Financial and Social Considerations for Aging in Place Verses Moving into a Community

You have finally reached the Golden Years or are about to and are considering your options for the future. One of the biggest decisions you will be faced with is how to live within your budget while enjoying yourself, thriving and continuing to experience what life has to offer. Where you will live and your housing choices can have a huge impact on your health, longevity and your happiness quotient.  It is a good idea to sit down and evaluate what you want from life, your budget and where you might like to live.  Make a checklist of the things you like to do and then list which living option accommodates your goals as well as the activities that you like to participate in. Once you have spent some time connecting with what you want from retirement and mapping that out it is time to sit down with your financial advisor, accountant or trusted friend or family member and review your finances.  You will need a realistic evaluation of where you are at financially and which option will best work within your financial situation and still support your life plan.

Things to consider aging in place…

The value of your home and how much equity you have. The location of your home and whether the value likely to go up or down over the next 10-30 years. Should you consider selling or can you rent it and use the rental income to supplement a move into a community.   Is your home in need of repairs and an update or has it been maintained and updated recently?  Do you foresee any huge expenses upcoming and if so, how much do you need to budget for that? Is your community a supportive environment for seniors or is it primarily families with school age children? 

Taxes.  What is the property tax rate where you live?  Is it sustainable with price adjusted increases for inflation or will you likely be priced out of your home at some point down the road?

Climate.

Do you enjoy the climate where you live, or would you like to move somewhere else?  Does the climate hurt or help any current medical conditions and where might you move that would help your health?  Do you enjoy physical activities in this climate, or do you spend most of your time indoors inactive due to the climate?  Consider how the climate and its impact on your activity levels will impact your health over time and how a more suitable climate might encourage you to be more active.    Where are you located and is your area prone to natural disasters?  While you may have lived there and weathered the storm, things could look different when considering aging in an area where you may be faced with the destruction or damage to your home, moving out for an extended period, procuring contractors to rebuild and finding housing elsewhere while you wait. What is the cost of insuring against disasters, and will you be able to afford that going forward?

The Possibility of Living Alone.

Are you married or single?  If you are married, consider the possibility that you or your spouse may pass away or suffer from an illness requiring care.  Are you able to afford the home on your own with a reduced income, or will you be receiving life insurance?  Are you willing to stay in your home alone if your spouse were to pass away or would you prefer to be in a social environment with more people to engage with?  Are you able to take in a renter as a possible supplemental source of income?  Does your community allow for this, and do you have adequate space to share with a renter? 

Community Considerations…

Cost and Budget.

While 55 and over communities look enticing with a plethora of engaging activities, be sure and carefully consider the cost.  Is your price locked in for a period and how much can the costs go up?  Are the activities and amenities included or will there be upcharges and fees to participate in the things you like to do.  What happens if there is damage to your community and you must move out for a period?  Will the community help you find a place to live and who pays for this?  Will they continue to bill you if your home is unlivable or if you fall ill and spend an extended period in the hospital and rehab.

Social Interaction Level.

If you are used to living in a single-family home, will you be able to adjust to having people around you all the time, and how much privacy will you have in a community.  You will be living in closer quarters and may need to consider how well the rooms are soundproofed in order to ensure your comfort.  See if the community you are looking at will allow you to stay over as a guest so you can experience this firsthand. Is there a possibility of living in a single family home inside the community of your choice?  If so, look at your budget and be sure and consider the cost of the community plus the cost of maintaining your own residence.  How much will the community help with the maintenance and upkeep and how easy is it to switch to a higher level of care if needed.

Visitors and Pets.

How much autonomy do you have regarding whether you can have people visit and stay over?  Will you need to provide a separate room in your community, or can they stay with you?  If you have a pet or would like one, is your community pet friendly?  Will they help you care for your pet if you become sick or injured or help to find supplemental help.  Are there any pet friendly amenities such as a dog park or walking trails to accommodate your pets outdoor space needs?  Can you fence your yard, or get an electric fence if needed?

Food and Dining Preferences.

Many people have specialized meal plans to support health considerations and food likes and dislikes.  How accommodating is your community regarding meals?  Can you opt out of the meal plan and cook for yourself but supplement occasionally with in house dining.  Do they employ a chef or professional cook and what type of food do they typically serve?  If you don’t want to or can’t dine in, will they bring the food to your room, or do you have to pick it up?

Medical Considerations.

Do they have onsite nurses and doctors and is there an upcharge?  Will they help with medication and physical therapy? How close are you to doctors and will they provide transportation if needed? Can you easily switch to a higher level of care should you need greater levels of assistance as you age, or will you have to move?

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