Aging is a time of adaptation and change, and planning your future housing needs is an important part of ensuring that you continue to thrive as you get older. Of course, every older adult is different, so the senior housing choice that’s right for one person may not be suitable for another. The key to making the best choice is to match your housing with your lifestyle, health, and financial needs. This may mean modifying your own home to make it safer and more comfortable, or it could mean moving to a housing facility with more support and social options available on site. It could also involve moving to a retirement community or an apartment building where the majority of tenants are over the age of 65, or even a nursing home.

When deciding on the senior housing plan that’s right for you, it’s important to consider not only the needs you have now but also those you may have in the future. For example:

Physical and medical needs. As you age, you may need some help with physical needs, including activities of daily living. This could range from shopping, cleaning, cooking and looking after pets to intensive help with bathing, moving around, and eating. You may also need increasing help with medical needs. These could arise from a sudden condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, or a more gradual condition that slowly needs more and more care, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.

Home maintenance. If you’re living alone, your current home may become too difficult or too expensive to maintain. You may have health problems that make it hard to manage tasks such as housework and yard maintenance that you once took for granted or you may just find that you would prefer to use your time in other ways.

Social and emotional needs. As you age, your social networks may change. Friends or family may not be as close by, or neighbors may move or pass on. You may no longer be able to continue driving or have access to public transportation in order to meet with family and friends. Or you simply may want to expose yourself to more social opportunities and avoid becoming isolated and housebound.

Financial needs. Modifying your home and long-term care can both be expensive, so balancing the care you need with where you want to live requires careful evaluation of your budget.

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Preparing Yourself for Change 
Whether you’re considering home care services or relocating to a retirement community, planning your future housing needs often runs hand-in-hand with facing up to some loss in your level of independence. Understandably, the prospect of losing independence can be overwhelming for many older adults. It can bring with it feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, confusion and anger.

But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this. Most of us over the age of 65 will require some type of long-term care services. And there’s nothing to be ashamed about in admitting you need more help than you used to. After all, we’ve all had to rely on others at some point during our adult lives, be it for help at work, home or vehicle repairs, professional or legal services, or simply moral support. For many of us, independence is recognizing when it’s time to ask for help.

What are your Senior Housing Options?
There is a broad array of housing options available to seniors, from staying in your own home to specialized facilities that provide round-the-clock nursing care. The names of the different types of housing options can sometimes be confusing, as the terminology can vary from region to region. For example, the term “assisted living” can mean one thing in one state or country and something slightly different elsewhere. However, in general, the different types of senior housing are categorized according to the amount of care provided for activities of daily living and for medical care. When researching a senior housing option, make sure it covers your required level of care and that you understand exactly the facilities offered and the costs involved.

Check our members page for senior placement professionals with expert and current knowledge of local senior housing availability.

Senior housing option 1: Aging in place
Staying at home as you age has the advantage of keeping you in a familiar place where you know your neighbors and the community. There is a wide range of home care services that can help you maintain your independence within the comfort of your own home, from  in-home care to day care. You may also be able to make home repairs or modifications to make your life easier and safer, such as installing a wheelchair ramp, bathtub railings, or emergency response system.

Staying at home may be a good option if:
You have a close network of nearby family, friends, and neighbors
Transportation is easily accessible, including alternate transportation to driving
Your neighborhood is safe
Your home can be modified to accommodate your changing needs
Home and yard maintenance is not overwhelming
Your physical and medical needs do not require a high level of care
You have a gregarious personality and are willing and able to reach out for social support

Aging in place is a less effective senior housing option once your mobility is limited. Being unable to leave your home frequently and socialize with others can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression. So, even if you select to age in place today, it’s important to have a plan for the future when your needs may change and staying at home may no longer be the best option.

Senior housing option 2: The Village concept
The Village solution to aging in place is a relatively new concept, enabling active seniors to remain in their own homes without having to rely on family and friends. Members of a “village” can access specialized programs and services, such as transportation to the grocery store, home health care or help with household chores, as well as a network of social activities with other village members.

Senior housing option 3: Independent living
Independent living is a general name for any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors. Other terms include retirement communities, retirement homes, senior housing and senior apartments. These may be apartment complexes, condominiums or even free-standing homes. In general, the housing is friendlier to older adults—it’s more compact, easier to navigate and includes help with outside maintenance. Sometimes recreational centers or clubhouses are also available on site. 

