Should You Move to a Retirement Community?

Filed under Living & Housing

Many elderly retired people choose to move to a retirement community for various reasons. A large home may have been great when they were raising children and pets. Now that the children have left home to start their own families, there is far too much space to take care of. The garden may also be too big to maintain. It is probably difficult to secure a home properly if the retiree plans to travel extensively. A smaller retirement home or apartment in a retirement community may be the next best option. A retirement home will often have useful amenities and services for their residents. There may even be round the clock medical services. Some of the amenities may include swimming pools, dance halls, bowling alleys and activity centers. Many retirement homes may also have restaurants and cafeterias for their residents.

Finding Great Retirement Communities

With the information available on the Internet, it is not difficult to locate great retirement communities. You may be assisting your parents or elderly relatives to find a place to spend their golden years. They no longer find it comfortable living in their current homes and desire to move somewhere where the weather is warm and comfortable. You may be looking for information yourself. Either you plan to move into a retirement community soon or you may be researching for one you can invest in now for your future retirement. Investing in retirement communities ahead of time – a few decades ahead – can be a wise investment decision.

What Makes Great Retirement Communities?

Before you start researching for great retirement communities, you can ask yourself what features and facilities are important to you. Perhaps you do not know even what these are; since you have never considered or looked up these alternative forms of accommodation. Then trawling through the Internet is a great way to start. Enter the search term ‘retirement communities’ into the Google webpage. Visit the websites of a few retirement communities. While you do this, take note of the things that you consider important. Some of these key criteria may include location, climate over the year, size of the facility, number of residents, accommodation types, availability of medical staff round the clock, recreational facilities like swimming pools and tennis courts, facility organized social activities like games, dancing and short tours, cleaning and food preparation services.

Now that you know what you would consider essential to create a shortlist of potential retirement communities, your research becomes more focused. You may narrow your search by location. Next you would make a list of suitable retirement communities in that location by using kill criteria – eliminate those that you are absolutely not interested in. These may not have what you consider essential features and facilities. From your shortlist that may have had tens of optional retirement communities, you may have whittled it down to a list of less than 10.

Next you need to invest some time and effort to visit the retirement communities in your reduced shortlist. Call to make appointments. You may be lucky to find an agent in a popular location with many retirement communities to help you in this process. He or she may be able to offer you great local insight about the retirement communities that you are considering. If you plan to use an agent, confirm that he or she is independent of any of the retirement communities that you are considering.

Now the physical part of the research process starts. Visit the retirement communities in your list to see for yourself whether their Internet-based marketing matches or exceeds your expectations. Speak with their head of operations or sales. Note down details regarding availability, regular charges and charges for optional items that you may be interested in. Visit their cafes or restaurants to get an idea of the type and quality of food served. If you have the opportunity, speak with some of the residents. Make sure to take notes. The problem with trying to commit your impressions to memory is that you would either soon forget or confuse amongst the various retirement communities you have visited. Make the best of use of your time and effort during this physically demanding exercise.

When you are done with the physical due diligence of the retirement communities in your shortlist, it is time to reduce that list to a selection of the final three or less. You may be lucky! You may have found that one place which meets or exceeds your search criteria. The time may be ripe for you to commit to one of the retirement communities in your list. After this systematic and potentially grueling exercise, you can rest assured that you have done the right things to help you search for the ideal place to retire from all the potential retirement communities in a particular location.

Article by Cindy Heller

The Truth about Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Filed under Living & Housing

Continuing Care Retirement Communities are communities used by senior citizens after retirement. They offer a choice of living situations and services. Based on changing needs, retirees can move back and forth between independent living, assisted living and nursing home care.

Often unexpected medical expenses can radically alter your vision of a self-sufficient retirement. Continuing Care Retirement Communities are an option that deals with this. Innovative living arrangements combine the security of long range planning with the ability to live independently.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities allow senior citizens to “age in place.” The health and housing accommodations are designed to take care of their needs as these needs change over time. People entering CCRC’s have typically signed a contract that takes care of residential and nursing needs all at one place.

Most people enter Continuing Care Retirement Communities while they are healthy and active. They do this in the knowledge that they will be able to receive nursing care if and when it becomes necessary. Such seniors have planned for retirement and have the means to support their plans.

CCRC’s are also known as Continuing Care Retirement Facilities, Life Care Communities and Life Care Facilities. Seniors living in such communities live in a home within the Continuing Care Retirement Communities complex.

