Some seniors simply want to downsize. They either can’t afford to live in a large home, or they don’t want the maintenance and upkeep. Or, they would like to move closer to family. In addition, as the multitude of Baby Boomers continue to age, there are oftentimes a shortage of traditional living facilities and care practitioners for seniors who find that they need extra help. As nursing home and assisted living facility costs continue to rise, some elders are finding creative ways to seek care. For whatever reason, some seniors are finding alternative living solutions.
Downsizing in Current Home
A trend for seniors who want to remain in their current home is to restructure the space so that they take up less of the home and rent out the other portions. Websites have popped up that facilitate these endeavors, making matches easier. Some seniors wish to rent to other seniors to foster companionship; others like to open up their doors to families, or invite their own family members to reside with them.
The benefits of home-sharing include sharing in expenses and the upkeep needed to maintain the property. Also, it is possible for two seniors who may need help with care to continue to live independently and stave off assisted living for a while. For example, maybe one senior can’t drive and needs help with grocery shopping. The other senior needs help with their medication or preparing meals. By sharing their strengths, they may be able to minimize their weaknesses.
Tiny Home Alternatives
Tiny homes can be a great alternative to large traditional homes because they are portable and can be placed on the property of caregivers for those seniors who still desire a bit of independence and privacy, but still need care. Or, a collection of tiny homes can make a community for seniors. Dr. Bill Thomas of New York has said “I spent my career trying to change the nursing home industry….now what I’ve got to do is make it so people don’t need nursing homes in the first place.” His idea was to create tiny houses and sell them for an affordable price. His first projects have been to create communities of tiny houses for seniors, affordable alternatives so that folks can age in their own communities and not have the upkeep of traditional homes.
MEDCottages are a mobile medical dwelling that can be temporarily placed on the property of a family member, to provide hospital-like care to a loved one for rehab or extended care. If a family member finds that a senior needs care beyond what the family member can provide, they can elect to have this structure erected on their property so their loved one is still near to them but has access to the medical offerings of the structure. The senior still has their privacy, and access to remote monitoring, but they are still close enough to participate in family activities and enjoy the proximity to their familiar surroundings. MEDCottage also has products that can transform a garage into a senior living space, or even an RV platform.
Adult Family Care
Adult family care is a term that describes a situation where friends or family will take in an elder to care for them. While this has been the norm for centuries, adult family care has also come to encompass taking in an elder that you don’t know. Families will take in unfamiliar seniors and provide care to them. The senior gets to live in a family environment, which is often preferred over an institutional setting, and the family gets paid for the care provided to the senior.
According to a recent article by NPR, adult family care in Vermont is on the rise. In Vermont, there are more seniors who need care than nurses to care for them. Because of this, nursing homes are selective and there can be a long wait for admission. Sometimes, seniors must spend this waiting period in a hospital setting. Adult family care has been a great solution for some seniors, to end their need for institutional care and enter back into the community.
Green House Home
Most of us have visited a traditional nursing home. Long, dark hallways lead to small rooms – sometimes containing two residents. It oftentimes feels like a hospital environment. The Green House Project has reimagined nursing homes. Instead of an institutional feeling, these Green House homes feel like a real home! There is a dining room, kitchen, common areas, bedrooms and private bathrooms. Each home is designed for about 10 residents. So instead of a more sterile, traditional setting, the Green House plan offers a more family-like environment.
According to an article by The New York Times, the writer was most impressed by the fact that there wasn’t a ridged schedule like there usually is in a nursing home. In a traditional nursing home, because there are so many residents, a strict schedule must be kept. Meals are served during specific times; doctors are on a schedule; help with bathing and dressing must be provided according to a set plan. At a Green House home, seniors are free to eat when they want, just like if they were at home. If a care provider comes to provide care and they find the senior asleep, they will come back at a later time.
In addition, there is four times more staff engagement with the seniors, as opposed to a traditional nursing home. Green House homes practice consistent assignment – the same staff is assigned to the same seniors on an on-going basis. Staff becomes familiar with the seniors, and can now find the time for more personalized care while the senior can enjoy more autonomy. To date, there are 284 Green House homes in the United States.
Many factors go into a senior’s decision on where to live. What can they afford? Do they want to be closer to family? What kind of care do they need? Some trends in senior living include renting out their own home, buying a tiny home, getting care in the community by others willing to share their homes, or finding a place that has reinvented what nursing homes look like.
The good news is that senior living may be finally getting the attention it deserves. Seniors are valuable members of our community, and deserve to live with dignity and respect. A wider array of senior living options means more choices for seniors. They can find a solution that works for their own needs, and not have to conform to traditional institutional care.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!