You may want to consider independent living if:
You see needing only minor assistance with activities of daily living
You’d like a place that does not require a lot of maintenance and upkeep
You like the idea of socializing with peers and having activity options nearby

If you don’t want to live exclusively with others your own age, there are alternatives to an independent living community. You can consider moving in with a family member, or simply moving to a more accessible apartment or condo. The key is being in an area with good access to transportation, services and social networks. 

Senior housing option 4: Assisted living
Also known as residential care, board and care, congregate care, adult care home, adult group home, alternative care facility or sheltered housing. In general, assisted living is a housing option for those who need help with some activities of daily living, including minor help with medications. Costs tend to vary according to the level of daily help required, although staff is available 24 hours a day.

Some assisted living facilities provide apartment-style living with scaled-down kitchens, while others provide rooms. In some, you may need to share a room unless you’re willing to pay a higher cost. Most facilities have a group dining area and common areas for social and recreational activities.

An assisted living facility may be a good choice if:
You need more personal care services than are feasible at home or in an independent living retirement community
You don’t need the round-the-clock medical care and supervision of a nursing home

What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community?
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are facilities that include independent living, assisted living and nursing home care in one location, so seniors can stay in the same general area as their housing needs change over time. There is normally the cost of buying a unit in the community as well as monthly fees that increase as you require higher levels of care. It also can mean spouses can still be very close to one another even if one requires a higher level of care. 

Senior housing option 5: Nursing homes (also known as Skilled Nursing Facilities)
A nursing home is normally the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital. While they do provide assistance in activities of daily living, they differ from other senior housing in that they also provide a high level of medical care. A licensed physician supervises each resident’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Skilled nursing care and medical professionals such as occupational or physical therapists are also available. 

A nursing home may be a good choice if:
Both your medical and personal care needs have become too great to handle at home or in another facility. This may be due to a recent hospitalization or a chronic illness which has gradually been worsening. 
You need a higher level of care temporarily after a hospitalization, but it’s anticipated you will be able to return home or to another facility after a period of time.

Assessing your Senior Housing Needs and How Monrovia Providers Group Can Help
When evaluating your senior housing needs, consider the following issues:

Level of care. No one can predict the future. However, if you or a loved one has a chronic medical condition that is expected to worsen over time, it’s especially important to think about how you will handle health and mobility problems. What are common complications of your condition, and how will you handle them? Are you already at the point where you need daily help?

Location and accessibility. Even if you are completely independent at this time, circumstances can change. It pays to think a little about your current location and accessibility of your current home. For example, how far is your home from shopping, medical facilities or other services? If you can no longer drive, what kind of transportation access will you have? Can your home be easily modified? Does it have a lot of steps or a steep hill to navigate? Do you have a large yard that needs to be maintained?

Social support. How easy is it for you to visit friends, neighbors or engage in hobbies that you enjoy? If it becomes difficult or impossible for you to leave your home, you’ll become isolated and depression can rapidly set in.

Caregiving support. You will want to consider housing where both your current and future needs can be met. Even if family members can commit to caregiving, they might not be able to fill in all the gaps if physical and medical needs become extreme. The more thought you put into your future, the better chance your needs will be met.

Finances. Making a budget with anticipated expenses can help you weigh the pros and cons of your situation. Senior housing options like assisted living can be expensive, but extensive in-home help can also rapidly mount in cost, especially at higher levels of care and live-in or 24-hour coverage. You may be able to purchase insurance to offset some of the costs of long-term care. In the U.S., the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides some housing options for seniors under a certain income limit, while Medicaid covers the bulk of nursing home care for those with limited income and assets.

Need a professional assessment? Geriatric care managers can provide an assessment as well as assistance with managing your situation, including crisis management, interviewing in-home help or assisting with placement in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Check out our Community Services and Resources pages for helpful links that have proven useful in navigating through this new chapter in your life. Whether you are a senior seeking help, a child of a senior or a just a friend…there is help. Please feel free to contact a member of Monrovia Providers Group or do your own personal investigation of available resources. 

Foothills Resources for the Aging
A Non-Profit Association of Businesses and Agencies Passionately Serving the Aging Population in the Foothills.