CCRC’s are often sponsored by non-profit organizations. These are sometimes affiliated to religious orders, fraternal organizations and ethnic groups.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities are different from assisted living. In CCRC’s the individual contracts for a lifetime of care regardless of what his future needs may be. In assisted living the individual moves in the facility when necessary and begins to pay at that point. The care provided may be the same.

The advantages of a CCRC include that there is no moving required. If the person becomes well he can resume independent living. Virtually all seniors are good candidates for Continuing Care Retirement Facilities.

These include those seniors who are healthy, require assistance and those who require skilled nursing care. There are three types of housing arrangements provided in Continuing Care Retirement Communities. These include independent living units for healthy, active seniors. There are also assisted living arrangements for people who need assistance in daily activities but who also need independence. The third type of accommodation is nursing home facilities for those who need skilled nursing care.

Some CCRC’s cater to seniors with special needs like Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a good idea to do as much research as possible on a Continuing Care Retirement Community before joining one. Check if the CCRC is accredited by the CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) Check if the community is appropriate to your lifestyle and your situation. Examine the community’s mission. See whether you can spend two days in the community to know what it is like living there. During this time see whether the following are to your liking  food, accommodation, recreational and cultural activities, fitness facilities, staff, healthcare services and means to handle medical emergencies. Choose your CCRC wisely. After all it may be the reward for a lifetime of hard work.

Article by Lee Dobbins

Choosing the Right Retirement Community

Filed under Living & Housing

Thinking about which retirement community is best for you can be both exhilarating and somewhat stressful. You get to dream and think about what the next chapter in life holds for you. On the other hand, choosing the right retirement community can be a bit daunting, as there is so much to think about and so many areas to choose from.

There are many different factors to consider, and it can be difficult to organize all of those thoughts. Here are a few things to consider when looking for the right retirement community for you:

Location is key

This should be your first step. You can start broad and finally narrow your choices down from state, to city, and finally to a community in the city you choose. Many retirees will want to stay close to friends and family. If you do choose to live farther away, make sure you are close to an airport so you can easily jump on a plane and see your loved ones
Understand exactly what you want

There are many different types of communities that cater to the needs of all kinds of people. Some only allow people over 60 in their doors, while others are open to younger residents.

The cost of each community can also vary greatly. What s the importance of your living environment? Do you want to live in a house, apartment, or condo? Some communities offer each type of home, and some only have houses. Take the time to make sure the community you’re looking at has a housing situation you desire and can afford.

Be sure to consider your hobbies as well. Some communities are centered around golf, and only golf. While this is a dream for many retirees, it s not ideal for everyone. Do you like to fish or hike outdoors? There are some wonderful communities where the great outdoors is virtually your backyard.

Plan on a visit

Once you ve narrowed down your prospects, contact the community you re interested in and ask for an information packet. They will most likely shower you with all the information you need.

Then, once you ve narrowed your search even further, be sure to give the place a visit. Many communities have frequent tours of their facilities and offer great overnight rates to help you get a feel for the place. Remember, they are the ones who want your business, so they will answer any questions you may have about the community.

Assisted Living – the Good Bad and the Ugly

Filed under Living & Housing

What is Assisted Living?

The typical Assisted Living model is based on apartment style living with care services built in. This model encourages independence and autonomy while providing supervision and daily assistance with care needs. Meals are typically served in a main dining area with the intent of a social gathering while enjoying meals selected by the residents. Activities will be offered, including outings, scenic bus rides, and trips to the grocery store, bank, and doctors visits on designated days of the week.

What type of care is provided in Assisted Living?

Assisted Living provides custodial care, not medical care.

1. Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Grooming, Mobility, Medication Management
2. Cooking, Housekeeping, Transportation, Laundry

What can I expect to pay for Assisted Living?

Most Assisted Living facilities structure their costs on an “ala carte” system. You will be quoted a “base cost” or “room and board cost” ranging from $1500-$3000 per month, depending on geography, size of apartment, and amenities offered. Expect to see additional costs added on right away. Based on an assessment of your care needs, the price will increase accordingly. This price can vary from month-to-month, especially if care needs drastically improve or decline over time.

What are the advantages to Assisted Living?

