Aging is one of the few absolute certainties of life.
Everyone gets older, but in many ways, today's seniors are fortunate. Advances in medicine and technology mean that health and fitness levels among older Americans are among the best they've ever been. But it’s not all good new. With the Baby Boomers hitting retirement, our nation is rapidly graying and the senior housing market may not be able to keep up.
In fact, the findings of a recent report from the Center for Housing Policy indicate that housing may already be an issue for many elderly Americans:
- Costs are continuing to increase. In 2012, the average cost of an apartment or a room at an assisted living facility was more than $42,000 annually. Nursing home care can easily be double that.
- The need for care still increases with age. Despite advances in medicine, about 65 percent of older Americans need assistance with daily tasks due to multiple chronic illnesses.
Add in the fact that the overriding concern of most seniors is to retain as great a measure of independence as they can for as long as possible. Remaining in familiar surroundings, with family or close friends nearby, is almost universally important.
But there may soon be an easy way for families to ensure that their elderly loved ones have their own space and still get the care they need.
Garden Cottages or Villages
How best to provide assisted care for aging seniors in their own homes and communities is a question on the minds of eldercare professionals across the globe. And many countries have devious ingenious solutions.
In Australia, for example, relaxed zoning allows for the creation of "out-buildings" or auxiliary structures on a single residential lot, providing a place for elderly relatives to live close to family caregivers while still being able to remain in their own private homes. These "granny flats" of Australia are slowly trickling into North America, but are still far from being the preferred way for adult children to care for aging parents.
Many children prefer to have their parents remain in the home they grew up in, providing care as would an external service. Alternatively, some 50 million Americans have embraced the concept of multi-generational households.
So are auxiliary small houses the future of senior care in America?
They already seem to be catching on, and the multi-functionality of these out buildings will make them doubly appealing for retiring Boomers.
Instead of providing a home for mom and dad, a backyard cottage can provide housing for live-in caregivers who carry out such duties as yard work, home maintenance or personal services such as shopping for an older couple. Or they could be a source of rental income for newly retired seniors before they need assistance.
The Village is another new aging-in-place trend worth investigating.
A somewhat deceptive moniker, “The Village” is not a physical community as you might expect, but rather a new take on in-home care.
Begun in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001, this unique form of eldercare provides a linked network of both paid and volunteer assistance that creates a sort of “concierge” senior care service for older adults who want to remain in their homes. With the support of The Village, older Americans are able to enjoy their golden years in the familiar comfort of their homes without fear that their health or house will fall to ruin.
The aging of the Baby Boomer generation has begun to chart a new path for eldercare in this country.
Nursing homes are no longer the only option for seniors. Independent living communities, which offer a lifestyle that provides the kind of activities residents enjoyed during their working years, have already become a staple of senior living in the US, and new housing options are being explored every day.