senior and caregiver standing on terrace senior and caregiver standing on terrace

Senior Living Options Encompass Various Definitions of Home

With baby boomers surging the nation’s record number of seniors, ever more adults age 65 and over are weighing various definitions of home.

Most seniors prefer to age at home, where their memories are and where they are most comfortable. However, some seniors choose to downsize rather than hold onto a space too large or expensive to live in alone. For others, the new normal is living with an adult child or other family member. Moving into senior apartments, an assisted living center or a retirement community are options as well. Some seniors are following new senior housing market trends by being part of a home-sharing or cohousing arrangement or joining a senior village.

If an older person or couple is fortunate enough, then leaning into a new living accommodation is a choice. But circumstances sometimes force a new arrangement on an older adult. That’s why, whenever possible, it’s best if older adults start planning for how they want to live as they grow older well before events decide for them. That can include provisions for everything from the disposition of a home to a long-term care plan. If seniors have adult children or other close relatives, it’s a good idea to clue them in on any plans or preferences so there are no surprises. Right at Home offers a RightConversations Guide to help families discuss and plan for aging and reducing stress and discord.

The right lifestyle fit for a senior will vary depending on health, finances, transportation, location and other factors that determine what constitutes someone living their best life. Smart aging means taking a long view of life in middle age to try and stay ahead of or make preparations for the changes that come with aging.

Aging in Place

As appealing as living alone under one’s own roof can be, sometimes keeping up with home maintenance and repairs, not to mention renovations for accessibility features, entails major expenditures that can be burdensome for many seniors who have not planned for it. Location and transportation can also be barriers to optimal quality of life because seniors often reside in areas some distance away from family and from basic essential services such as grocery stores and health care providers. If seniors no longer drive, then they can wind up isolated and in danger of poor self-care.

Professional in-home caregivers can aid older persons who are aging in place with help like shopping, meal preparation, bathing, hygiene care, mobility assistance, medication reminders, and many other services including those for conditions such as dementia. Download Right at Home’s Aging in Place Guide for tips and practical advice as you plan for this option.

Bunking With the Kids

Moving in with an adult child or family member or even next door to a relative can be a solution for seniors in some instances. In these cases, respite services offered by professional in-home care agencies can help provide a needed break to families.

Assisted Living Centers/Retirement Communities

An established senior living trend is assisted living or retirement centers. This represents a bridge between fully autonomous aging in place and a community of fellow seniors, with some built-in health care and well-being services. Its high cost puts this out of reach of many seniors. Some who can afford it choose not to because they dislike the institutional feel and prefer to age at home.

Home Sharing

An alternative lifestyle picking up new momentum is home sharing. This is where an older homeowner or tenant is matched with a housemate, often another senior, in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The homeowner/tenant may get help with the mortgage/rent, the upkeep, and things like grocery shopping and meal preparation. Or the pairing may be based solely on companionship. These arrangements are available through home share programs (available in only a few states thus far) that vet potential matches for compatibility and safety. Home sharing is viewed as one answer in helping address a coming senior homeless crisis expected to peak when baby boomers age out in the next decade.

Cohousing

Cohousing is another senior living trend gaining popularity. It works like this: Like-minded individuals seeking a homelike environment without the hassle of oversized living spaces band together to form a community. The group acquires land and builds a housing development or buys an existing building and converts it to multifamily residential living. These are generally multigenerational communities that share a common space for meals, classes, meetings and other activities as well as communal gardens, walkways and recreation/fitness facilities. Cohousing places great stock in socialization among members as neighbors. Senior-only cohousing developments are emerging for those who want all the amenities of senior living without young adults and children in the mix.

Senior Villages

Perhaps the real future of elder living is the senior village movement. In exchange for annual dues, residents get access to services ranging from volunteer drivers, taxis or ride-hailing to invites to social gatherings and arts-culture visits. Residents get a vetted, Angi-like guide for things like lawn care experts, mechanics, residential contractors and home health providers. Village discounts sometimes apply.

Inherent in all these senior living scenarios is people residing together or in proximity to each other within age-defined affinity groups. In some cases, communities are created for older adults with shared experiences or backgrounds such as retired educators or artists.

Those with older loved ones navigating this landscape can help by being supportive, which means carefully listening to and respecting their wishes. The important thing to remember is that older adults want to live their own best life moving forward. Caring family members should want that for them, too. The more open and honest everyone is about the senior living options that make sense, the better the chance the right option will be found.

Right at Home offers scaled levels of in-home care to assist seniors who want to age in place. Professionally trained caregivers can also be a source of respite for families who are feeling the stress of family caregiving. Respite care can provide that relief, allowing family members the ability to rest, relax and recharge knowing that their elderly loved one is being cared for with dignity and respect.

Find a Right at Home location near you to speak with one of our professional care teams, or share this article with someone who is planning where they want to age.

Author Leo Adam Biga

Leo Adam Biga is a veteran freelance journalist and author who writes stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions. The Omaha native and University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate is the author of “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” Follow his work at https://www.facebook.com/LeoAdamBiga.

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