Tuesday, 08 October 2013
Choosing Elder Housing
Last week I received an email from a reader named Dina Zinnes:
”I would like to talk to others about how they are thinking about the next stage of their life - the one where they move out of their independent home and into ?
“My house is too big and probably not safe for a single woman over 77 but I do love having some of my space...and with 4 dogs and 2 cats it is impossible to find acceptable retirement facilities.
“My children have great jobs and would love to have me move closer (California or Boston) but their jobs are not stable and I could move only to be alone again in a strange place. I have a reasonable pension but some places, like California, could be tough.”
There are many possible answers to Dina's quest – some of them are even good ones. But I don't have time this week to do the research to properly outline them.
So let's do as Dina asks – talk this over together, do our own crowdsourcing about elders and housing because, after all, we are mostly old people here, we all live somewhere and housing is a concern of everyone at this age.
Because there is no way to know how healthy and capable we will remain for how long, it is particularly difficult to plan for the future. How much help will we need as the years go by? What will we be able to continue to do for ourselves and what will become impossible?
For as long as I have been studying aging – nearly 20 years now – survey after survey after survey report that 90 percent and more of elders want to stay in their homes as they get old - “age in place” is the prevailing term for that.
There are many ways to make that possible from renovation modifications and technology to community services, periodic professional care help, transportation services and more.
It is a growing field, helping elders remain at home, with new ideas, products and services emerging almost daily. At another time, I will go over this in some detail.
Other types of living arrangements for elders include:
• Age-restricted Communities (usually 55-plus)
• Independent Living Communities
• Continuing Care Communities
• Assisted Living Communities
There is a lot of overlap in types of elder housing so these are not necessarily hard-and-fast definitions.
For example, I live in a NORC – that is, a “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.” I didn't plan it that way. It was only after I had moved here three years ago that I realized about 90 percent of the condominium residents are retired.
If, in time, I cannot drive, the location will become a problem. Public transportation is available but far from ideal in this suburban community. I am working hard to mitigate that before it happens to me working as a member of the 50+ Advisory Board to the city council.
Our board has no power but we can make informed suggestions and keep the needs of the burgeoning elder population here front and center as the city makes decisions about the future.
Most recently, I am working with a small group in my town to create a Village in our area. We will hold our first planning meeting with others at the end of this month. If you are unfamiliar with the Villages movement throughout the U.S., you can read about it here.
Another choice is a granny flat sometimes called an in-law flat, mother-in-law flat or, more boringly, a secondary dwelling unit (SDU) that is can be part of an existing home or a separate small home on the property of adult children so that mom and/or dad are close by but living on their own.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, these are called laneway houses because they often face lanes or alleys behind the main home.
One of the things that is interesting about elder housing is that in addition to remaining in one's home or choosing from the variety of institutional choices as I've listed above, elders themselves are creating new solutions to suit their specific needs and desires.
One growing phenomenon is a small group of friends, four or five or six, banding together to buy a home for themselves a la the TV show, Golden Girls.
I don't hear about this in regard to men but for women, sharing a home is not as new an idea as the media tries to portray. I know retired women who have been doing this for a couple of decades and it is a good solution for some people.
Others, particularly widow(er)s, are staying in their large homes by providing a room or suite for another retired person while the two share kitchen and living areas.
There are, of course, considerations in these arrangements for which an attorney should be consulted.
Now it's your turn. What are your living arrangements? Are you settled into them now? Or if you have not made a choice, what are you considering? What has worked for you so far? What hasn't?
Or whatever else you want to say on this topic.
Keep in mind, as always, there is no space limitation on the internet; you can write as much as you want, just – PLEASE – use paragraphs with a line space between them for ease of reading for the rest of us. And no recommendations of commercial products and services.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Wake Up Call