My husband and I have been part of the “sandwich generation.” With moms who lived into their 90s, mostly in their own homes, we can speak to the pros and cons of that. Now navigating our own pre-retirement years — with an eye toward health costs, housing options and quality of life — we know there is no script to follow.
Maybe ahead of schedule we all can consider options in housing as we age. Housing changes need not be crises of sudden adjustment; instead, they can be studied moves — this could living out of state (for example, relocating to year-round warm weather), staying where you are or going into a development where costs and maintenance are low.
It’s hard to maintain four bedrooms plus ample yard when they are no longer necessary. Does it support your lifestyle? says Lee-Ann Spacek, owner and founder of North Coast Residential Relocation.
“When I give presentations, I share what my aunt told me years ago: ‘Be careful what you get used to because you can get used to anything,”’ Spacek adds. “That goes for the dripping faucet, the wavy roof, the electrical outlet that doesn’t work and, possibly, the damp corner of the basement.”
She has helped hundreds of individuals, couples and families weigh factors in choosing a residence as their needs change.
“I ask my clients to ask themselves: ‘To whom is this house best suited?’” Spacek says. Consider the answer honestly. Letting go can be difficult but also freeing.
PUT TOGETHER A PLAN
“People should start looking at their choices within five years of retiring,” Jim Patena, administrator of independent living at Jennings, says. “They can take their time to see what is out there and either find something that fits their desires or at least have ideas if the time comes that they desire a move.”
“With less things and removing household chores . . . people can simplify their lives and get back to the basics, feel reinvigorated by not having costly home upkeep and focus on enjoying the present rather than 30 or 40 years of accumulated possessions,” he says.
Lee Ann O’Brien, director of community relations, special projects and planned giving at McGregor in Cleveland, agrees that families should talk about the future.
“Care aside, each community has a unique personality,” she says. “Some have a more formal, traditional design sensibility, some are consistent with décor of an era, while others have a more home-like décor and …. even allow pets.”
From high rises to sprawling complexes, townhouses to apartments, it’s important to remember “assisted living is not synonymous with nursing homes,” she adds.
WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS
For some people, a balance of enhanced service coordination and in-home services can promote independence. That’s why some may consider a place that offers tiered assistance.
“Look for affordable rents with services that can support (residents) as they age should their needs change,” Patena says. “Consider wellness activities, education, health care support and a solid sense of community.”
Amy Simo, manager of community relations and admissions at The Weils Assisted Living Community in Chagrin Falls says, “We have activities inside and outside the building from happy hours, exercise and lectures to attending the theater, mystery bus rides, dining at restaurants. If one family member requires more care than the other we can still keep them together in their own suite and just provide a different level of care to each resident based on their needs.”
Lisa Brazytis, director of marketing at Jennings Center for Older Adults in Garfield Heights, advocates the power of choice.
“It’s always a good idea to have choices and it’s best to do so before a crisis,” Brazytis says. “There are also many professionals to help answer questions and get a plan together. It’s much better to understand and communicate your preferences in advance instead of leaving decisions to children or someone else in a crisis.”