How to Assess Senior Living Options

Questions to Ask When Considering Housing Options for Retirement

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Housing is the biggest single expenditure for most households. Medical care is another significant expense. And in retirement, these two expenditures often become interdependent.

Housing and retirement wouldn’t be too difficult if you could divine the future and learn exactly how your housing and care needs will evolve as you age. However, there is no way to know exactly what you will need and when. As such you should consider housing very carefully when designing your Retirement Plan.

The following questions are written to help you consider different options for housing and long term care.

Questions To Ask Yourself About Long Term Care

  • Do you have long Term Care Insurance? If you do, you might be less restricted in your decision making earlier in retirement.
  • If you do not have Long Term Care Insurance, how will you fund a potential need for care?
  • If you have a Long Term Care policy, does it fund in home care?

Questions To Ask Yourself About Using Home Equity For Retirement Expenses

  • Do you have equity in your home? Should you tap your home equity for retirement? Should you tap the wealth early to sustain income security? Wait and use the asset as a financial buffer?
  • Have you considered a Reverse Mortgage? How can a Reverse Mortgage serve your evolving housing and care needs? (Many families use a Reverse Mortgage to fund in home care or a Long Term Care Insurance policy.)

Questions To Ask Yourself About Lifestyles And Priorities

  • What is important to you in retirement? Family? Friends? Activities? How can your housing serve your interests?
  • What community attributes do you desire? Doctors? Pharmacies? Other Medical Facilities? Religious Centers? Universities?
  • What are your transportation needs? Do you like to walk? How long will you be able to drive? What are public transport options?

Questions To Ask Yourself About Health And Aging

  • Does your current health status require any special considerations? How might your health status evolve?
  • Would you prefer to age in your own home? Can you afford any support services you might require?

Questions To Ask Yourself About The Viability Of Your Finances

  • Are you eligible for any public or government assistance to help with housing or long term care? Medicaid specifically covers some long term care expenses.
  • Have you involved family members in your decision-making? Some children of retirees opt to fund long term care policies for their parents. Other children have room in their own homes to house and care for aging parents. Could providing room and board to a caregiver be an option? Would you ever consider renting out all or part of your home to create extra income?
  • Have you considered whether you might want to talk with a lawyer about any legal concerns?

Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Current Home

  • What are the maintenance costs on your home? Are you capable of maintaining your residence now and in the future?
  • Do you have a mortgage payment? Can you pay off your mortgage?
  • How might your home need to be modified to meet your needs as you age? Do you have many stairs? What products and features might you consider to make your home safer and more comfortable?
  • Have you considered all costs – beyond any in home care -- associated with owning your current home?
    • Mortgage and Association Fees
    • Taxes
    • Maintenance
    • Repairs
    • Home owners insurance
    • Fire, theft and liability insurance
    • Utilities
    • Meals
    • Transportation
    • Car ownership
    • Housekeeping
    • Travel expenditures
    • Etc…

Questions To Ask Yourself About Retirement-Specific Housing Or Nursing Care

  • What is the admissions contract?
  • Are there any expenses not covered?
  • Can you bring your own furnishings?
  • What about pets?
  • Can special dietary or food requests be accommodated?
  • What are rules surrounding visitors?
  • What is the staff to resident ratio?
  • What training does the staff receive?
  • Is the institution financially sound?
  • What about telephone, internet and telephone service?
  • What happens in case of a disaster?
  • What happens if your needs change and can not be met by the facility?

Questions To Ask Yourself While Evaluating Your Options

  • How do the costs compare for your various options -- staying at home, retirement living, assisted living, group retirement living, or other -- now and in the future?
  • What are the social, medical or lifestyle advantages or disadvantages of these options?

Additional Resources on Senior Living