1. Less expensive than nursing home care
2. Private apartments to optimize privacy, autonomy, and independence
3. Three meals a day served in a social dining atmosphere
4. Security and call bell systems
5. Designed with accessibility in mind (roll-in showers, etc)
6. Exercise programs
7. Care Services available- to be used as little or as much as you require
8. Activity programs designed to keep residents active, social, and healthy
9. Most have a beauty parlor on site

What are the limitations of Assisted Living?

1. Despite staff presence and encouragement, some residents can become isolated
2. Most do not allow residents to cook, for safety reasons
3. Assisted Living can not accommodate residents who are wandering or exit seeking
4. Minimal staffing requirements in most states. On average, expect to see 1 caregiver for every 30 residents during peak hours, and much less at night
5. While facilities tout their abilities to care for residents through the end of life, many will ask families to hire private caregivers or transfer to a higher level of care if the residents needs are beyond the scope of their staffing levels

What do I look for in an Assisted Living community?

1. Ask to see the latest survey
2. Invite yourself to lunch (most will happily invite you first). Do you have menu options? Can family or friends join you or a meal? What is the cost for guest meals?
3. Do the other residents interact well with each other? Are the staff friendly and kind? Do they know the residents by name?
4. What is the caregiver-to-resident staffing ratio for each shift?
5. Is a nurse available? What hours is the nurse in the building?
6. Does the facility have a comfortable atmosphere? Is it clean? Are there any noticeable odors?
What safety features are available?
7. Is transportation available? Is there an additional cost?
8. How often is the care plan reviewed? Is the resident or responsible party involved in the review? (they should be)
9. What is the turn-over rate for staff? *Note* Most facilities have a high turn-over rate. It’s a huge problem. What is the facility doing to keep current staff and attract new quality caregivers?
10. If you have a pet, ask about any fees you will be expected to pay for your pet. Typically, an additional move-in fee and cleaning deposit will be incurred.
11. What cost of living increases can be expected? (we have noticed 3-6% yearly for most communities)
12. If the community can no longer meet your needs, how much notice will you receive and what assistance will be available to relocate to another level of care?
13. Trust your instincts!!!

Who pays for Assisted Living?

1. Private Pay (you)
2. Long Term Care Insurance- Check your policy for coverage, waiting periods, etc…
3. Medicaid- If you already qualify for Medicaid, or will qualify in the near future, make sure the facility you are considering has a Medicaid contract- many do not. You can check with the facility or your local Agency on Aging office for a list of contracted facilities in your area. If a facility does have a contract, chances are they are trying to balance Medicaid v.s. private pay in the building. Some will have a waiting list for Medicaid, so plan ahead. Do not wait until a crisis to start your search!!!

If you are just starting your search for an Assisted Living Community, you may consider working with a geriatric care manager or placement and referral agency to guide you. These professionals will know the communities in your area and save you valuable time and energy.

Article by Amie Clark ( 

More Housing Options for Seniors

Filed under Living & Housing

Many older people want to stay in their own homes or at least in the same neighborhood. The maintenance and upkeep of a large family home is not always a practical option, physically and financially. But a retirement home sounds so… retired.

So, where are you going to live if you leave the home your children grew up in? There are a few options that you might want to explore if you are adamant about not moving into a structured retirement facility.

Manufactured Mobile Homes are an increasingly attractive choice for older folks. These homes are affordable, energy efficient, spacious and some of the models are designed especially for seniors, utilizing “universal design” features. If zoning ordinances permit, they can be assembled near or on family property, or moved to a senior mobile home community.

Cooperatives are usually found in urban areas. Homes in a cooperative combine the benefits of home ownership with the convenience and efficiency of multi-family housing. This idea appeals to those who want to build equity in their accommodations but don’t want the isolation or responsibility of a larger home.

Condominiums are also an option. This type of ownership offers many advantages to older people. Condos are different from a conventionally owned single-family home or an apartment. While you are holding title to your own living unit, you share ownership of common areas.

Accessory Apartments are worth considering if your house is too large and the utility bills and maintenance are too much for you. An accessory apartment is a second, completely private living unit created in the extra space of a single family home. You may have heard it called a MIL or mother-in-law apartment.

ECHO Housing (Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity) or Granny Flats are also an option. These separate, self-contained units are designed for temporary installation in the side or backyard of an adult child’s home.
Home Matching Programs have been gaining in popularity because of the lack of adequate senior housing. The idea is that you contact a service (often for a fee) that matches people up as roommates. When it works, it is an excellent situation and can enable an older person to stay in his/her own home, while relieving the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many older people experience. A good home-matching service offers counseling to provide help in identifying needs and concerns.

