Housing Options As We Age

By on June 28, 2005 in Current Events, Retirement with 0 Comments

By Karen Schaeffer
Schaeffer Financial, LLC
Karen Schaeffer conducts training seminars for NITP. To see a listing of upcoming NITP seminars and to register for a seminar, click here.

Evaluating Housing Options as We Age

Are you or any of your senior family members thinking about making a housing change? More and more pre and young retirees have a generation of older relatives still living. The young retiree is looking for housing geared to recreation and leisure activities while the senior is looking for safety and conveniences. Often the aging relative needs assistance with housing decisions. Getting involved in the process will not only help your relatives make good decisions, it will be helpful practice for the choices you’ll eventually face.

Housing decisions are rarely simple and can be one of the most difficult issues your older relative will face. While many older people live their entire lives in the comfort of their own homes, others change living situations as they age. You and your older relatives may face questions of whether to change living arrangements if:

  • The cost of maintaining a home becomes unmanageable
  • The home is unsafe or unsuited to your needs
  • Its location is not convenient
  • Your older relative becomes too frail to continue living there.

Considerations for Staying at Home

If your relative is comfortable at home but is considering a move because of high costs of repairs, property taxes, and utility bills, you might explore programs that could reduce monthly expenses or financing options that could generate cash from the home’s equity. Many communities and states recognize that older people may not be able to pay increased property taxes. Property tax exemptions are often available to older homeowners or to those who meet certain income requirements. Contact your city or town hall and ask for information about property tax abatement. Some organizations may even provide low-cost labor for both major and minor repairs. Other programs can assess potential safety hazards and make necessary changes. Local Community Action Agencies may have programs for helping older people pay their fuel bills or in weatherize their homes. And if community programs are not available, using some of the home’s equity through a reverse mortgage may be a viable option.

Considerations for Home Sharing

If your older relative needs help with both the expense of maintaining a home and the day-to-day management of household tasks, home sharing might be an attractive option. In this arrangement, your relative shares his home with someone who is seeking affordable housing. In return for relatively low rent, the home sharer agrees to help out with cooking, cleaning or other chores. The challenge lies in finding the right candidate and in making a clear agreement that spells out each person’s needs and expectations. Carefully check all references of potential home sharers. Some communities have established home sharing programs.

Considerations for Leaving the Home

If your older relative can no longer live at home, even with extra support and services, it is time to consider other arrangements. A wide range of choices are available. In most types of congregate housing, residents live in their own apartments or rooms, usually with their own furnishings and come together to share meals or participate in activities. Congregate residences offer some level of service and support, but generally don’t provide full-time supervision or care. In smaller facilities, residents often live like members of a family, sharing some chores and responsibilities. In larger facilities, more of the services are provided by the staff. Assisted-living facilities take many forms but are generally residential rather than medical. Most residents are frail but don’t require continuous skilled nursing care. Senior housing is subsidized by the local state or federal government and offers rent based on a person’s income. To be eligible, the older person must meet the income requirements. Typically demand is high – consider getting your relative’s name on a waiting list well in advance of the need to move. Continuing care retirement communities offer a range of housing alternatives with varying levels of support in a single location. Most require a sizable entry payment and then a monthly fee based on services that adapt with changing needs.

Although it can be difficult, it’s important to talk with an older relative about housing concerns. Not only will you help your relatives make smart decisions, the process will help you make sound housing choices for yourself when the time comes.

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