A new AARP survey found that older Americans continue to have a strong preference to staying in their homes as they age, even if they have found themselves stuck at home for long stretches of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over three-quarters of those age 50 and over (77 percent) prefer to remain in their home as they age, according to the survey results. That statistic has remained steady for over a decade, according to AARP.
However, there is another way in which older people get stuck in a living situation that doesn’t meet their needs as they age. A third of survey participants said they’d need to modify their homes in order to accommodate a physical limitation. These modifications can be pricey and not feasible for those on fixed incomes. The same financial challenges apply to moving into a more aging-friendly home or moving into a senior living facility.
When my father landed in the hospital for emergency surgery, he had a difficult recovery due to his mid-stage dementia and could no longer walk. The condo that my parents had was not safe for him to return to, so the hospital would not release him home. One had to access a staircase to get to the entrance and the rear entrance was wooded land that was not safe for unsteady gaits. Any modifications would have to be approved by the HOA, a lengthy process. Instead my father got transferred to a skilled nursing facility and then, a memory care facility an hour and a half away from home.
Another solution to these housing challenges was met with support from survey participants. Sixty percent of those polled said they would consider living in an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), sometimes referred to as a “granny pad” or a tiny house. These affordable, small-footprint homes can be built adjacent to a primary home (depending upon local permitting) and allow independence and privacy while also benefitting from having loved ones nearby for help with daily chores and activities and for companionship.
According to the AARP survey, “access to clean water, healthy foods, quality health care and safe outdoor spaces” were important considerations when it came to what communities offer those aging in place. High-speed internet service was also deemed important. Developers and city planners should take note as they build communities and offer flexible, adjustable housing options that can meet the needs of an aging population.
You are never too old to have a roommate, or in the concept of home sharing, a housemate. It’s not a new concept. Popular TV shows like “The Golden Girls” put home sharing in the national spotlight and the arrangement continues to spark interest among elders looking for alternative housing options. With more single elders wanting to age in place while on fixed budgets, home sharing could be a viable solution.
Home sharing comes in many different forms. In some cases, an elder opens up their privately-owned home to another elder who is seeking housing. In some cases, home sharing could involve a tiny home on the property or a part of the main house which has been retrofitted into an apartment or separate dwelling. This is a good solution for those who want to maintain a higher level of privacy. In other cases, home sharing may involve larger multi-resident dwellings, where each person had their own room but share common areas. Home sharing organizations can help applicants find the right housing situation for them along with a vetted, compatible housemate match.
It’s important to remember that home sharing is not a substitute for those who require daily medical care. Housemates are not allowed to perform medical care for liability reasons, but can help with household tasks such as cooking and cleaning for a reduction in rent. Home sharing organizations draw up contracts that outline housemate expectations in great detail to support a successful arrangement.
Annamarie Pluhar, author of “Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates,” identified five essential benefits to sharing a home, especially for older people:
Help and security
Health and well-being
Some people in home sharing arrangements have said that the mental and emotional benefits of companionship ended up outweighing the financial benefits. For independent older adults who are not interested in traditional retirement communities, home sharing is a an option worth exploring.
When searching for senior care for your loved one, it can be difficult to know which option makes the most sense for your needs. There are many different terms out there, and they can all be a bit confusing for those who are new to the world of senior care. Here are some of the terms you need to know to locate senior living that’s a good fit for you and your family.
Many people start off with in home care for their senior. This is when a caregiver comes in at regular intervals to make sure that your senior is safe and helps them with personal and medical needs. This can be everything from making sure that they take their medication to helping with cooking and cleaning or just keeping them company. This option is a good first step for seniors in need of a little bit of assistance.
Retirement Communities/Senior Apartments
There are many communities where seniors have their own apartment and live independently, but have access to resources for seniors when they need it. These communities vary widely in amenities, ranging from almost no amenities offered to lots of social and personal services available. These options are usually called senior apartments, senior communities, or retirement communities. These communities typically don’t offer medical care for their residents.
Assisted living is residential living with assistance offered for cooking, cleaning, personal
grooming, and more as needed. Assisted living gives seniors help with what they need while still allowing them to maintain some independence. There are many large assisted living communities, but you can also find many smaller assisted living homes.
Memory care is designed specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It offers many of the same features that assisted living does, but with a focus on services for patients who are memory-impaired. These facilities for seniors with dementia offer personalized care and provides specialized support for its residents.
Hospice care is not only for those who require end-of-life care, but for those who need constant medical support to treat chronic conditions. Hospice care can be provided at home or in an inpatient center. The focus is on palliative care, making sure patients are comfortable and not in pain.
Using this quick overview, you can determine what the best fit for your senior is. Senior citizen apartments and other senior living options provide seniors with the support and help that they need as they transition into older age.
About the Author:
Holly Klamer is a full-time freelancer writer who is a frequent contributor to blogs and websites that help provide comprehensive resources on senior living options.
I was recently introduced to a resourceful website called StayorMove.org. The site focuses on what is are the most crucial questions as we grow older, such as do we stay put in our current homes or do we move on to a different location or live in an assisted living facility?
It’s questions we all should ask ourselves, but many people wait until a health issue makes the decision for them. That’s why I like the approach found on the StayorMove website, which is easy to navigate and uses a series of videos to address the pros and cons of a variety of housing options.
I also appreciated the fact that growing old in a rural environment was addressed. Those who follow this blog know this is an issue that’s important to me, because my parents’ health care was compromised by living in a small town with limited medical resources. They have a series of videos on the Village movement, which seeks to connect neighbors and volunteers to help elders age in place, while valuing the contributions of elders to the community. I’d love to see this concept expand.
The videos are brief but informative, and hopefully will encourage the “stay or move” conversation to continue. The more people are educated, the better decisions they can make about their own aging and housing choices.