Shared Housing is a similar option. This is what the TV sitcom Golden Girls was all about. It can be economical, provide companionship, and provide a sense of security. It is a peer group situation, but it is not for everyone. If you’ve never lived with others (or have been on your own for many years), you may find it difficult.

Adult Foster Care, or Adult Family Homes, is provided in a private home occupied by an individual or a family who will offer room, meals, housekeeping, and minimal supervision for a month fee. Staff are not permitted to administer medications, however, unless they are nurses.

Retirement Hotels (also called Senior Resident Hotels or Senior Apartments) are hotels intended for people over 62. Some hotels are high-rises and have landscaped gardens while others are drab concrete shoe boxes, but they are usually built in good locations with nearby public transportation. Rent can include meals and maid service, activities programs, assistance with personal grooming, and access to a chore service for a fee.
A Boarding House is when you are basically renting a room, sometimes shared, in someone else’s house, with a manager on the premises.

Senior Apartment Houses are monthly rentals with a variety of options. Some have security systems, activities, and a full complement of services, while others offer lodging only.

A New Direction for Senior Housing

Filed under Living & Housing

Home builders are currently facing a rapidly emerging demographic that has forced the housing industry to begin shifting away from traditional forms of real estate development into methods that cater specifically to the needs of seniors. According to the United States Census Bureau, 100 million U.S. citizens, or a third of the country’s population, will be 50 years or older by the year 2010. Many of these seniors and retiring Baby Boomers are now starting to transition from larger homes in which they have resided for years into more manageable accommodations. Consequently, real estate developers are currently scrambling to provide housing that meets the need of the Baby Boomer generation.

Home builders are not only adjusting due to the massive size of the senior population on the horizon, but also because of the significant purchasing power of this blossoming demographic. The younger generations that the housing industry has focused its efforts on in recent years have been relatively poor in saving their earnings and liberal with financing their homes. Conversely, seniors generally maintain strict personal finance principals whereby wages are saved and any debt is paid down as quickly as possible. Therefore, while many younger homeowners are using the bulk of their earnings to pay heavily leveraged home mortgages, many Baby Boomers are preparing to utilize their savings and the equity in their current homes to purchase the residences in which they plan to retire.

The housing industry is also embracing a shift away from the traditional assisted-living facilities into communities that offer seniors more independence and freedom. Boomers are frequently relocating into planned-unit developments (PUDs) and gated communities where regular dues are paid to a governing Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that provides for many of the amenities that they require. HOA’s will often maintain a homeowner’s yard, roof, and home exterior, while also providing for utilities, security and common areas that can include pools, clubhouses, golf courses, tennis courts, walking trails and community activities.

Other developments address many seniors’ desire to live near people with similar interests at a comparable stage in life by limiting homeownership to those over a certain age. These retirement communities also often offer a neighborhood grocery store, a pharmacy, restaurants, and more community involvement and activities that can help with the eventual transition to assisted-living facilities. Seniors have become increasingly attracted to communities that offer the convenience, mobility, amenities and freedom to maintain rich and active lifestyles as opposed to the institutional and more sterile environments provided by the more traditional models of senior housing facilities.

In terms of home features, a recent survey conducted by the Internet Home Alliance Research Council revealed that 63% of seniors have home offices in their new homes, while an amazing 70% have broadband internet access at home. The days of studio apartment-style senior living are on the wane as the vast majority of our aging population is looking to the increased square footage offered in homes with at least two bedrooms and full-sized kitchens. These findings clearly evidence the desire of seniors to maintain their connection with the world and further prolong their preferred lifestyles.

It is clear that seniors and Baby Boomers are expecting longer lives and better health and mobility than previous generations. As a result, the housing industry will need to continue to adapt in order to provide these very important segments of the population with housing that will foster the environments and lifestyles these groups require.

Article by Brian S. Icenhower

The Active Adult Community

Filed under Living & Housing

As more and more Baby Boomers are breaking through the “55-years-and-above” barrier, the lifestyle offered by an active retirement community is becoming attractive for the increasing number of baby Boomers who have broken through the “55-years-and-over” barrier and become senior citizen material.

