As people age, their housing needs change. The length of the daily commute may give way to concerns about being close to extended family. Proximity to a top-rated elementary school may be replaced by a desire to live close to a top-rated hospital.
Everything about where you live should be guided by a consciousness of your future. Housing must meet not only your current but also your long-term physical, medical and emotional needs and, of course, your budget.
Where Do You Want to Live?
As a senior, you have a number of housing options to consider that may be right for you. Here are 10 possibilities, including ones that provide greater support or even nursing care.
Take stock of your current living arrangement. If your home suits you, isn’t too large and is conveniently located, perhaps with some modification you can age in place. A National Association of Home Builders program trains Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) to help homeowners identify and complete home modifications, such as adding grab bars, better lighting, ramps and wider doorways, to enable them to happily stay put.
Share Your House
If you live alone and would rather not, consider renting out space to another person. The incoming rent can help with expenses and the companionship can provide personal and emotional benefits as well. Check out The National Shared Housing Resource Center for additional information.
Get Help at Home
Home-based support services can help with daily activities, providing personal care, hot meals, transportation, house-cleaning and companionship. The resources and services link at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice is a good place to start your home care search.
Live with Your Kids
Moving in with an adult child (or inviting a son or daughter to live with you) is not for everyone. But if the chemistry is right, it can be a great solution for both parties. Just like sharing your home with a stranger, inviting a family member to live with you—or moving in with them—provides an opportunity for cost-sharing. It also provides the benefits of companionship and emotional support.
Explore Subsidized Housing
Federal, state and local programs help supplement the cost of housing—typically through a rent subsidy. Programs are plentiful but complicated. Some localities also have subsidized senior housing units. Get help from a housing counselor at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or someone tied to a local nonprofit organization. SeniorLiving.org can put you in touch with a senior housing specialist free of charge.
Find an Active Adult Community
Active adult communities are for fully independent seniors age 55 or older. The main advantage is the opportunity to live independently but near other seniors. These neighborhoods often have clubhouses, tennis courts, golf courses, security and other amenities. Many are near public transportation or have their own transport system. Streets are often well-lit and golf-cart-friendly.
Co-housing communities function almost like a commune. Some are quite expensive; others are more affordable. These communities feature homes clustered around communal spaces. Members may provide meals, housekeeping or even transportation to their neighbors with the idea that each member contributes services as he or she is able. The cost of health aides is often shared. Income, however, is not pooled and all members own their own residences.
Look into Assisted Living Facilities
If you need help with some activities of daily living—such as bathing, getting dressed and taking medications—you might prefer an assisted living residence. These facilities typically include meals served in a common dining room or in the rooms, 24-hour security and transportation as required. For information on specific personal care housing options, search the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.
One issue seniors who move into such facilities face is that if they end up needing more care than the facility provides, they may be forced to move out to a nursing home. Consider this carefully before choosing assisted living.
If you’re looking for a less institutional variant on this type of setting, investigate the small-scale homes of the Green House Project.
Investigate Nursing Homes
Full-time skilled medical care, often protected by federal regulations, is available in a nursing home setting. Many nursing homes also have an Alzheimer’s/Memory Care section where residents are less impaired physically but need the protection of a supervised setting. The Green House Project has a variant for those in need of memory care called Best Life.
Be aware of your rights or your loved one’s rights as a resident of a nursing home.
Check Out Continuing Care Retirement Communities
CCRCs (also known as Life Plan Communities) offer an “all-in-one” option, if you can afford it. CCRCs require a significant cash payment upfront that lets you stay in the same community no matter how your needs change over time. You might move into an independent living apartment or cottage. Should you need it, you can transition to assisted living, memory care or a nursing home setting within the same complex. This can also work well for couples who need various levels of care but want to be together as much as possible. At the highest level CCRCs offer a legal contract guaranteeing care for life.
Do a Test Run
“Try before you buy” was never more appropriate advice than for seniors seeking a change in housing. This is especially true if the change involves moving to a new location or even overseas. Before buying a condo in, say, Arizona, make sure you spend some time there. Is the climate suitable? Is the area walkable? Is public transportation available for when you need it down the road?
Finally, before making a final decision, seek input from family members and from your doctor(s). Family members may point out things you hadn’t considered such as how difficult it might be to get to the grocery store when you no longer drive. Your doctor(s) can advise you regarding medical care and/or assistance you are likely to need in the coming years.