I have talked in the past about making home safer for seniors as well as geriatric care management services for those considering a move to residential communities. But the financial and practical fact of the matter is that owning the family home may prove to be less affordable as well as less livable for adults in retirement.
Never mind that classic picture of older adults whose kids have graduated college. They have burned the paper of a paid-off mortgage and can now live for free! Well, a lot of seniors were hit by the Great Recession just like other homeowners, and the house is not really free and clear. For virtually everyone, the cost of the house still includes real estate taxes which continue to rise even though housing values have declined in most markets. And the costs to maintain a house tend to come in big chucks like the cost to replace roofing or a new furnace or a hot water heater and more. Some older adults never got to the point where they could buy their own home in the first place.
A study issued by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that older adults make up about 13 percent of the rental market in the U.S. That is precisely the share of the U.S. population that is 65 years of age or older, and the percentage is expected to grow with the baby boomers adding to the number of renters. Finances and age are just a part of the decision to rent or buy; also important are health and lifestyle.
Regarding health issues, if you are a caregiver to an older adult you may find that they can maintain their independence longer in a rental property that in a conventional home. Rental properties typically can offer a residence all on a single floor for any older adult with difficulty getting around. More current housing also will offer elevators to make getting from the ground floor to their apartment unit easier. And don’t overlook the convenience of having a landlord taking care of the heating and cooling systems, the laundry machines and the roof. They also will maintain the lawns and walks.
Regarding lifestyle issues, older parents may wish to have the added security of being able to be away from home for extended trips without the worry about safety of their homes. The added safeguard of two front locking doors and nearby neighbors can make it easier to take a vacation or a trip to visit the kids and grandkids in another part of the country. And don’t forget that lifestyle also can include the freedom that may come from not having the added weekend duties of a lawn and grounds. That extra time back in the week can be a real bonus for an older adult who really does have something better to do.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends who provide geriatric care management services to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.