Housing Options for Seniors Who Can’t (Or Don’t Want) to Live Alone

More seniors who are 65 and older are electing to stay in their homes, but it is becoming more expensive to age in place.

A Harvard University study of housing for older adults found that many people face barriers that range from the physical – their homes aren’t adapted with ramps or wider doorways and have flights of steps that may be too much to climb – to the economic. It is costly for many Americans to maintain a house. The study found that in 2016, nearly 10 million households headed by a senior spent more than 30% of their income on housing.

Even for those who can afford to make the necessary home modifications and to hire outside help, other factors may drive their decision to move: Social isolation and the decline in the number of caregivers, family or otherwise, available to assist a person in his or her home. In Michigan, this may be especially true, as more seniors are concentrated in rural areas and have less access to services and housing options. In the northeast part of the state and the Upper Peninsula, adults over age 65 comprise around a third of the population.

Fortunately, there are community housing options that cover a wide variety of tastes – if not wallets. According to a Carescout® survey, the average monthly rent in the Detroit metro area for a one-bedroom, private apartment in an assisted living building in 2018 was $4,224. The cost of an in-home caregiver (44 hours/week) was $4,528. By 2028, those costs will rise to $5,277 and $6,085, respectively.

Subsidized housing is available for those with a lower income. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging or your local housing bureau for subsidized housing in your area.

Michigan licenses four kinds of care settings for older adults and adults with disabilities: nursing homes, memory care units, adult foster care homes and homes for the aged. To see if a place has a license, go to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website.

A look at typical senior housing options

Independent living communities are designed for seniors who are generally healthy and able to care for themselves. In most cases, residents can communicate with doctors and caregivers by themselves, prefer to live among their peers and no longer want to maintain a house.

Independent living options range from villas to one- and two-bedroom apartment homes to smaller, studio apartments. Some independent living communities offer the following amenities (some may be at an additional cost):

  • Housekeeping and maintenance services
  • Community activities
  • Full kitchens
  • 24-hour emergency response
  • Transportation services

Some independent living communities have an onsite home health care company that charge for their services. Keep in mind that while assisted living facilities do require a license, independent living facilities do not.

Assisted living is designed for people who do not require daily, skilled medical care but may need help with activities such as bathing, medication management, dressing, personal care, cooking, eating and housekeeping.  Many communities offer a variety of floor plans –private or shared rooms or studio apartments. Assisted living facilities are licensed by the state of Michigan as either adult foster care group home or a home for the aged and must meet certain requirements under that license. Licensed assisted living sites are required to provide the following services (some may be at additional cost):

  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Community dining
  • Transportation
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Coordinated trips and tours
  • Health assessments
  • 24-hour emergency care

Memory Care units and centers
While some assisted living buildings have dedicated memory care units, most are part of a nursing home.

People with progressive dementia such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease may eventually require round-the-clock supervision. They will need help with personal care and medication management and monitoring to ensure they don’t wander away.

Other services typically offered in these specialized units include:

  • A private or semi-private room
  • Three daily meals
  • Cognitive and physical therapies
  • Exercise activities
  • Social activities
  • Housekeeping and laundry

Continuing care retirement communities provide a spectrum of care in one location – from independent living and assisted living options to skilled nursing and memory care.

A senior moves to a continuing care community when he or she is still able to live independently. If additional services are required, the person can easily move within the same community to receive a different level of care. Because of the range of living options under one “roof,” continuing care residents remain part of a single community, often among longtime friends, as they age and require additional levels of care. Some communities may also offer addition levels of care, such as rehabilitation services and memory care or dementia care services.

The cost of a CCRC is high – an entrance fee of $10,000 up to $500,000 – and monthly maintenance fees that can range from $200 to more than $2,000.

Things to keep in mind while looking at housing options

Since independent living facilities and assisted living facilities may often provide some of the same services, it may not be obvious if a senior housing facility is operating as an independent living facility or an assisted living. Make sure you ask questions, understand the licensing requirements, and understand exactly what the facility provides and what costs will be. Ask:

  • What services are available?
  • What services are included in the price and what might cost extra?
  • Who will be delivering the service?
  • What options might be available as your loved one’s needs change?

A final word on affordability

Affordability continues to be a barrier to both staying put and moving out. The problem will become more acute as the population in the U.S. grows older overall.

The Harvard University study concludes that in order to allow seniors to thrive where they are, whether in an urban, suburban or rural area —more attention should be on integrating housing, services and health care. Researchers recommend more affordable housing, better public transportation opportunities, and more public health outreach are a few of the improvements that should be made to move toward accommodating an aging population.

This blog post is courtesy of the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit responsible for serving more than 700,000 people 60 and older in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. By providing community-based services from meals to in-home care, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B enables older adults and adults with disabilities to maintain their health and independence in their homes. More information is available by calling the AAA 1-B Information & Assistance Telephone line at 800-852-7795 or visiting www.aaa1b.org

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