Moving Toward the Future: The Senior’s Downsizing Guide

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Home should be a warm and comfortable place, no matter your age. Yet, as you grow older, the concept of what is considered “comfortable,” evolves. Sometimes the home you have loved for decades, becomes more of a burden than a blessing, and your health, energy, and willingness to maintain the home just isn’t what it used to be. That just means it’s time to find somewhere new that suits your needs.

Housing Options to Consider

For seniors, the options are plentiful. But instead of being overwhelmed by the variety of homes you could buy, weigh the pros and cons of each type to find the perfect fit. Here are a few of the many options:

  • Condos: Condos provide a literal built-in community. Surrounded by neighbors, the community feels a little less lonely and a lot more active. They typically have amenities like lawn care, or trash pick-up services that relieve the owners of strenuous home maintenance. As far as the financial side is concerned, condos are usually a little cheaper than the cost of a house. The insurance rate is also usually less expensive because it only requires coverage for the inside of the condo, since the outside is owned by the association. But keep in mind that you may be charged additional fees for the upkeep of the community.
  • Townhomes: Townhomes typically provide a similar community aspect as that of a condominium, but are not organizationally structured in the same way. For example, sometimes lawn care and apartment-like amenities are not usually offered, so the resident may need to be a little more independent or willing to hire services on their own. The upside to choosing a townhome is that the association fees are usually less expensive, since the management of the exterior is your responsibility.
  • New-Build Homes: New-build homes come with the option to design your very own layout. If you need a home with no staircases, a handicap accessible bathroom, or an open floor plan for ease of walking, you get to make it all happen. The difficulties associated with a custom home are the higher costs and the additional expenses of appliances. However, if you have equity in your current house and/or have paid for it in full, then this option is definitely feasible and can stay in the family for years to come.
  • Pre-Owned Home: Sometimes pre-owned homes are a more financially doable option for a senior on a fixed income. A smaller home, in a quiet neighborhood can be the independent lifestyle that an older adult is looking for, without the demanding upkeep of a large house. These homes are also more likely to be move-in ready than a brand new home. The only catch is that older pre-owned homes may need unexpected repairs, which could make a surprise dent in your pocketbook.
  • 55+ Communities: Some communities have an age requirement of 55 and up. The peaceful, peer-friendly living environment is quite the draw for many older adults. These communities provide a wide range of maintenance and leisure amenities. Each community is different in scale and services, so make sure you read the fine print and applicable fees. (There are also a few other  things to consider before you select this option.)

Of course, before you make any final decisions for which home is right for you, talk to a lender about your financial options. Be prepared to discuss your budget, and ask what type of loan you should consider. After the initial meeting, set a budget to help save for your down-payment, closing costs, and moving supplies. Then begin to prepare your current house to be someone else’s new home.

Plan B

Sometimes living on your own just isn’t an option whether it is due to your health, mobility, or personal choice. In this scenario, an assisted living facility will provide you with the help and assistance you need. As you begin your search, start by considering your needs and level of care.

Assisted living puts an emphasis on maintaining your independence, and offers the opportunity for you to age in place in a location that resembles home. If you require around the clock assistance or have a complicated medical condition, a nursing home may be more suitable. Don’t forget that assisted living comes at a price, and because it often isn’t covered by Medicare, you’ll need to take a good look at your budget.

As with any new home, it is important that you visit (several times if possible). Speak with the director, staff, and residents to get a true feel for the facility’s environment and culture. Don’t forget to ask about what services are available, as well as daily activities and opportunities for socialization.

If you are a friend or relative trying to get your senior loved one to settle into an assisted living facility, the key is patience. Your loved one has lived on their own for years, and they may struggle to accept help and change. Keep them involved in all the decisions that are made, and allow them the freedom to decorate their room as they see fit, making it as homey and welcoming as possible.

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Infographic courtesy of Redfin.com

Moving to an assisted living facility means less space than you are accustomed to. Rather than having to permanently part with some of your treasured items, perhaps you can downsize your items by assigning them to a different member of the family before you have to move them to your new home. Turn the downsizing process into a family adventure and make the most of this new stage of your life.

Any sort of move is a huge change, whether it is into a smaller home or an assisted living facility. Take comfort in the fact that although you might be downsizing your home, you are growing into new memories.

Author
Jim and his wife, Caroline, built ElderAction.org after becoming caregivers for their aging parents.

Renae Kettler, August 1, 2017

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