Should they stay or should they go?
Boomers differ from previous generations in every way, including how they retrofit their homes for later life living. According to think tank Age Wave, 80 percent of Boomers are interested in reducing home expenses via technologies such as smart thermostats or apps to control appliances. Another 58 percent want to go even further, utilizing cleaning robots or heated driveways to make home care easier as they age.
Of course, Boomers are also planning for growing older by modifying their homes in some of the more tried-and-true ways: adding safety features such as handrails and grab bars, creating no-step entryways, installing lever-style handles on doors and faucets, and lowering cabinets and countertops.
Another popular, prescient modification is moving all living activities to one floor in order to avoid dealing with stairs later on. Three-fourths of people age 85+ experience difficulties with daily activities such as housework, or simply getting around the home.
But for some of those already in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, renovation and technology-assisted living can be too little, too late.
When Moving is the Best Move
Many older seniors do not want to think about the aging process, certain they’ll be the exception to any deleterious effects of aging, such as a fall. Yet over half of those 80 and older fall every year. And this is just one possible circumstance that could necessitate the need for a different living arrangement.
As driving becomes more difficult or even dangerous, as shopping for and preparing food, or doing household chores such as cleaning and laundry, become more challenging, daily life can metamorphose into a slippery slope. And while hiring in-home assistance is a viable option for anyone with the financial means, many seniors — especially women living alone — are opposed to giving strangers access to their home.
What, then, is a concerned family to do?
Gather a team. A certified financial planner, the senior’s primary physician, and family lawyer — all of whom, ideally, understand aging-related issues — can offer input to help the elder and his or her family decide what housing options are best. Fortunately, today there is an abundance of options, including:
- Senior co-housing, where elders have their own independent units and share common spaces. Often a nurse or other medical professional is onsite or on call.
- The Village Network, a national network of grassroots organizations run by and for seniors to provide affordable services, including transportation, home repairs, and wellness programs, all with vetted service providers.
- Rent exchange shared housing, in which a senior offers a rent-free room to a student or other individual needing housing in exchange for help around the house, driving to appointments or shopping, or other services that they decide together.
- Paid in-home care. While informal caregiving selection isn’t new, one innovative company now offers care services in both directions: a caregiver with a room to rent can host a senior needing assistance, or a senior with an extra room can have a caregiver move in. The company vets both parties and requires monthly evaluations by each party to ensure the arrangement continues to be satisfactory.
However, a move may eventually be in a senior’s best interest, regardless of how much he or she wants to age in place. A graduated care community allows elders to start out in independent living and, depending on their needs, advance into assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing, without having to relocate again.
As your reverse mortgage client base evolves with the times, it’s valuable to understand when and how a home can be adapted technologically to meet a senior’s changing needs — and when a family should consider enlisting an elder’s support team to decide whether moving Mom to a senior-centric location might be the smartest move of all.
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