Housing Needs of Seniors
Housing is vital to a senior’s health and safety. Eighty percent of people aged 50 and over own their own homes and 92% of them want to age in place and never move out. For those fortunate to own their own homes, there are still rising costs that are sometimes difficult to manage such as household maintenance, major repairs, lawn care services, and rising local property taxes. In addition, many people have homes that are not suitable for frail elderly living and may need modifications in order to age in place. It is also costly to heat and cool a large home for just one or two people. Many people live in homes that were designed for larger families.
For others, housing presents a serious challenge and one that is expected to grow. Right now, just over 2 million elderly people live in senior housing projects as renters. And in 2010, the US had 44,000 homeless seniors. Currently, there is one apartment unit available to 10 on a waiting list hoping to get in. This problem is growing because of two trends.
First, the elder population is growing fast and expected to double its current number by 2030 to nearly 70 million. People are also living longer and this means there will be more seniors with needs for assistance in daily living activities and chronic diseases as well. The second factor is that while the numbers of seniors rises exponentially, the funding for new building projects for housing seniors is not.
How to Deal with Housing Issues for Older Persons
The first task for many of us is simply to plan ahead. For those still in their own home, looking at future modification needs and repairs - and addressing them early on - can spread the cost over time and prepare a person for later years. A safety check on a house is a great place to start and there are also organizations like Rebuilding Together and HomeMods.org that offer great tips and services including helping you find financing for home modifications.
Making Home Modifications
There are now professionals called "Certified Aging in Place Specialists" or "CAPS." If you can find one in your area, these people can come and look at your house and work with you to make custom home modifications. You may also need to just work with a building contractor.
No matter who does the work, make sure you shop around first and get word of mouth references for contractors that have done well with other people you know. Then get several bids for the same job to compare prices. When you go to hire one of them, put down the price and the expected work in writing so that you have some kind of contract for services and then make sure to pay a large portion of the price only after the work is completed. Scam artists exist and seniors are sometimes a vulnerable target because earlier generations often still take a person at his word. One of the most typical scams is to accept all the money for a job, start on it and then never really finish it. So, that is why you need to withhold a large portion of the payment to give only at the completion of the project.
Home loans and sometimes even Medicare or Medicaid - if modifications are deemed medically necessary - are some ways to look into paying for these home modifications. Also, check with your local Area Agency on Aging for funds to help with certain types of modifications.
Innovation in Senior Housing
Some people are making new decisions to share homes. For instance, two couples, that are managing a large house each, are choosing to put one up for sale and share a residence. This creates more social opportunities, cost sharing, housework reduction, and much lower costs per couple. There are also interesting “virtual” assisted living situations where several separate households share the cost of a transportation van for rides, entertainment services, lawn service contracts, etc. By grouping several household costs, there is an overall efficiency and cost reduction. While “granny flats” or “mother-in-law” suites have been around a while, they are clearly making a comeback as well. Of course, several seniors also may consider moving into assisted living facilities or simply moving in with relatives. For some with more extensive needs, finding long term care facilities may be the solution.
For those with serious financial housing challenges, they need to go to their assistance office and learn more about which programs may be able to help. Again, planning ahead before a crisis is vital. To find out about such programs in your area, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development website and look for your local office. This website has resources to also guide you to a housing counselor, look for loans, and find ways to avoid foreclosure on a home.