Aging Options

Choosing housing that allows you to remain independent

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Four years ago, Liz, a retired Federal Way school worker was widowed and struggling financially with balancing the upkeep on her home with her desire to do some of the traveling she and her husband had always planned once they both retired.  She also felt like the large home she loved was simply too large for one person and felt she rattled around in it without someone else. 

Because she still had a connection to the school she had worked at, four years ago she hooked up with an AmeriCorp volunteer that worked at the school.  The volunteer lived in a lower section of her home and had her own entry way.  Being a young 20-something her social schedule was as busy as her work schedule but the work at the school provided a connection for her and Liz for when they did spend time together.  Having someone else in the house helped Liz to feel more secure and the modest rent that Liz charged her helped Liz to continue making upgrades on her home.  Having someone around also gave Liz the comfort of knowing that when she did travel that someone she trusted was there to watch over her home.  The arrangement worked so well that Liz continues to share her home with a new AmeriCorp volunteer each year.

In 1950, 22 percent of American adults were single and 4 million lived alone.  Fast forward to today and 31 million American adults live alone.   One interesting way to look at that came up in a PBS Newshour story that equated single people with the usual household supplies, for example: 31 million refrigerators, 31 million microwaves, 31 million televisions etc.  But the impact of that isolation isn’t limited to single users of large electrical items.  It takes millions of caregivers, planners and designers to allow many of those older singletons to remain independent.

At the same time that the number of people living alone is increasing though, a significant number of people who aren’t related are choosing instead to live together, to do like Liz and invite someone in to their lives.  Many of those are women and because women tend to live longer than men, they are more likely to end up needing care or facing financial challenges.  Over one million single women 45 and older live with a roommate not related to them.  The benefits can be multifold.  Living with someone else can provide companionship, financial solvency and even care.

Some cities and counties offer programs that match potential housemates, not unlike a dating service.  Those services essentially match a homeowner with someone interested in sharing a residence taking into account their personalities and needs.  Those relationships are designed to allow seniors to age in place.  About half a million baby boomer women live with at least one female, non-relative roommate and no spouses according to AARP.  Shared housing in this format emphasizes doing for one self to the greatest extent possible.

Of course having a roommate isn’t the only option.  Another option is shared housing which provides independent living spaces with communal areas shared by all the residences.  Shared housing or cohousing provides a way for seniors and others to provide care for each other and share expenses such as yard care, home health care, home repair and so on.  Some forms of cohousing include a residence for a live-in caregiver so it can work for people who may not be able to live alone due to frailty or some other health condition but do not need the level of care provided in an institutional setting.  Generally, the cost of shared housing is more modest than other senior residences and the benefit can extend to the community which may find new use for run down older mansions.

By some estimates housing, transportation and food make up 60 percent of a healthy budget, meaning that a person would then have 40 percent to pay for entertainment, insurance, clothing, medical/dental, miscellaneous and debt repayment.  People on fixed budgets often find themselves financially straining to maintain that relationship but even if they don’t, investing in relationships with a group of other people can help not just with the financial aspects of retirement but also with the physical and emotional.

At this point in history, women live longer than men and that longer life puts them in jeopardy of living longer with fewer resources and without the companionship of a married partner.  Whether or not a woman is single now, she most likely will be single at some point in her future.  Yet, according to a 2011 MetLife survey, most women fall short in planning for that future.  If you’re a woman, you owe it to yourself to research and plan for a future that may very well mean being alone and having fewer resources.

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you should begin to make housing plans early so that you will have a good idea of where you will be by the time you reach 65.  In that way you’ll know who will care for you if you lose your health and if you are not planning to live close to your kids, what your resources will be and how to access them.  If you plan to live in a retirement community of any sort, make plans to move there prior to finding that you need them.

This is what LifePlanning involves.  LifePlanning is comprehensive planning tool that works to create a plan for your retirement that involves your housing, health, legal and financial resources.  What can you do to protect your assets and avoid becoming a burden on your loved ones?  You can become proactive about planning for the rest of your life.  Estate planning is not LifePlanning and LifePlanning is what you need if you want to avoid creating a fragmented plan that inadvertently ends up at cross purposes when you are at your most vulnerable.

Some resources you might consider include the AgingOptions Preferred Partners.  These are experts that can help you plan for your future legally, financially and medically while also helping you to determine if the housing you have chosen to age in place in is your best option.  You can find them on our website.  Interested in attending a free seminar to learn more about the differences between LifePlanning and estate planning?  Attend one of our free seminars.  You can register here.


Need assistance planning for your successful retirement? Give us a call! 1.877.762.4464

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