Aging in Place Technology Watch September 2011 Newsletter

The American home ownership dream fizzles -- is that bad?  On a recent business trip in Switzerland, I was told that home ownership there isn't the be-all, end-all that it is here, that people are comfortable with renting and putting their money to other uses. It looks like a small and similar trend is happening in the US -- apparently we have begun the simultaneous housing downsizing of boomers and the creation of a rental culture. You may have noticed a new report (no, not the one that said the telehealth market would hit $6.28 billion by 2020) about housing in the US -- this Harvard report noted that home ownership dipped below 67% in 2010. In addition to excess housing inventory from foreclosures, the echo boomers (born 1986 or later) apparently are entering their peak household formation years without forming traditional ownership households. And one-third of households aged 65-74 reported moving, many to smaller households. Of course, the other two-thirds are aging in place, a euphemism these days for not being able to sell the house, the furniture, and get out to a more reasonably-sized dwelling. The report also asserts that many existing homes are being converted to rentals. Imagine if those who want to downsize either rent out a portion of their home to a student or find a compatible older adult who can defray expenses.  Imagine if those lucky enough to sell their houses pocketed the cash, enabling flexibility in finding work where the work is, instead of where the house keeps a stranglehold.  And perhaps they took the money they didn't spend on housing -- and spent it elsewhere in the economy.

There is an opportunity for legitimate service providers matching seniors and homes.  Perhaps we are entering a period in which boomers-becoming-seniors see that housing isn't really the right dream after all, but independence and freedom are the right dreams, that money to cover missing health coverage is the right caution, or that getting a roommate is the difference between survival and assisted living.  So let's just assume that folks have computers or tablets, or their relatives can help them out with this Internet thing. Maybe a non-profit agency helps seniors find a suitable roommate.  I've spoken previously about RetiredBrains -- let's see more innovative ideas from realtors, home modification services, social services, and community programs that extend non-profits like the International Transportation Network into the IRN -- the International Roommate Network.  Or perhaps home care companies see the opportunity to extend beyond companion care in a senior's home to helping seniors find either roommates or more suitable homes to share.

In a stalled and slumped economy, creative solutions will emerge. I was raised on the "where there's a will, there's a way" maxim (and the "penny saved" maxim, which seems a bit quaint now). And so I was pleased to see an article about time banks in Manhattan, enabling people to put in some volunteer time (this one is run by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and has 2000 members). If you think about time banks, NORCs, intentional communities, virtual villages and co-housing, and Rent-a-Grandmother, you have to think that these are very creative times. And how useful is an Internet connection to help find these resources? And how important is a community with enough caring people to create them -- that will compensate for the fizzle of the housing market and other modern economic miseries?  Maybe even the suburbs will become places that become inviting to renters, seniors, and particularly those who age into isolation.

Senior Membership Plan

For seniors that have a home, Evangelical Homes of Michigan offers a new approach to "aging in place." They have a membership program called LifeChoices that allows a single down payment and then a monthly payment for all aging services. From home therapy and interaction with a counselor to assisted living services eventually, LifeChoices is a new approach to senior living. I personally would like to see more of these types of programs offered to seniors. It's innovative, fresh, affordable, and allows seniors a lot of flexibility as their needs change over time. Are there other programs out there like this?

No Euphemism

My husband and I were fortunate 8 years ago when we downsized into a home that will be a manageable size for us to care for as we grow older. We aren't being forced into staying in our home, but if we do need the equity down the road there are reverse mortgages.

We lucked out when we chose this neighborhood, because there is support for staying at home from a neighborhood Virtual Village Washington Park Cares. We say more about the Village movement at http://www.desperatecaregivers.com/aging-in-place-it-takes-a-village

Golden Girls? Submitted by Patricia Joseph

I keep thinking about The Golden Girl model.  Not that I loved that show or the characters all that much but the model has appeal.

Older people are mostly women.  Most boomers HAVE lived in a number of living environments—dorms, with roommates, apartments, starter homes, other homes—unlike our parents who went from parents home to home with spouse.  So I predict that they will have less resistance to moving again if it means the companionship, cost savings, quality of life and vitality that the Golden Girls situation provided.

The Housing Dream

As a 60 yr old, now unemployed, no retirement savings I, too, have been considering a roommate.
While my house is paid off, it is my retirement when sold. However, the value is lowered each month. The value would not extend more than a few years anyway.
I have been reading about shared living and shared communities over the last few years. I do believe that seniors will need to pool any assets under one roof to keep that roof overhead.
My daughter is upset that she might never own a home or have any type of retirement.
It is a new normal. Now it is up to us to create livable, viable group accommodations for those who will never have over a million dollars for retirement.
Great article. Right on the money.

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