The vast majority of Baby Boomers currently live independent lives in our own homes. Most of us are still able to take care of housework, yard work, shopping and meal preparation. It may be hard to believe, but this will not always be true. What does the future have in store?
Our Future Housing Needs
Over the next ten to twenty years, the housing needs of Baby Boomers are going to change. Based on what typically happens as people reach their late seventies and early eighties, it is likely that most of us will find it increasingly difficult to live independently.
Statistically, about two-thirds of us will need long-term care. About one-fifth of us will need long-term care for more than five years.
If you want to have a choice in the type of care you receive when the time comes, you need to educate yourself about your choices while you are still in your late sixties or early seventies. Even if you never need this information yourself, it is likely that one of your near relatives will need it, and you will be equipped to assist them. With this thought in mind, I would like to highly recommend this book:
"Your Senior Housing Options" (available using this link from Amazon)
I did not write this book, nor do I know the author. However, it is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to have a voice in their future housing choices as they age, rather than being dependent on their children to make decisions for them.
Even if you do not purchase the book, there are certain things everyone needs to consider when thinking about where to live as you age.
The Seven Deadly Sins in Finding Senior Housing
Among the information you will learn in this book are the things you do NOT want to do as you age. Below is a brief summary of them.
You do NOT want to:
* Wait until you are desperate and need housing immediately;
* Base your choice solely on the cheapest place you can find;
* Not have a plan for your long-term care costs;
* Judge your senior housing solely on its outward appearance, apartment size and location;
* Not know which questions to ask;
* Believe whatever the sales person says, without making sure their promises are written in the contract (or not realize that you are dealing with a sales person and not a helpful consultant);
* Fail to get the opinions of your friends and relatives when you evaluate your choices.
What Should You Be Doing Now?
In addition to reading the above book, it would be advisable to start planning for your later years. Those who are planning ahead are more likely to have long-term care insurance. They are also more likely to visit the various assisted living and long-term care communities in their area. Most of these facilities have luncheons and tours which will give you the opportunity to see their model apartments and learn more about the costs associated with living in them. You can also find out what amenities they offer.
In addition, visit your friends who have moved to one of the senior apartments, assisted living or nursing care facilities in your area. Your friends will appreciate the visit and you will be able to decide which communities you like the best.
Personally, I have had friends who have moved into a wide variety of facilities in our area. It is amazing to me how different they are. To be honest, some of them look and smell like hospitals, especially the skilled nursing facilities. Others are more like upscale senior apartment complexes with meals that are served restaurant-style in elegant dining rooms. Some even have the option of requesting "room service" when you are ill or don't feel as if you can get down to the dining room.
Nearly all of these communities have planned activities and special events, but you need to make sure that they have the types of events that interest you. Some of them, for example, are sponsored by religious groups. In this case, make sure you are comfortable with the religious affiliation that supports that particular assisted living facility.
Aren't All Assisted Living Communities Pretty Much the Same?
NO! There are enormous differences in the types of communities that are available. Here are just a few of the major differences you should know about:
* Some of them require that you buy into the community at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars ... which frequently comes from the equity in your current home (assuming you have not taken out a large reverse mortgage). However, these communities will usually guarantee that they will take care of you for the rest of your life, even if you need skilled nursing or a memory care facility. They are also called a CCRC, or Continuing Care Retirement Community and can be an excellent choice for people who do not have long-term care insurance. They provide peace-of-mind to the person who wants to be sure that will be cared for, no matter what happens in the future.
* Other senior housing communities have no down-payment or buy-in requirement. You pay for them month-to-month on a rental basis. Often, these communities contain both people who need assistance as well as residents who moved there long before they developed a medical issue that forced them into assisted living. Sometimes people move into a senior community simply because they do not want to cook any longer. In other situations, one spouse is still healthy but the other needs care. These senior housing communities may or may not have skilled nursing and memory care facilities, so make sure you choose one that meets your specific needs. Most of these rental communities will accept your long-term care insurance when you need extra assistance (assuming you have purchased it). This is usually not an option in the communities which require a large down payment, although there may be exceptions.
This is an important consideration: If you purchased long-term care insurance, a rental assisted living community will probably be your best future option. If you did not purchase long-term care insurance, buying into a CCRC community that promises to care for you for the rest of your life is an excellent option. Just make sure you fully understand the services that are offered by the community your choose.
* Some assisted living communities and nursing homes accept Medicaid and these are ideal choices for those people who have a low retirement income and few assets. Like the other types of facilities, they may or may not have the specific amenities and services that appeal to you. Even low-income patients have options, so it is wise to explore them in advance. I have known people who loved their Medicaid-covered assisted living facilities, so keep an open mind.
The quality of all these facilities varies widely. As a result, you want to have plenty of time to visit them, talk to current residents and discuss the costs, amenities and care you would receive in each one. This is why you do NOT want to wait until the need arises before you start investigating your choices.
What Happens to People Who Do Not Plan Ahead?
Most of us don't like to believe that we will ever need to move into an assisted living facility and, if you are lucky, you may be one of the one-third of Baby Boomers who never needs this extra care, even on a short-term basis. However, it is smart to have a plan, just in case.
Everyone should have the name of a place they can afford and that they believe they would like. Perhaps it is one where some of your friends already live.
If you do not plan ahead, you could find yourself in the unfortunate position where your adult children or other relatives make the decision for you, and they are unlikely to have any idea where your friends already live. In addition, they may not know which community is the most appealing to you. Finally, they may have no idea which items from your home you would like to take with you. Take the time to plan ahead and you are much more likely to be happy with your living situation, when the time comes.
If you are interested in additional information on where to retire, long-term care, financial planning, medical issues that can arise in retirement, and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
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Photo of Clubhouse at Laguna Woods Village, an independent living senior community in Southern California, is property of author, Deborah-Diane; all rights reserved.