An active retirement community enables its residents to live as independently as their capabilities allow, while supplying them with every possible amenity. An active retirement community can consist of apartments, town homes or duplexes, or single family residences.

For senior citizens who prefer to spend their time on things other than household tasks, an active retirement community offers a nearly maintenance free way of life. The community management will even remover the efforts involved in arranging social, shopping, sporting, or entertainment activities.

An active retirement community may be located near golf courses, or have its own swimming pools and tennis courts for the enjoyment of its residents. It will organize and provide transportation for day trips to museums, concerts, art galleries, and movies or plays. Every active retirement community will have a clubhouse in which residents can gather to socialize or watch television; but the residents are required to take responsibility for their own health care arrangements. And only rarely will an active retirement community offer laundry services.

Active Retirement Community Regulations

The age restricted active retirement community is required, under regulations established by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, to have a resident population with at least four-fifths, or 80%, of its members above the age of 55. The remaining twenty percent of the facilities residents must be at least nineteen years old.

The other class of communities, the age-targeted retirement community, is also governed by the HUD regulations. An age-targeted retirement community is designed for residents over the age of 55 who have no children or minors in their care. The regulations do not exclude young people and grandchildren from visiting; they are welcome, but cannot become permanent residents.

The leisure, or resort, active retirement community will have a variety of onsite facilities for the use of its residents. This type of active retirement community emphasizes the social aspect of retirement, and will have fitness facilities, swimming pools and spas, tennis or even handball courts, and an active social calendar. Arranging classes in arts and crafts, and have community picnics and outings to local cultural attractions, an active retirement community will often have its own shuttle service to area grocery stores and shopping malls.

The active retirement community is an ideal solution for those who see retirement as the chance to catch up on everything they had no time for during their working years. It will provide them with an attractive, safe environment in which to make new friends, explore new interests, and just relax and enjoy life!

Article by Wade Robins

Retirement Housing Choices

Filed under Living & Housing

Searching for retirement housing for yourself or a loved is often a personal lifestyle choice and many options exist ranging from resort-style golf course retirement communities with amenities like clubhouses and activity programs to specialized care units for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Fortunately, there are many types of retirement housing to suite every senior lifestyle need  from active adult communities to skilled nursing care and assisted living communities. As seniors age, some elder care needs grow. Many retirement housing offer options in the level of care an individual receives, and create “individual personal care programs” to meet health care and personal care needs. Many retirement communities, such as Continuing Care Retirement Communities, offer a wide range of resident choices to accommodate seniors in the same retirement community as their needs change. This enables them to maintain their social network and participate in preferred activities as long as they are able.

Choosing the type of retirement housing most appropriate for you or your loved one, and knowing what to look for in those facilities can include researching a wide range of options and asking the right questions. The following list of retirement housing options is a good place to start your research.

Active Adult Community

An active adult community is for healthy seniors who would like to move to some sort of retirement housing, but remain active within an environment that encompasses a sense of community. Often members will purchase their homes and pay a homeowners’ association fee to cover maintenance, and resort-like amenities and conveniences such as a clubhouse, pool, and other amenities that are included. When shopping for an active adult community you should look for:

• Security  A quality active adult community will have a 24/7 security crew that will patrol the entire community. Look for a security guard positioned at an entrance gate or other points of entrance into the community.

• Satisfaction of Residents  Talking to the residents who are already living at the active adult community will tell you everything you need to know about the quality of living, staff, security, and will answer any other questions you may have. Interacting with those who live at the community will also tell you a lot about the type of people who live there already and may offer you help in determining whether you will enjoy living there.

• Health Services  Many active adult communities offer health services even though most of the residents are in good health. This benefit provides for an easy transition from independent living to assisted living.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living communities are designed for seniors who would like to remain living independently, but need some assistance with daily elder care. Services can be added on as they are needed, and include personal care, medication management, meal preparation, and social activities. When shopping for assisted living communities you should look for:

• Services Available  A quality assisted living community will have a variety of staff who are qualified to take care of personal needs, medication management, and other services as they are needed.

• Social Activities  Many assisted living communities encourage social activities among the residents, and will hold various events throughout each week.

• Licensing  The assisted living community you are considering should meet both local and state licensing requirements.

• Living Accommodations  Make sure that all the accommodations, including the staff, suit you or your loved ones needs. This includes safety, cost, friendliness, and any other requirements you may have.

