It's estimated that about 1.5 million people over the age of 85 live on their own, and that number will double in the next 20 years. And researchers say that by 2020, there will be 15.2 million people who are 65 or older living by themselves.
Be aware that there are many services available to help aging people be able to stay in their own homes. Most communities have programs that provide home helpers, meal-delivery, drop-in visitors, transportation services, and senior centers. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what's available in your community.
Housing is another important, and potentially difficult area in which your parents might require your assistance. Ideally, Mom and Dad will be able to live safely and comfortably in their own house for their entire lives. Some people are fortunate enough to have that happen.
Chances are, however, that one or both parent may someday need to move.
This could occur for many reasons. Perhaps the family home your folks have lived in for the past 40 years is simply too large and requires too much upkeep. Or one parent might die and the other moves in order to be closer to a son or daughter. Maybe Dad is tired of cleaning and cooking for himself and decides to move to an apartment building designed for elderly folks that includes meals and a cleaning service. Or Mom may need to go into assisted living because she can no longer take care of her own needs.
If your parent or parents are thinking about moving, you can assist them by letting them know what options are available. Older people have many more housing options these days than they used to, and some of them are really interesting. Let's take a quick look at some of what's available.
ECHO homes (it stands for Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity) are fairly new, but they're gaining in popularity. They're modular homes that you move onto your property for as long as necessary, and remove them when they're no longer needed. Usually about the size of a large garage, a typical ECHO home includes a living room, kitchen, eating area, bathroom, and one or two bedrooms. Because they're designed especially for older people, they are wheelchair accessible, energy efficient, and all on one level. They typically cost about $25,000. Be sure to check with the municipality in which you live to make sure this type of housing is permitted. You can find out more about ECHO housing on the Senior Resource's Web site at www.seniorresouce.com/hecho.htm.
Adult or Retirement Communities
These vary greatly in scope, and offer different services and amenities. Typically, retirement communities are clusters of homes on small lots. Outside maintenance usually is provided, and there normally are common areas for residents to share. Some communities include a lake or pond for fishing, a golf course, tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pits, and so forth. There often are planned activities, such as bingo or card games, day or overnight trips, entertainment, and educational programs. Your parent would either buy or rent the house, and would pay a monthly or quarterly fee for services such as grass cutting, snow removal, and outside painting. If your parents are considering moving to a retirement community, be sure they shop around before committing themselves. There are huge differences from community to community, and, while many are very nice, others are less desirable. The cost of retirement communities varies greatly depending on location, the type of homes, services provided, and whether your parent would buy or rent. Some retirement communities offer lots for sale, and allow you to build a house of your choice.