For more from Hazel, please check out www.agingwellness.org
By Hazel Bridges
Most of us want to remain at home as we grow older. With that in mind, many seniors are looking at aging in community. It’s a smart option to ensure you receive the support you need while remaining independent. Here’s how it works.
What is “aging in community?” Aging in community describes a number of innovative ways for seniors to remain in their own homes as they grow older, in spite of the toll age may take on their bodies and minds. There are several versions of aging in community to consider:
- Home sharing. Home sharing is just like it sounds. Seniors come together as roommates to share housing arrangements, living expenses, home maintenance and to support one another.
- Intentional communities. These are planned residential neighborhoods, which often share social activities, interests and values.
- Senior villages. In this case, seniors stay in their own homes and pay a fee for staff and volunteers to provide assistance such as transportation, grocery shopping and tech support.
- Naturally occurring retirement communities. These neighborhoods, apartment complexes and other communities evolve as younger people move out and older people move in. Organizations step in to provide services to the senior population.
- Family-Owned Accessory Dwelling Units. Also commonly termed “granny flats,” these are basically apartments attached to or on the grounds of a single-family home. Usually a family member or other caregiver helps the senior or seniors.
Safe environment. Wherever you decide to live, your living environment can greatly impact your ability to age in place safely. Sometimes simple home modifications can greatly enhance independence and safety, such as improved lighting, eliminating trip hazards and lowering the temperature on the water heater. Installing lever-style door knobs and faucet handles throughout the home improves access if dexterity or mobility wanes.
Bathrooms are notorious for slips and falls with the combination of slick surfaces, soap and water and people shifting position while using them. The New York Times reports the risk for a bathroom-related injury rises as we grow older, so improvements to the space should be a priority. Some of the modifications you can make are quite simple, such as installing a taller toilet, adding traction strips to the floor and installing grab bars and rails so you can catch yourself if you lose your balance.
Funds and resources. While many seniors choose to change their living arrangements for socializing, to support one another, and for an easier lifestyle, many seniors choose to make changes for financial reasons. If you need to modify a living environment for aging in place, you have several resources to help finance the endeavor:
Your local Area Agency on Aging can sometimes provide grants and other assistance for home modifications and repairs.
Veterans can usually receive assistance through the Veterans Administration for making home adaptations to help them remain independent.
Some seniors pursue a reverse mortgage, which is a good option under certain circumstances. There are several kinds of reverse mortgages and you should do some research to make sure it’s an appropriate choice for you.
Medicaid offers a program called Money Follows the Person, which is designed to allow seniors to move from nursing homes or assisted living facilities back into a residence. This could be their own home or a shared space with other seniors or family members.
Also keep in mind that most home modifications relating to an aging-related disability are tax deductible. In addition, home modifications that increase the value of your home are also tax deductible and some improvements could qualify as medical expenses. You should discuss your particular situation with your financial advisor.
Aging in community is a smart choice for many seniors. There are several options available and there is no one right answer. Thankfully, you do have choices and can remain independent and safe throughout your golden years.