Ask a senior what they think about assisted living, and you likely won’t be met with an enthusiastic response. Despite the changes assisted living has undergone over the years, most seniors still see assisted living as a last resort — somewhere you go because you have to, not because you choose to.
At the same time, older adults are struggling to get by at home. Rising taxes, fixed incomes, and age-related physical changes make life at home not only more challenging, but also more expensive and isolating. While seniors see the benefits of assisted living — community, convenience, and an age-friendly home — they’re not ready to give up their independence.
If this is a boat you find yourself in, you have options. These senior living options offer all the perks of assisted living with none of the drawbacks.
Independent living isn’t just a euphemism for assisted living. While assisted living serves seniors who need help with day-to-day care, independent living is designed for active seniors in search of simplicity, not necessarily support. Most independent living communities provide laundry, housekeeping, and home maintenance services and offer communal spaces for meals, exercise, and socialization. They don’t, however, offer the personal care and nursing services found in assisted living. That means seniors can enjoy the same lifestyle they’re used to, just with fewer responsibilities on their plate.
Independent living is also significantly cheaper than assisted living. While the median monthly cost for assisted living is $3,942, the median independent living cost is only $2,552 per month.
55+ communities aren’t right for everyone. If your home is too big or its location inconvenient for this new phase of life, consider downsizing. Downsizing is a way for seniors to buy a smaller home that’s more accessible and easier to maintain. While some seniors buy another single-family home, many opt for condos to reduce home maintenance responsibilities. Keep in mind, however, that condo fees may negate any savings from buying a lower-priced home.
Unfortunately, downsizing doesn’t always lead to significant cost savings. While utility bills may be lower, many smaller homes cost just as much as larger houses, especially when moving from the suburbs to the city or swapping an older home for a newly constructed one.
Seniors seeking cost savings should look into home sharing. A roommate could cut a senior’s household bills and chores in half and be a wonderful source of companionship — not to mention security if you fall or get hurt at home. If going this route, consider if you’d rather live with someone your own age or find a younger tenant who can help out around the house in exchange for reduced rent. As always, screen tenants thoroughly to ensure you bring the right person into your home.
Moving in with Family
While not an option for every senior, moving in with family can be a great way to strengthen bonds with children and grandchildren and get help as you grow older. Cohabiting with family doesn’t have to mean moving into the spare bedroom, however. More multigenerational households today are opting for accessory dwelling units — AKA granny flats — to give everyone privacy while remaining close by.
Moving in with family is a good choice if you have a positive relationship, clear boundaries and expectations, and your family’s home has good access to healthcare, recreation, and other amenities.
No matter where you live, make sure your home meets your physical, social, and emotional needs. Senior living is about more than fall-proof floor plans and low-maintenance yards. The best senior living environments are spaces that facilitate a healthy lifestyle, community connections, and a sense of purpose as you grow older.
Ms. Bridges is the creator of Aging Wellness, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.