Deciding Where to Live and How to Get Support
Seniors have a variety of choices about where to live. They include living any place and a variety of special communities for seniors. Where you live determines access to family, friends and at times a variety of support services. My paper “Improving Retirement by Integrating Family, Friends, Housing and Support: Lessons Learned from Personal Experience” offers my observations about decisions that my family and some of my contacts made, and some of the lessons we learned. The Paper is available for download by clicking here. This paper was published as part of the Society of Actuaries Monograph Managing the Impact of Long Term Care Needs and Expense on Retirement Security.
Housing options that include support include independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes. A combination of these options can be found in a Continuing Care Retirement Community. Many people prefer to stay in their homes, and not move. But stairs, yard work, maintenance and a need for support and/or to be close to family may push them into moving.
The paper provides a case study showing how my mother who had Parkinson’s disease went through various stages and gradually needed more help until ultimately she was in a nursing home. She moved from a suburban home to independent living to assisted living to the nursing home. It shows the triggers for moving, the types of help needed, and explains how finances were managed. For example, she went from being able to use the phone, to being able to call out only if the number was programmed into a big button phone, to being able to answer but not make calls, to being able to talk on the phone a little if someone brought it to her, and to not being able to talk on the phone at all. She made the first decision to move herself after participating in a study group looking at types of options, and the second one herself, but with the help of a social worker/consultant who presented options to her and helped her think about the options, to the family making the decision after the assisted living staff could no longer care for her.
The paper brings in the experiences of a number of people and points out that are issues not anticipated as things progress. For example, when someone moves to a senior community with support, that might mean getting needing to get a new physician who provides support in that location. For most of the options, it is necessary for the person to go and visit physicians. Family members or someone else may need to assist just as they would if the individual was at home.
Some senior housing and support options require a large upfront payment. This payment is not a purchase, and it may not be returnable when the person leaves. Contracts vary and some return part of the payment, but maybe only when they have a new occupant in the unit. The paper discusses some of the risks involved when there are up-front payments. My experience in another situation is that the sales people do not explain the contracts well in some cases. This paper is very useful for people who are thinking about a range of options. It shares some real life experience and many issues. It raises cautions and things that people should be careful about.
Anna Rappaport is an actuary, a phased retiree, a futurist, and an artist. She is a 50 year fellow of the Society of Actuaries, a past-President and chair the Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks. Rappaport is an advocate for women’s retirement, for better work opportunities for older Americans and for improving the retirement system. In 2017, Rappaport won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Plan Sponsor Council of America.