Decisions about housing are often based on finances and personal choices such as neighborhood location or a retirement destination. But there are many things to consider about housing and possible long-term care service needs as you age.
Should you stay in your home or move to a new independent living setting?
If you are like most people and plan to stay in your own home for as long as possible—whether you own or rent—you should consider:
- The condition of your home
- What changes or home modifications you could make, or your landlord would agree to make, that would help you stay in your home
- The cost to you, or to your landlord, of future maintenance and necessary modification
- The availability of services in your area
- The value and equity you have in your home, if you own it
- The availability and affordability of rental and public housing in your area
- The advantages of buying versus renting
- Tax and legal issues
If you decide to move, an important consideration is whether your new home has “universal design features,” meaning that it can be used by people with or without disabilities. Such features could be, for example, wider doorways and walk-in or roll-in showers that can accommodate wheelchairs.
What support services are available to help you stay at home?
In-home and community support services can help you live at home longer. These services often include:
- Public transportation
- Someone to drive you to stores or appointments
- Help with housing and yard chores
- Help with personal care
Choosing housing with services
Several types of housing with services can support people who need help. The main ones include:
- Public housing: Public housing for low- to moderate-income elderly and persons with disabilities is available in many communities. These typically provide assistance with services, often by a staff person called a Service Coordinator.
- Private retirement communities: Private retirement communities or senior housing complexes provide independent living units with support services such as transportation or housekeeping.
- Assisted living homes: Assisted living or “board and care” homes are group living settings that offer housing in addition to assistance with personal care and other services such as meals. Generally, they do not provide medical care.
- Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs): CCRCs provide a range of housing options, including independent living units, assisted living, and nursing homes all on the same campus. Nursing facilities, or nursing homes, are the most service-intensive housing option. They provide skilled nursing services and therapies as needed. This website's section on Understanding Long-Term Care: Facility-Based Services offers more information on CCRCs.
When comparing these housing with services options, weigh how much they cost, what you can afford, and the range and quality of the services provided. Also compare the type of insurance or public programs that may help pay for these services, their eligibility requirements, and how close you will be to family and friends.
Home modifications can make your home or apartment safer and allow you to stay there longer. Examples of typical home modifications include:
- Lever-style door and sink handles
- Grab bars in the bathroom
- Improved lighting and night lighting
- Wheelchair ramps
- Wider doorways for wheelchair access
- Stairway chair lifts
- Bathroom and bedroom on the first floor of a multi-story home to accommodate someone unable to climb stairs
If you own your home, making modifications for universal design, such as wider doorways and walk-in or roll-in showers, may add value to your home. You might also consider creating a separate apartment for a relative or renter in exchange for assistance when you need it.
If you live in an apartment, you may need to talk with your landlord about the types of modifications you can make and whether you, or your landlord, will be responsible for the costs. Landlords are required to allow you to make reasonable modifications to accommodate your needs. If you have questions, consult your local Area Agency on Aging Read External Web Site Policy for more information.
Home modifications can be expensive. But, there may be state and local programs that provide low-interest loans or grants to help you pay for them. If you are age 60 or older, check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see whether you qualify for home modification and repair funds from Title III of the Older Americans Act.
Assistive devices are tools, products, or equipment that can help you perform daily tasks and activities independently in your home and community. Some of the simplest assistive devices are kitchen and self-care tools that are easier to hold, or a reacher (a tool that helps you get objects that are out of your reach).
Other devices may help you communicate, such as:
- Voice amplification tools
- Voice recognition tools
- Cueing and memory aids
- Software such as word prediction programs
Tools that help you move or walk are called mobility assistive devices and include walkers, wheelchairs, and mopeds.