like the Golden Girls isn’t all cheesecake and late-night gab sessions. Make sure you are compatible with your roommate(s) and that you are looking for the same thing from your living situation. For example, one of you might want frequent company; the other might prize privacy.

Establish house rules; this is probably even more important than it was the last time you had roommates, which may have been decades ago. One new issue: what happens if someone gets ill or requires extra care? While you can’t predict the future, it’s important to think about and plan for these contingencies. Otherwise, you—or your roommate—could find yourself in the role of unwilling caregiver.

Retirement Villages

If you are still healthy and relatively active, and want a community while giving up the burden of maintaining a home, a retirement village or other independent living community might be right for you. Some complexes offer simple amenities like a pool or gym; others offer extensive social calendars and higher-end amenities including on-site restaurants and private golf courses.

Assisted Living

For seniors who don’t require skilled nursing care, but are no longer capable of living fully independently, assisted living provides assistance with medication, housekeeping, and personal hygiene. Assisted living facilities typically provide communal meals and some recreational activities; many are capable of accommodating residents with cognitive impairment.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

One disadvantage of the housing options for seniors listed above is that if your health needs change, you might have to move again, to a facility where you can get the level of care you need. Moving into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), also known as a life plan community, can remove that uncertainty. These communities provide varying levels of care on the same campus, including independent living apartments, assisted living, and skilled nursing care.

Life plan communities are designed to meet the changing needs of seniors as they age, and they have many advantages. There is usually transportation for errands and doctor appointments. Meals are prepared, and may be restaurant quality. You have your private space with the option to enjoy the company of others. However, all of this convenience typically comes at a cost: these facilities usually require the purchase of a property within the community or an entrance fee with regular monthly charges.

There are a variety of alternative housing options for seniors; an experienced elder law attorney can help you evaluate options for yourself or for a loved one. To learn more about the best housing options for seniors, contact Estate Planning & Elder Law Services to schedule a consultation.

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