Retirement Communities vs. Aging in Place: The Pros and Cons!
Finding affordable housing for people of any age is a challenge these days, and experts say it will get even more difficult for older adults. Given that adults over 65 already make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, communities must prepare to meet the demands of care and affordable housing options for seniors.
Nearly 11.2 million adults over 65 spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in 2021, an all-time high and a significant increase from the 9.7 million in 2016, according to a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report.
“The combined cost of housing and daily care is beyond the means of most people,” Jennifer Molinsky, the report’s lead author and director of Harvard’s Housing and Aging Society Program, said during a panel discussion about the topic. When saying “most people,” Molinsky said she means “not just people with very low incomes but also a growing number of people with more moderate and middle incomes.”
Retirement communities and aging in place are seniors’ two most familiar housing options. But there are pros and cons to both.
The Pros and Cons of Senior Living Communities
Seniors who no longer want the pressures of home ownership may prefer moving to an apartment or condominium in a senior retirement community. These housing options usually include independent living for people who can care for themselves, assistance living for those who need help with daily living activities, and long-term care for people who cannot live independently and need medical and personal support.
At independent and assisted living communities, residents have choices of a broad range of amenities.
Retirement communities also provide a ready-made opportunity for social networking by allowing residents to meet people who share the same interests in activities and have similar life experiences. Establishing new friendships and sharing the same activities keeps seniors socially and mentally engaged.
The Downsides To Retirement Communities:
1. Monthly Costs
Depending on the location, community size, and the care type, monthly fees can range from an estimated $2,000 to $6,000 or more. Besides housing costs, residents may also have to pay for on-site healthcare services, meals, and group activities.
According to the National Council on Aging, residents of senior living communities use personal savings, long-term care insurance, and Medicaid or Medicare government assistance programs to pay their monthly costs. Medicare does not cover expenses for monthly rent at an assisted living facility, but it may cover skilled nursing care if provided or supervised by a certified nursing professional or doctor, transportation to doctors’ appointments, or some preventative health services.
2. Entrance Fees
Some retirement communities require a hefty upfront entrance fee before seniors can move in. These hefty fees vary depending on the community and the types of services provided. Residents must pay the entry fee in order to gain access to the community’s benefits and accommodations.
3. Rules and Regulations
As with any form of community living, retirement communities have rules that must be obeyed that some seniors may see as limiting their independence, such as restrictions on customizing living spaces and how long—and how many— guests can visit them and enjoy the amenities.
The Pros and Cons of Aging In Place
“There’s no place like home” is what seniors who own their own homes—or are close to paying off their mortgage—say when asked which housing option they prefer. For these older adults, moving away from a home where they have lived for decades is not up for discussion.
Aging in place is a growing trend among people over 50 who are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the comfort of their own homes as they grow older. Many seniors view aging in place as the ability to have control over their own lives and the freedom to make choices that they believe will best fit their lifestyle.
In the event of an illness or a disability, older adults who want to age in place can hire live-in caregivers. The caregivers live in their clients’ homes to provide personal care, help with household chores, prepare meals, run errands, provide transportation to appointments, and handle other daily tasks.
In addition, senior homeowners who want to age in place usually have an emotional attachment to the home where they raised their children or where their family continues to gather for special events.
The Cons of Aging in Place
1. Home Modifications
In order to stay in their homes, it may become necessary for seniors to make modifications, such as installing grab bars, ramps, non-slip floors, widening doorways, and upgrading wiring to accommodate smart home devices. Home modification costs can vary from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the type of renovations needed. However, seniors can prepare for most of these modifications as they get older.
2. Repair and Maintenance Costs
Routine repairs and maintenance are basic and necessary parts of home ownership. According to a report from the insurance firm Hippo, homeowners spent an average of $5,000+ on maintenance and repairs in 2022. Relying on good quality items and repair warranties can limit some of these.
Are There Senior Housing Options On The Horizon?
States and local organizations in some parts of the country are already testing new housing models for seniors who want to maintain their independence and stay in their community.
According to Kramer, there should be more housing choices available for seniors.
“We need everything,” Kramer said. “We need more options for people to choose [from] and that people can afford, whether they want to stay home or whether they want to move into different settings.”