From cohousing to multigenerational living, there are plenty of alternative eldercare solutions available these days.
These days, a person looking for senior housing – whether for independent living, assisted living, adult care home, or a long-term nursing facility – has more eldercare options than ever before, and there’s no reason to think that the growth will stop any time soon.
Simply put, the senior population is exploding. After all, the Baby Boomer generation got its name for a reason. It’s also true that improved healthcare and a better understanding of diet and exercise are contributing to the nation’s longevity.
Many of today’s best available senior-housing options are really a nod to the past: higher-density locales, homes suited for multiple generations, and community support and stimulation that keeps retirees active and healthy.
Until recently, U.S. senior-housing solutions have largely consisted of cookie-cutter developments demanding big upfront deposits from residents who might eventually face a new round of stress in seeking high-level, and usually expensive, nursing-home care elsewhere.
The current and coming generation of older adults realizes that they can make other choices about where and how to live. With intention and planning, people around the nation are creating ways to live in community, alternatives that give them more control, more companionship, more dignity, and choice than generations past, and better long term care plans for their elder loved ones.
It is already proving impossible for the eldercare housing industry to construct (or convert) enough brick and mortar structures into senior housing. That’s not to mention the practical problems in finding and training sufficient staff.
Today’s seniors are also becoming more of an economic force than ever before. This makes them of special interest to anyone involved in any branch of the eldercare industry, especially housing.
As numerous studies have shown, retirees contribute significantly more to a given community than they take away. Not only do they spend money, but they may also do volunteer work, making them attractive tenants.
Few seniors have ever been thrilled at the idea of moving into anything that could be described as a “facility.” To live in the home of one’s own choosing has generally been seen as the ideal. Now that retirees have the sheer numbers and the money, they have gained leverage and are beginning to wield it. And if they need help deciding the best elder care option for them, the eldercare solutions experts of My Elder are here to help them.
The world of alternative eldercare solutions to living a great life has never been riper than it is now. We at My Elder are forming partnerships with innovators in this space; we are here to help families find the best elder care options for their loved ones, including long term planning, assisted living placement, and nursing home placement, among others. We are exploring opportunities in forward-thinking countries who are faced with American and European ExPats looking for a fresher view on continuing to live a purposeful and enriching life as elders. There is an explosion of ideas out there. If we don’t continue to explore these unique opportunities, we will miss the boat and be stuck with stale and useless ideas. The future is now.
Here, is a brief guide to what some of these creative options are called and how they work:
Unlike a commune (famously personified by 1960s-70s era hippies and flower children), cohousing arrangements rarely come with a political or cause-directed agenda and they do not involve a shared ownership of property.
In a cohousing situation each person or family purchases a residence — be it an apartment, townhouse or even a single-family house — which contains everything a typical home would have (i.e., a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room). However, the residences are linked to a shared space, such as a yard and gardens, and a large common room, dining area and kitchen that can accommodate group meals or gatherings.
The point of cohousing is community and being able to live independently without living entirely alone, a setup that is ideal for many elders. Cohousing setups are typically intergenerational and don’t involve staff-provided services, but they can be age-specific. A few “senior cohousing communities” have been built, and some allow residents to hire household and elder care services as needed.
In these arrangements a person who has a home may invite a friend or family member, or even a tenant, to move in and help with expenses and chores. The setup might involve people of the same age or generation and the arrangement is one of peers residing together for companionship and cost-efficiency. Sometimes two or more friends actually purchase or rent a residence together and become housemates.
Another house-sharing scenario can revolve around the needs of an elderly property owner who doesn’t want to relocate but can no longer care for herself or a large home entirely on her own. A younger person (and younger can even mean someone who’s 60 or older) may be willing to provide some elder caregiving and transportation assistance in exchange for affordable or flexible housing. If so, the two can make for well-matched housemates.
These types of member-owned, resident-governed nonprofit communities are common in certain cities (New York for one) and are generally not age-specific
A co-op can be made up of housing that ranges from apartments to single-family houses to mobile homes. The co-op board, typically consisting of elected residents, decides what shared services the co-op will provide (such as social activities and maintaining the grounds) and often has approval rights over potential home buyers. Mobile home cooperatives are spreading in rural areas, and senior housing cooperatives have taken root, particularly in the Midwest.
Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (also referred to by the acronym NORC)
Neighborhoods or locations that just happen to have a significant number of older people (hence, the community’s commonality is naturally occurring or organic) create a network of shared support services. By working together, each person is enabled to safely and comfortably “age in place.
Niche Retirement Communities
A traditional retirement community is an age-restricted, usually 55-plus community that enables older adults to live independently but with access to social activities and community amenities, such as yard maintenance services or fitness and recreation facilities. (Retirement destinations such as Florida and Arizona have many such places.)
A “niche” or “affinity” retirement community is one where residents share a common interest, religion or identity. The link may revolve around, for example, shared ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupation, hobby.
Founded in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston in 2002, the Village model of “neighbors-helping-neighbors” provides a way for older adults to stay in their homes and community.
There are upwards of 125 Village communities throughout the nation today, with 100 more getting started, most operating via a mix of paid staff and volunteers who assist older residents with everything from transportation and technology training to home repairs and grocery shopping. Villages frequently provide social activities and classes as well. Members pay annual dues and are encouraged to volunteer themselves.
“Multigenerational living” is a fancy term for a common strategy: seniors opting to live with younger family members who can help them save on housing costs, assist with medical needs, and keep them company. According to the Pew Research Center, it’s also on the rise in the United States — 32.3 million Americans lived in households with two adult generations in 2016, up from 27.4 million in 2012. The biggest considerations: potential downsides such as whether you’ll have enough privacy, and how your new role in the family will work. Will you become a de facto babysitter for grandkids? Are you comfortable ceding your role as head of the household to your kids? Be sure everyone is on the same page before taking the plunge.
Retiring on a cruise ship seems like a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, but life on a big boat may actually be cheaper than the cost of assisted living, according to The Motley Fool, even accounting for on-shore storage of belongings that are too big for a suitcase. Discounts for second passengers, senior price breaks, long-term cruising discounts, and credit card points can all make it even more economical — plus, you get to see the world and enjoy cruise-ship amenities. Of course, there are several potential pitfalls, including the fact that cruise life is incompatible with major medical needs and some eldercare solutions may not be readily available.
My Elder specializes in advocating for elders who are seeking the best care possible.In doing this, we are helping elders prolong their lives and experience positive aging. Call us at 212-945-7550 to talk to us about, finding the right home for your loved ones, preventing crisis and abuse, and ensuring they receive the best care possible to prolong your loved one’s life.
Photo Credits Jilbert Ebrahimi Photo and Ben Shanks Photo