Nursing Home

Nursing homes are for those that require skilled nursing care. These facilities have qualified staff ready to assist with medical or personal care needs. They are fully equipped elder care facilities with specialized training in various medical conditions and common senior healthcare needs for seniors who require 24 hour nursing care. When shopping for nursing homes you should look for:

• Licensing  The nursing home you choose should be licensed by the state to ensure compliance with state regulations. Review rules and regulations with them when you tour the facility.

• Staff  Talk to the staff and ask for the staff to patient ratio to ensure your loved one will be receiving comprehensive care.

• Cost  Nursing homes costs can vary. Inquire about the services that are covered by Medicaid, supplemental insurance and the anticipated amount of private payment.

• Rehabilitation and other specialized services  Nursing homes typically offer rehabilitation care, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Inquire about any other specialized services required.

Article by Stephanie Rice

Choosing a Nursing Home

Filed under Living & Housing

Choosing a nursing home is an important decision, and it is vital to ensure that the facility you select will provide the highest quality of care for your loved one. There are three main steps you can take to find the nursing home that offers the services, environment, and lifestyle options that best suit your loved one’s needs and preferences. Planning ahead, taking the time to analyze your options, and carefully researching several facilities before making a decision will help to ensure that the nursing home you choose will help your loved one maintain health, happiness, and dignity. Review the steps listed below as you begin this critical decision making process.

Step 1: Find nursing home facilities in your area.

• Ask people you trust, like your doctor, family members, friends, neighbors, and clergy if they have had positive experience with a particular nursing home Keep a list of the names of these facilities and look up contact information for each using the phone book or internet.

• Call your Area Agency on Aging (AoA). This telephone number should be listed in your local telephone directory or you can find it online by visiting The local AoA can provide information about nursing homes in your area. – Call the Medicare Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for information about nursing homes in your area.

Step 2: Find out how nursing homes compare in quality.

• Nursing homes are certified to make sure they meet certain Federal health and safety requirements. To find out how nursing homes compare in quality in your area, look at on the web. Select ” Nursing Home Compare.” You can compare the State inspection reports of the nursing homes in your area and look at other information, like resident characteristics and staffing levels.

• Ask friends and other trusted community members if they are or were satisfied with the quality of care. – Call the local office of consumer affairs for your state. Ask if they have information on the quality of nursing homes. Look in the blue pages of your telephone book for their telephone number.

• Call your state’s health department. Ask if they have information on the quality of nursing homes. This phone number will also be listed in the blue pages of your phone book.

Step 3: Visit the nursing homes you are interested in.

• Before you make a decision, visit the nursing homes you are interested in. This will give you the chance to see the residents, staff, and facility. It also allows you to talk with nursing home staff, the people who live and get care at the nursing home and their family members. Be sure to call the nursing home office and make an appointment to tour the nursing home before you visit. – Ask about the types of services and activities the nursing home provides for residents.

• Ask about the cost and fees for care. Find out if there is an extra charge for any special medical needs your loved one may have.

• Ask to see a copy of the most recent inspection report for the facility. Ask if the deficiencies noted have been corrected.

• Revisit the nursing home a second time, on a different day and at a different time of the day than when you first visited. Staffing can be different at different times of the day, and on weekends.

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out if the nursing home is Medicare/Medicaid certified, if there is a waiting list, and what their visiting policies are.

Potential nursing home residents should be involved in the decision-making process if possible. However, cognitive ability, emotional issues, current state of mind, and physical status may limit a senior’s ability be an active part of the nursing home selection process. It is important to be honest, forthright and supportive with your loved one during this time. Don’t forget to keep visiting once your loved one has been admitted in order to ensure that he or she is handling the transition smoothly and that the care is of the quality that you expected.

Article by Liz Ryan 

How to Find Affordable Senior Housing

Filed under Living & Housing

A few years ago Miranda M. became a widow. After a short time her grandson (her only available relative) persuaded her to move across several states to be closer to him.

He located a nice retirement apartment where meals, housekeeping, and transportation are provided. By using her small Social Security income, and funds left by her loving husband, Miranda was just able to afford her rent and basic living expenses. She didn’t much like taking all her meals in the community dining room, so she continued to fix some of them in her own kitchen.

She reluctantly accepted the help of housekeeping for the heavy cleaning. But, as she said, “I need to keep busy. If I can’t make my own bed and dust around I feel like a useless slug. I intend to keep doing for myself just as long as I can get up out of this chair.” But for one unforeseen disaster, Miranda and I never would have met, and she would have happily lived on in her sunny apartment.

