There is no option that is perfect for everyone. Your financial situation and health will almost certainly affect your decision. You may also be influenced by where you currently live, as well as where other members of your family live ... aging parents, adult children, grandchildren and, in some cases, your siblings.
To help readers know their range of options, below is an overview of the types of housing that are available. Most of these choices are available in every region of the United States. Some of these may be senior housing options that you might not have previously considered. However, before making a final decision about where to retire, it is important that we know what choices are available. You can find links to more articles about most of these options by clicking on the tab above labeled: "Retire in the U.S." There are dozens of helpful articles that will give you more detailed information.
Senior Housing Options
Age in Place: One of the most popular choices is to remain exactly where you are. The Age in Place movement has become more popular and there are now a wide variety of resources to make it easier for people to continue to live in their own homes as they get older. Contact senior centers and home heath care facilities in your area to see what types of assistance are available. Many communities can help with low cost meals at near-by senior centers or Meals on Wheels delivered to your home; free or low-cost transportation; exercise programs; social programs and other activities that can make it easier for you to remain in your home. Many communities also offer a PACE program. This is short for Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly and offers the equivalent of high quality nursing home care in your own home.
Over-55 Communities: Del Webb, Lenair, Trilogy and several other builders have created over-55 communities in a wide variety of locations across the United States ... especially across the Sunbelt, although there are also options in northern states. These communities are more than subdivisions for senior citizens. They often pride themselves in the resort-style facilities they provide their residents ... golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses, exercise facilities, theaters and more. They are sometimes also called Active Adult Communities. My husband and I currently live in an over-55 community near Laguna Beach, California. It has been a very relaxing and pleasant option, since so much is done for us ... including lawn care and building maintenance.
Senior Apartments: Many seniors choose to move into senior apartments, especially if they wish to get away from maintaining a home. There are luxury apartments for middle class and affluent retirees, as well as subsidized apartments for moderate and low-income retirees. In subsidized apartments, the rent is usually based on a percentage of your income (on a sliding scale). Whether luxury or subsidized, most of these senior apartments provide special services for seniors ... social events, transportation, assistance with housekeeping, exercise facilities, swimming pools, etc. Sometimes the services are provided by outside agencies in the communities ... such as transportation to medical visits.
Accessory Dwelling Units or Granny Pods: Another option some Baby Boomers are choosing is to move in with their children. Instead of boomerang kids, many Baby Boomers are becoming boomerang parents. There are several valid reasons for this choice: you may be in poor health and need assistance with meals or dressing; your children may want you there to provide care for your grandchildren; it could be the best choice financially for either you or your children. One way to facilitate this when the parents have their own, separate living space. An accessory dwelling unit is the term used to describe a second living space in the home or on the property that will allow you some privacy while living with your children. This second living space can be an addition to the home, a remodeled basement or a separate apartment. Granny Pods, another possibility, are pre-fab senior homes that are set up on the property.
Board and Care Homes: These are group homes for people who don't need a nursing home, but cannot live independently, either. Many people like them because of their comfortable, homey atmosphere. Residents usually have a private room and bathroom, but share meals and common areas. I have known a variety of people who have chosen this option ... for reasons such as severe arthritis or mild mental impairment which make independent living difficult.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs): One new wave in senior housing is the CCRC. These are communities which you usually buy into by paying a large upfront fee, as well as a monthly fee. When you first move into the community, you live independently in your own home or apartment. The community guarantees that they will then take care of your needs for the rest of your life, whether that means you need some assistance in your own home or you need to move into an assisted living facility, a skilled nursing facility or a memory care home ... facilities which are usually located within the community. This is an especially popular option for couples who believe that one of them might have to move into a nursing facility, but not the other. In this way, they can still be close to each other. CCRCs have also become a popular option for healthy people who know they will not qualify for affordable long-term care insurance. Once they move into a CCRC, residents do not have to worry about their future care, regardless of what health problems they or their spouse may develop.
Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Memory Care Facilities: Many people who start out living in their own home or senior apartment will eventually need more care than they can easily receive in their personal residence. Those people may eventually move into one of the other types of senior housing mentioned above, or they may move directly into the type of assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care facility that is appropriate for their needs. These are usually paid for in one of three ways: Medicaid, long-term care insurance, or out-of-pocket payments made by the senior citizen or their family members. Of those, Medicaid (called MediCal in California) is the most common provider of funds for these programs, although there are financial asset and income restrictions on who can qualify for Medicaid. These facilities can be expensive ... ranging from $6,000 to $12,000 a month, depending on the region of the country and the amount of care the resident needs. That is why long-term care insurance is a good investment, especially if you believe there is even a possibility that you or your spouse could someday need to move into one of these facilities.
If you are interested in learning more about where to retire, common medical issues, long-term care, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare or more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.
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Photo credit: Photo of clubhouse at the Laguna Woods Village over-55 community was taken by author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.