The pandemic has changed the way people live, how they think about their homes, and what the surrounding community means to them. Each generation is going to be affected differently. In particular, the population of older adults’ (in the US this group is set to grow to 73 million by 2030) view on housing is going to have dramatic consequences for themselves, their caregivers, and their surrounding communities.
An AARP study in 2018, reported that nearly 80% of those over age 50 want to stay in their home for as long as possible. Many believe their current residence is where they will always be. This probably does not surprise many people. Those that have helped a family member or friend move from their home have seen these feelings communicated. Others who are maybe in this situation currently, likely share those preferences.
To stay in their home, people will need some features like bathroom on the main level and a room on first floor that could be used as bedroom. Other items needed for those with physical limitations include:
- Wide doorways
- Modify bathrooms with grab bars or no-step showers.
- Inside and outside accessibility
- An emergency response system.
- Home devices, like a voice activated home assistant or a doorbell camera.
Some would consider leaving their home for one that allows them to age independently, particularly if it cost less or was physically easier to maintain. People would consider making that move for the following reasons:
- To be near someone but maintain their space
- To have support doing daily activities
- To save money
An important consideration in these decisions is who is the family caregiver. The AARP survey revealed that 1 in 5 Americans is a family caregiver. Among those polled, 38 percent look after someone living on their own. Of those, nearly half worried about the ability of the person they care for to continue living independently.
As people begin researching their senior living alternatives, here are some important considerations:
- Do I want to stay in the home I have now or move to another? Do I need to make home improvements if I stay? Can I get the home care services I need if I stay?
- What kind of health care services will I need if at my home?
- Are there safety concerns in my current living situation?
- Do I have caretaker resources available to me (family, friends, and neighbors)?
- Is transportation available for important and more frequent healthcare visits?
It is also important to consider your daily activities, such as eating, dressing, using the bathroom and getting in and out of bed. Your ability to do these activities, plus others such as banking, shopping, cleaning, cooking, using the telephone and taking medication, may limit your senior living options. If you can perform these activities with ease, you have more options. If you have trouble moving around, eating or using the bathroom, an assisted living or continuing care retirement community may be a better choice.
After considering your requirements, the senior living options can generally be reduced to the following:
- Aging in place – home is adequately equipped and able to easily perform most daily activities
- Living with family or friends – require more support but do not have financial means for formal option
- Downsizing current home – lower home maintenance tasks and possibly save money
- Senior housing/independent senior living – maintain independent lifestyle with offering of moderate level of help, if needed or wanted.
- Continuing care retirement communities – combine several alternatives into continuum of care (independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care)
- Assisted living – hybrid of independent living and nursing home care.
- Nursing homes – provide 24-hour skilled care.
As the statistics would state, most people would rather not have to think about options. However, the earlier you can begin the research, the more likely you are of living in your preferred alternative. Having these conversations with potential caregivers is just as important too. There is no substitute for having a good plan across a range of possibilities.
For more information on senior living alternatives, the National Association of Area Agencies provides a valuable resource at www.n4a.org.