Aging Options

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Senior housing options

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There’s no place like home but where will your home be when you retire?

Most Americans (about 70 percent of them) plan to age in their own homes.  However, it isn’t always the best option to stay in your current home nor is it always possible.  Long-term care can be expensive regardless of where you get it.  You’ll need to balance your future and current care needs with your budget to find appropriate housing.

Senior housing has its major pluses as indicated by the annual 5.2 percent growth that industry is expected to see in the next few years.  If you are an active senior, having someone else take care of the day-to-day maintenance and repair on your home and yard, providing activities and trips and even the social interactions that might be more difficult to access from your stand-alone home is one reason this industry continues to grow.  If you’ve slowed down a bit, having someone around in case of an emergency, having access to care and having access to the amenities that are usually very close by is yet another.  If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship or spent time in a luxury resort and thought this is the life, that’s what many equate moving to senior retirement communities as.

Regardless of whether you stay put or move to some sort of senior living option, you’ll need to make a careful evaluation of your budget.  Before you buy into a community make sure you do your due diligence and get a solid idea of what foreclosures and dues defaults are like.  Here’s a link to an article with a list of ten questions to ask in addition before buying into an adult community.

Retirement communities come in all shapes and sizes.  They can run the gamut between mobile homes to Continuing Care Retirement Communities and everything in between.  Making a budget of your anticipated expenses can help you narrow down your choices.  If you had someone come in to do an assessment of your home and based on that discussion you are considering moving, or you’ve talked to a geriatric care manager, you can narrow down your choices to what makes a better fit for you.  Here’s a list of the major types of senior housing and a brief description of each.

Independent living communities:

Like the name suggests, don’t look to independent living communities for assistance with activities for daily living (ADL) although you can bring such help in.   Beyond that the sky is really the limit.  They range from apartment complexes to houses (in this area they are often called cottages) and come in a wide array of costs from subsidized and on up.  Some communities are designed around hobbies such as golf, many have spas, pools, classes, lectures or are designed around a theme such as Asian culture and the list goes on.  If you have an interest, you’re sure to find it reflected in an independent living facility.  If you look around an independent living community you’ll quickly realize that everyone in the community is in the same age bracket.  Some people find communities that are exclusively for active older people exciting.  Some do not.  Typically, the average cost of independent living facilities starts at about $2,000 a month and go up from there.  Before you make the move to independent living other things to consider are:

  • Whether your health will make this your last move or one of several moves. If you think this might be the first of several moves, consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRCs)
  • Are you comfortable with both the initial investment and monthly fees which can include homeowners association fees.  Check to see how much will it cost to add on services you might need later on?
  • How long will it take to be able to make the move?  Even in this economy, there is often a waiting list and you may need to wait months to get in.

Assisted living communities:

For people needing help with some ADLs, including help with medications or housekeeping, an assisted living community can provide the reassurance of 24-hour staffing.  Depending on the type of housing options you want you may have a small kitchen in your residence or the meals may all be served in a group dining area.  Usually there are common areas for socializing where you can find libraries, computer rooms and other recreational pursuits.  An assisted living community is a good choice if you don’t need round the clock care and supervision but you need more assistance than can be accessed either in an independent living community or in a home.

Costs for assisted living vary with the residence, apartment size and the types of additional services you need.  It’s often less expensive than home health care or nursing care in the same location.   Nationally, the average monthly charge is around $3,300.  Additional charges may include laundry and housekeeping, although some providers include those items with the base charge.  While assisted living is generally paid for privately, there are veterans subsidies and section 8 housing subsidies that can help pay for a portion of the housing costs.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs):

These are also known as fee-for-service continuing care retirement communities.  They offer residents the option of independent living, assisted living, nursing care and other long-term care services under one contract.  Most CCRCs include an entrance fee of usually $100,000 or more and a monthly fee that will depend upon the needs of the resident, the type of service contract, additional services provided.  Additionally, residents generally experience a 3 percent to 6 percent increase in monthly fees each year.  They offer various payment plans which include:

  • Life Care: The most expensive option but like the name suggests it offers unlimited assisted living, medical treatment and skilled nursing care without additional charges.
  • Modified: This contract offers a set of services for a specified period of time.  When the time expires, other services can be obtained but for a higher monthly fee.
  • Pay as you go: The initial enrollment fee is generally lower but assisted living and skilled nursing care are charged at their market rates.

One risk is that most CCRCs will only refund a portion of the fee or none at all if the resident changes their mind and wishes to leave the community or dies.  Another risk is that since the resident is paying for future services, it will be important to ensure that the CCRC will still be operating and able to provide the care already paid for.  AARP offers a list of things to look for if you are looking at the CCRC option.

About 75 percent of boomers currently live in single family homes but those numbers are likely to change in the next few years.  For one thing, while we were in the midst of the “Great Recession” many seniors hunkered down and stayed in the homes they raised their families in but as the housing market climbs out of its dive and it’s possible once again to sell a house, more and more seniors are likely to be looking to make the move to a continuing care community, assisted living or some other senior housing situation.  They all have one thing in common.  Whatever flavor housing you’re looking at, you’ll need to carefully assess the costs and conditions before signing on the dotted line.

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