Earlier this month, Jill made the case for the importance of having a housing plan. In this article, she’ll guide you through the first decision for the plan. She’ll suggest some questions you should answer to identify and plan for any gaps between your current situation and future potential needs.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to where to live as you age. While there are many details that will differentiate the lifestyle that you ultimately have, your first housing decision should be whether to seek out a traditional housing arrangement or move to a senior community.
Traditional housing includes:
Staying in your current home (If you fail to make a conscious decision, this will be your default.)
Downsizing to a smaller house, apartment, townhouse or condo
Living with friends – there are a variety of co-living arrangements.
Living with family – either in a separate apartment or room inside a family home or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) – an unattached structure on family property.
Are you prepared for future maintenance? If you are in a rental apartment or condo, some maintenance may be included with your rent/fees. Otherwise, the roof, heat and air system, plumbing, and landscaping are just a few of the major expense items that should be considered. Even if you can easily afford labor and materials, supply chain issues and labor shortages make finding and managing contractors stressful. Postponing maintenance is one of the biggest reasons seniors who have an unplanned move lose money.
Are your bathroom and kitchen spaces age friendly? You will most likely need modifications like grab bars, but also consider large expense projects like shower/tub modifications, ramps, lifts, washer dryer relocation. Are you prepared for the stress of coordinating these upfits? If you are in a rental, you must get permission from the landlord to make these changes and you will likely need to find the contractor and foot the bill yourself. If you own your home and end up selling, some of these modifications will limit your buyer pool or decrease the amount of money you can get for your home.
What will you do about transportation if you can’t drive? Maybe the inability to drive is a short term problem, like after rehab from a fall. Or maybe it’s permanent. Are you close to the places you go often such as the grocery store, church, doctor appointments, and friends?
Will you rely on family/friends to help? Is that practical? Would you be willing/able to take public transportation or Uber?
If you are currently alone or find yourself alone in the future, how will that affect your life and health? Loneliness isn’t the same thing as being alone. Some solitude is good for you; however, being alone needs to be a choice in order to be healthy. Stress will affect you more if you are lonely. Financial worries, health issues and everyday obstacles will be magnified through the lens of loneliness.
Will you eventually need regular assistance at home? Some people are able to physically manage day to day tasks at home, but develop cognitive issues that make living alone a safety risk. It is difficult to rely on family and friends for the bulk of this care. Paid in home care services are an option, but you need to be prepared for the cost which is determined by your unique situation.
Senior community housing includes:
Communities with independent living, assisted living and/or skilled nursing care options where staff is available on site to help residents on a scheduled or as needed basis.
Can you afford it? Many people default to saying in their home because they assume they can’t afford a community. You may need to get help researching more deeply to determine if that is true. With the added security and amenities offered in a senior community you may be surprised that it is not only affordable but also shifts many day to day burdens off your shoulders.
What is included/not included? Every community is unique. As you begin to research, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do they provide maintenance inside your unit? What are the meal plan options? Do they pay all utilities? Do they provide transportation and is there a cost associated with that? What activity options are available? Is there a cost to “buy in” or can you move in with a small deposit?
Do people seem friendly as you walk through the building/neighborhood? Ask the marketing director if you can have a meal and/or attend an activity to have the opportunity to visit with a small group of current residents.
What does the transition process look like if you require a higher level of care in the future? Are more skilled services available within the community or will you have to move to another location? What is the cost of additional services?
As you gather information, talk with your trusted advisors to help with the decision process. You don’t have to do this alone.
As you begin to think about your housing plan remember:
1. You don’t have to take action right away – Do research and discover what living situation or communities may work best for you. Make a plan and if there isn’t an immediate need, share it with your loved ones, set it aside and review it periodically.
2. The plan can change – Perhaps you stay where you are until certain benchmarks are reached. If you reach a pre-determined benchmark, don’t wait to make the planned transition. Perhaps you have one or two communities identified. You don’t have to commit right now, but make sure you understand their availability or wait list policy.
3. You are in control – By sharing your plan with your loved ones, you show them you want to keep control. They have an idea of how to move forward if something should happen to your ability to communicate your wishes.
Jill Hart is an author, consultant, REALTOR®, Seniors Real Estate Specialist® and Certified Senior Advisor®. You can learn more about her services at JillHartRealtor.com.