As we approach AARP age (50), or when the high school kid at the grocery checkout assumes we get the “senior discount,” it’s time to seriously consider a future housing arrangement. Everyone’s physical and financial situation is at least a little different, and those situations will likely change over time. Understanding what senior resources are available will help you and your family make informed decisions.
Age in Place
Lots of people choose this option for as long as possible. The house is paid for. You can still safely drive a car. The grandchildren live in the area. Your support and social network of family and friends are intact. You are getting older, but you are still in reasonably good health, at least most of the time.
Aging in place worked fine for my parents until my father had a severe stroke in his mid-70s. They had a three-level home with one bathroom, and my dad was confined to the main level. When he fell behind the bathroom door, my mother had to call 911. The living situation was neither safe nor convenient for them or for us. You can’t time a stroke, but you can learn from experience, which my wife and I did. More on that in a moment.
Here are some housing arrangements seniors should consider before the medical crisis rather than during it or afterward.
There may be some age restrictions, but mostly the community is designed around both active adult activities and active-adult amenities.
Age-Restricted (Active-Adult) Communities
At the time my father had the stroke, and as we watched my mother wearing herself out caring for him, my wife and I lived in a four-story townhouse in the DC metro area. We could see the obvious disadvantages of living in a multi-floor home when an occupant has limited mobility. So, well before we needed to, we sold the townhouse and bought a single-story home in Sun City Carolina Lakes, an active-adult 55+ community just south of Ballantyne. Although my wife and I were 50 and 51 respectively, we found out that a small percentage of folks between age 50 and 55 could legally purchase a home in our community. Moreover, my wife’s parents, then in their 70s, bought a home two houses away from us, which added to their security and to our convenience. Yes, there are homes in our community with full basements and/or finished lofts, but we opted to right-size at around 2600 sq. ft. all on one level.
The following communities can provide limited services or multiple services co-located on a single community campus. The advantage of co-located services is that a resident does not need to relocate from a community as he or she transitions from independent living to assisted living or perhaps to temporary post-surgery rehabilitation or even to memory care. In fact, one resident of a couple might be in assisted living and the other a building over in memory care. There are obvious advantages to a multi-care community. Erickson communities, like Windsor Run in Matthews, offer premier services at all levels of need.
Most independent living communities (apartments and sometimes cottages) offer meal plans as well as provide full kitchens in the apartments. This arrangement offers the most flexibility for independent residents who, depending on the menu, may or may not feel like cooking. Moreover, almost all basic utilities are provided. The campus usually has 24-hour security and medical support. For seniors who desire the simplicity of apartment living and the convenience of nearby resources and amenities, an independent living community is the answer.
For residents who cannot manage the routine activities of senior life – shopping for groceries, preparing healthy meals, dressing, personal hygiene, medications, and such – assistance is a necessity, not a luxury or a convenience. Limitations may be due to compromised physical ability or diminished cognition. Either way, it isn’t safe to live without immediate help.
Memory care isn’t for normal distracted forgetfulness as we age. When the “senior moments” make us a hazard to self or to others, it’s time consider a memory care community. Yes, this is everyone’s worst nightmare when the family elects this best worst option; nevertheless, health and safety override the guilt of not being able to care for a mom, dad, husband, or wife who might otherwise be perfectly heathy.
Charlotte is indeed a marvelous retirement destination. We have numerous senior communities throughout the metro area to meet every social and medical need. Planning and timing are the keys to making what is for most of us an inevitable transition. Take some time. Look around. Talk with those who care about you and make informed decisions about your future.
Photo by Sam Wheeler