For an elderly person living on a low or fixed income, finding affordable senior housing can be challenging.
Prices of basic necessities such as food, clothing and medicines are continually rising, and cost-of-living increases aren’t always enough to make ends meet. It has been estimated that nearly 13 million Americans over the age of 50 cannot afford their current living arrangements or live in housing that is not optimized (or even safe) for their needs.
Luckily, there are programs in place to help independent seniors meet mortgage or rent payments and cover eldercare services or residential medical care.
There are subsidies available if you want to remain in your current home.
The US Depart of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has several programs that can help seniors remain in their current residences:
If you own your home, or have built significant equity in it, you might consider applying for a federally-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). A reverse mortgage essentially allows a person to borrow against their home's equity and receive a lump sum payment or a monthly payment from the lender.
The loan comes due when a senior sells their home, moves out, vacates for 12 months or more (as may be the case for a senior requiring skilled nursing care), or passes away. The borrower (or his heirs) then have the option of making payments back to the lender, selling the property and cashing out any remaining equity, or letting the title revert to the lender.
Housing counseling and foreclosure avoidance.
In response to the 2008 housing crisis, the Obama administration proposed the Making Home Affordable loan modification program, which was passed by Congress.
This program helps borrowers and lenders work out more affordable mortgage terms. HUD developed a network of approved foreclosure avoidance counseling services that can assist seniors in applying for loan modification.
The list of providers for Ohio is located here.
Home improvement loans.
Some seniors require only a limited amount of assistance to remain independent at home. They made need to make safety modifications to their property to prevent falls, or to make their home more accessible to changing physical needs.
For seniors on a low or fixed income, though, these simple modifications can be cost-prohibitive.
HUD offers low-interest and subsidized home improvement loans to qualifying seniors who need to make safety modifications to their properties.
There are also programs available through HUD to help elderly tenants find safe, affordable rentals.
The government offers a low-rent program in which subsidies are paid directly to landlords who agree to rent to low-income individuals, including qualifying seniors. To find out if there are any available properties in your area, click here for HUD's low-rent apartment search.
A number of non-profit community organizations, such as ours, manage their own affordable housing developments. Many local public housing authorities also offer options to at-risk seniors.
In Cincinnati, the Council on Aging can provide assistance in locating affordable housing resources.
HUD's subsidized rent program, commonly known as "Section 8," can be of assistance to independent, low-income seniors. A qualifying person may not need to move into a public housing development; HUD's voucher program allows the recipient to find a suitable apartment on his or her own, and then subsidizes that person's rent.
In-home care is sometimes covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
Medicare and Medicaid cover some eldercare services for aging in place.
If the only thing keeping you from remaining in your home is the cost of senior support services, you might consult Medicare or your state's Medicaid program to see if services from the in-home care provider of your choice are covered.
You might consider assisted living.
Though Medicare does not typically cover expenses associated with assisted living or long-term custodial care, retirement communities can often be more affordable than attempting to stay ahead of a mortgage or rent payment and all the associated expenses of independent living, such as monthly utilities and phone.
In some states, Medicaid may cover some of the cost of long-term custodial care for low income and fixed income seniors. Check with your state's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to see what programs may be available.
Affordable senior living shouldn't be a luxury, it should be a right. With a little research, you and your loved ones can find the best option for you.