You see, disaster struck because Miranda lived too long. Both she and her grandson had counted on Miranda dying before her 85th birthday. It made perfect sense, they thought, as her family was not generally long-lived. Her sister and brothers had all passed away at relatively young ages, as had her parents. Miranda figured she would be long gone before her money ran out.

There was only enough left to cover two more months in the retirement apartment when Miranda’s grandson called me. What was she to do?

Her monthly income of under $900 wasn’t enough to pay for rent, utilities, food, and her medications in the least expensive apartment he could find. He asked me to find her a place in a Medicaid nursing home.

Well, Miranda certainly wasn’t nursing home material. There was nothing wrong with her mind. She could fix her own meals, and she could keep up her apartment (with a little muscle help). She really had no medical needs, and wouldn’t have qualified for Medicaid and nursing home care even if she had wanted to. Which she certainly didn’t.

Her only real problem was lack of money (and a grandson who wasn’t any better at planning ahead than she was). After talking with her doctor and the manager of her apartment to confirm that she really was capable, I set out to try to find a “Section 202” apartment.

Section 202 housing – named after the section of the federal legislation authorizing it – is rental housing specifically for people over the age of 62 who have incomes under 50 percent of the area median income.

According to HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average Section 202 resident is a woman in her 70s with an annual income of less than $10,000.

Section 202 residences are built and run by private, non-profit groups who have received loan incentives from HUD. HUD is not involved in day to day operations. Rents are calculated according to income, and rental assistance funds pay whatever balance remains.

Luckily for them, Miranda and her grandson live in a large metropolitan area. There are always more options in a larger town. But somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of Section 202 funds have been set aside for use in non- metropolitan areas, so these apartments aren’t only found in big cities.Hunting for a Section 202 apartment can be labor-intensive. When an apartment becomes available it rarely stays empty long. Often there are lengthy waiting lists. The first piece of business was to telephone every apartment complex on the Section 202 list (see below for the web address to get a list). I verified that they were still participating in the program, and asked whether they had any vacancies.

Frankly, I didn’t expect a “yes” to the vacancy question, but it never hurts to ask. Lo and behold, and miraculously for Miranda, there actually was a vacancy in an older building near downtown. Because it’s not in the pretty suburbs it isn’t as popular as some of the others. For our purposes, it was a palace and a kingdom all in one. Beggars couldn’t be choosers!

If there hadn’t been a vacancy, Miranda and her grandson would have had to visit each apartment complex and place her name on every waiting list. Sometimes the wait can be as long as 2 years or more, so I don’t advocate waiting as long as Miranda did.

Along with her application form, Miranda was required to give the apartment manager proof of her income (a Social Security statement or a pay stub). She was asked about previous landlords who could vouch to her suitability as a tenant. She was asked to provide copies of her pharmacy bills, as those expenses are taken into account when the rent is calculated. This particular apartment manager also wanted a statement from her doctor that she was truly independent.

If she had planned on visiting multiple places, Miranda would have taken along several photocopies of all her information so she could leave it everywhere she applied. This is where having someone to come along is invaluable. The job can be overwhelming and exhausting for an older person.

If she hadn’t found this affordable place, Miranda probably would have had to move in with her grandson (NOT a happy thought for either of them), or find a little private room to rent in someone’s home, or try to find someone looking for a roommate. I was ready to try whatever it took to keep her off the street.

Because time was short Miranda had to take what was available. She has since put her name on the waiting list at two other apartments that are a little nicer and closer to her grandson. The great thing about Section 202 apartments is that you can move whenever and wherever you wish – depending of course on the terms of the lease you have signed.

To locate a directory of Section 202 housing in your state, go to Choose your state in the upper right corner. From that point on you might have to search around a little for “renting,” because the information seems to be in different places on the state pages.

If you want to talk with someone in a HUD office, click on the web address below for a directory of offices:

If you, or someone you care for, is over 62 and on a limited income, Section 202 housing can be a lifesaver. It’s very important to plan ahead, though, because these apartments are popular.

If you have concerns about finances becoming a problem in the future, start NOW to investigate your options. There’s nothing more frightening than outliving your savings – – ask Miranda.

About The Author
Molly Shomer, LMSW is Head Coach of The Eldercare Team (

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