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Senior Housing Options

America’s population is aging, and it’s time to get serious about senior housing.

“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18,” according to Jonathan Vespa, a U.S. Census Bureau demographer.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections reports that by 2030, 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age. This means there will come a time when a flood of aging baby boomer clients (and your own family!) will turn to you for advice about retirement housing.

Here’s a guide to senior housing options…

1. Aging in place

Most people like where they are and don’t want to move. In fact, 87 percent of people over 65 want to age in their current home and community.

Aging in place has obvious appeal. Seniors are comfortable in their home and neighborhood, have a social network of friends and neighbors and know the local grocery stores and doctors. Plus, it saves the stress of moving.

The trouble with aging in place is that most homes aren’t designed for the disabled. Stairs or narrow doorways can make the house inaccessible. Kitchens, toilets and showers might be inappropriate for users with disabilities, and trip hazards abound.

Aging in place can put some seniors at risk for loneliness. Many elderly are unable to drive, so if friends and neighbors start moving away or dying, the old neighborhood can start to feel alien and remote.

Senior isolation is a leading and preventable cause of depression, cognitive decline and dementia. If aging in place is the plan, make sure it’s done right.

2. Co-living…

First popularized in the show Golden Girls, co-living can take many forms. Options range from unrelated roommates sharing a house to planned communities of townhouses or single-family homes with common areas for social activities.

The beauty of co-living is the built-in social network. You have a group of neighbors or roommates to share meals, travel and support. No loneliness there!

Co-housing can be difficult to find. Thankfully, numerous websites are now available to help seniors search for co-housing opportunities. Depending on the arrangement, co-living may limit privacy, as anyone who’s had a college roommate can attest to!

Finally, co-housing usually works best for able-bodied seniors, since the public spaces often require everyone’s participation for upkeep. Anyone considering co-living should investigate what physical skills are required to remain a part of the community.

3. Moving in with relatives…

In many ways, living with relatives might be the ideal retirement arrangement. There’s a built-in support system with loved ones. The younger generations could care for the elderly, and the retirees are there to help with childcare.

Unfortunately, moving in with family is uncommon in the U.S. About 6 percent of U.S.-born and 25 percent of foreign-born seniors live with relatives.

The trouble is that many seniors worry about imposing on their younger relatives and many younger family members fear the loss of privacy. Moreover, homes are often too small or are not suitable for the disabled, making moving in together impossible.

Those planning to move together who have the financial resources should consider multi-generational homes designed with ample space and privacy.

4. Retirement communities…

Retirement and residential care communities are huge and growing rapidly. Worth nearly $70 billion and growing almost 4 percent a year, organized retirement communities are the dominant market player in senior housing.

Advantages typically include an immediate social network with other seniors, escalating care as disabilities develop and organized activities and community spaces.

Retirement communities are often the most expensive option, frequently pricing out many seniors. Communities often impose strict rules regarding pets, alcohol, smoking and overnight guests which degrade their residents’ dignity and autonomy.

5. Margaritaville…

This is probably the coolest retirement community in the world! Inspired by Jimmy Buffett, Latitude Margaritaville communities feature beaches, pools, music and fun. Who wouldn’t want that?

6. Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC)…

A NORC is a community with a large fraction of residents over 60 which developed organically. Often, it is a building that started with young families who remained together as they grew older. These homes were not specifically designed to meet the needs of the elderly, but they have a remarkable social network.

7. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)…

Granny flats are a variant of a tiny house built in the backyard of a friend or relative, and they’re one of my favorite retirement options. ADUs are less expensive than most other types of senior housing.

Granny flats offer a great combination of privacy and proximity to a loved one. Since ADUs are detached from the main house, the residents of the ADU and the owners of the main home preserve their dignity and control of space.

Just think, Grandma can move into a beautiful tiny house in her backyard. Grandma gets to keep her cat, watch loud TV as late as she wants and have guests over without disturbing anyone. She’s available for tea and childcare, and you can keep an eye on her to make sure she’s staying healthy and socially engaged. It’s a win-win.

Recent law changes in many municipalities made it easier to construct ADUs. However, you’ll still need to check with the local government regarding zoning and permitting requirements.

There’s a huge variety of senior housing. Consider budget, social and health needs to find the right option for you and your loved one.