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Which Type of Housing Is Best for You?

Consider the needs, wants, and personality of your family member when choosing housing

In this column, I've noted that caregivers often need information to help their loved ones. This is particularly true when it comes to choosing a new place to call "home".

As the Peter, Paul, & Mary song goes, "Home is where the heart is," and as a caregiver, your goal is to have your loved one be content with his or her new home. You have to be sure that the housing provides the support your loved one needs to live safely and comfortably while aging.

For some people, staying in their current homes works. For others, there may come a time when everyone agrees that a different housing option is needed.

The good news is that today, there are more and more housing options to choose from.The bad news is that today, there are more and more options to choose from.

The trick is to make the right choice—matching the housing to the needs, wants, and personality of your older family member. I'll explain some of the options, so you will know a little more about each and will be better prepared to help yourself or your loved one make an informed decision.

Specialized Housing Choices

Age-Restricted Communities - Also known as "active adult" or "[age] 55+" communities, these places cater to older adults who have a common preference to not have younger folks around. There is usually a mix of housing types—single-family homes, townhomes, or apartments—often connected by sidewalks or paths. There is a focus on an active lifestyle, so many communities have well-equipped clubhouses and other amenities, such as tennis courts and golf courses.

Active-adult communities are most appropriate for older people who are healthy, independent, and interested in the social benefits of living among peers. If your loved one considers this kind of residential setting, be sure to ask about regulations regarding adult children or grandchildren moving in with residents. Many age-restricted communities don't allow multigenerational living arrangements.

Senior Apartments - Age-restricted apartments are typically available to people age 55 and older. Although some are luxury apartments with high price tags, many are priced at market rates or below. Some are even built specifically for low-income people. Because the units are constructed for older adults, they are often designed to be accessible and include transportation services. Many offer recreational and social services, too.

Cohousing - "Cohousing" designates "a type of 'intentional neighborhood' in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of the community." Residents privately own their homes and do not pool their incomes, but there are common facilities for daily use. Decisions are made cooperatively, rather than by top-down hierarchy or majority-rules voting. Cohousing communities are vibrant places where there are many opportunities for multigenerational interactions and social connections. In elder or senior cohousing communities, the "intentional community" is only for older people. Homes and facilities are designed for aging in place, and residents often share the cost of health aides or an on-site health-care provider.

Next: Planning for the future >>

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