More on the Housing Choices Dilemma

This week’s earlier post about the multiplicity of housing choices for the post-Boomers (and often Boomers ready to downsize or make other shifts) touched on just a few of the possibilities out there. The staying put option is one that many, including my friend Berta whose current consideration of home changes was cited, would choose. The question is addressed at some good length in today’s New York Times:

Stay put or sell?

That’s the question many older people ponder as they move into their 70s and beyond.

Most older people settle on staying put, according to a recent survey by the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home-related injuries. (From the source of the survey, you can see where this column is heading, right?)

Staying put makes economic sense. It is not only more comfortable to live out your life in your own home, it’s much more affordable.

Those posh retirement condos and assisted-living facilities might seem easy-living and attractive, but crunching their numbers can take the shine off their attraction fast.

The average annual fee at an assisted-living facility — a place where older people live independently but also receive a host of services like medication monitoring and meals — is $34,000. And in the nation’s most expensive metropolitan areas, including New York, the costs may be closer to $70,000.

The Times article goes on to cite the case of octogenarian Catherine Fisher, who chose to adapt her New Jersey home to her own needs rather than take those needs elsewhere. Sooner or later, countless Americans will face similar choices.  Guidelines to what is becoming “an entire service industry… taking shape around the goal of letting people age in place” are worth a quick study now, for whenever “later” comes.

via Patient Money – Cost-Effective Ways to Make Homes Safer for Older People – NYTimes.com.

The Joys (and Angst) of Housing Choices

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What is it about the term “adult living” that seems so, well, one-foot-in-the-grave to me? Being surely one foot in the grave myself, if one chooses to look at actuarial tables which I do not, you’d think my opinionated mind might be pried slightly more open.

It’s a dilemma. Not whether one is polite and knowledgeable about adult living communities urban or suburban, but how to differentiate — and ultimately make choices among — the often bewildering assortment of housing communities and choices targeting everyone over 50 (and increasingly even below.)

I gave a talk at Rossmoor earlier today, a serene and bucolic adult living/retirement community about 25 miles and 40 degrees from San Francisco. This is no lie; it was 58 in the fog when I left home, 98 in the sun when I arrived. Rossmoor is full of recreational amenities: golf and tennis, choirs and bridge clubs and book groups. You cannot live there unless you are (or are formally attached to someone who is) 55 or older, and if you’re 18 or under you can’t hang around for more than 3 weeks. Rossmoor has its own mildly bewildering housing choices: congregate living, condos, co-ops and big houses on lush lots. It is ranked among the top such senior adult communities in the country and they are everywhere.

Add to these the growing varieties of aging-in-place groups (think Beacon Hill Village in Boston) and the truly bewildering assortment of assisted living facilities. The latter include simple rentals, detached cottages and elegant high rises; you can pay fixed or varying fees, or you can turn over your total estate (if it’s a large one) in return for a promise that you’ll be cared for in style throughout whatever infirmity or affliction arises and unto the grave.

Our friend Berta, widowed not many years ago, made the (possible) mistake of mentioning to her children that the responsibilities of maintaining her tidy, comfortable home were becoming onerous at times. This set off a frenzy of activity among her very active progeny, 3/4 of whom live in far-flung states. In addition to tackling the task of clearing out (“I had to grab a few things I wanted that were about to get thrown away…”) they came up with an assortment of possibilities for the mother whose comfort and well being they value above all else: condos and co-ops and a variety of retirement homes near their own homes, most at price tags more than daunting to someone who grew up in the Depression. Berta hopes to stay put. Most of us do, many of us can’t, and there’s the rub.