Erin Itkoe, Senior Wealth Counselor
When our kids go to college, we spend countless hours evaluating their housing options. Shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves as we age? A key component of long-term retirement planning is addressing current and future housing needs. There are a number of factors and considerations that go into this decision. It is important to do your due diligence and understand your options to make the best decision (from a financial and an emotional perspective) for yourself. The following are housing options to consider as you age.
Aging in Place
Given the choice, most people would prefer to remain in their homes for the rest of their lives because that is what they know and what is most comfortable to them. This may be possible for some, especially if they are generally in good health and have a social network and family support nearby. Aging in place is a dynamic process, so it is important to review the situation periodically to make sure that it still works for you.
As you age, you need to be prepared to make renovations to your residence to enhance its safety and convenience. The necessary renovations can change over time, so this can become costly. It’s also important to consider the potential costs of support services and home health care. If family members live in the area, they may be able to assist with transportation, running errands, etc. You’ll want to proactively discuss this in advance because placing these additional responsibilities on your family members may create unintentional burdens and stress. If you do not have a social network and family support nearby, you may become isolated over time, which can lead to loneliness and depression.
55+ Independent Living Communities
These communities provide an independent and low-maintenance living option. They also offer other services and amenities, but do not provide any medical care. The age requirement will vary by community, as well as the housing type (i.e. single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, apartments). A major benefit to residents is the social and cultural activities and the opportunity to engage with others in the same stage of life. In addition to the cost of the home (you can choose to buy or rent), there are also monthly resident fees.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living communities are designed for individuals who want to be as independent as possible, but may need help with daily living tasks. Residents are provided with social and community interaction, and their activities are monitored to ensure their health, safety, and well-being. The housing type can vary – residents may rent an apartment or a room in a single-family home converted to an assisted living facility. Residents typically stay in the assisted living facility until their health deteriorates and a higher level of care is needed. These communities give families a peace of mind from knowing that their loved one is not alone and has the necessary support. The monthly cost can be high. Some long-term care policies will cover the cost, however.
Skilled Nursing Facilities
Providing the highest level of medical care, these communities include 24-hour nursing care for residents with serious medical conditions and/or advanced dementia or cognitive impairment. Such services may be difficult for family to provide in the home. On-site access to services is provided, including activities, all meals, and medical care. The housing type can vary– residents may rent an apartment or a room in a single-family home converted to a skilled nursing facility. The monthly costs can be high. Medicare covers a limited portion of the cost, and long-term care insurance coverage varies by policy.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
These are the most comprehensive of all housing options because they offer a continuum of care with different levels of service all at one maintenance-free location. The continuum of care ranges from independent living, to assisted living, to skilled nursing. The housing type will vary as well – apartments, townhomes, villas, and single-family homes. Residents enjoy various amenities, social interaction, activities, meals, housekeeping, transportation, and on-site medical care. For couples, each person can receive individualized care, while still living within close proximity of each other. Residents sign a contract that involves the right to live in a specific place and the intent to purchase services. The costs can be high – the entrance fee can cost as much as a house and may or may not be refundable. There are also monthly fees.
As with any decision, it’s important review all options and have a plan. Often times, families do not make these decisions until their housing situation changes. Making a rash decision when in a stressful situation very rarely leads to positive results. This decision is no different. It’s best to begin researching options before you enter this next stage of life. This removes the burden from your family, and more importantly allows you to have control while you can still make your own decisions. Planning for your own aging can be scary, but it’s very important to begin thinking about your options and sharing your wishes with your family, so that you can live out your later years the way you want to. Your Versant Wealth Counselor can help guide you through the housing decision process.