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Sept. 18, 2021, 4:10 p.m. EDT

What will you call home when you’re older? The ultimate guide to housing in later life

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Paula Spencer Scott

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Moving to a new place, together

Some families pool resources to find a better intergenerational fit. Builders are responding to the under-one-roof trend with purpose-built homes.

Home builder Lennar /zigman2/quotes/202536373/composite LEN -2.47% calls its  Next Gen  models “a home within a home,” featuring separate suites with their own entrance and a kitchen that connect to the primary floor plan. More of the same: D.R. Horton’s /zigman2/quotes/202032328/composite DHI -2.31%   MultiGen Home  and Toll Brothers’ /zigman2/quotes/201912487/composite TOL -1.35%   MultiGen . This twist on the duplex is sometimes found within planned communities. Custom builders increasingly offer such plans, too.

Independent community options

Another option is age-restricted communities for adults living on their own — sometimes referred to as retirement communities.

These often contain a mix of detached or semidetached houses, townhomes and apartments, as well as communal spaces like walking paths, golf courses, pools, gyms, recreation centers and other forms of entertainment. There are usually amenities, too, like community activities, on-site hair salons, meal services, housekeeping or laundry.

Their character, lifestyle, and costs vary enormously.

Large-scale developments

Known as “active adult” communities, these enclaves have evolved beyond the stereotypes of a generation ago. Think spas, pubs, sports teams and pop-up cafes.

Case-in-point: the Jimmy Buffett-themed  Latitude Margaritaville  brand, with locations in Florida and South Carolina, include beach clubs, town square and a “Barkeritaville” pet spa.

Within the sprawling  Rancho Mission Viejo  in California’s Orange County, a gated 55+ community is connected to family neighborhoods that share parks and a farm.

Some developments have additional services as residents need more help, such as housekeeping or meals, though not medical or nursing care. As in any private home, these can be hired as needed.

Smaller, retirement-focused communities

Communities emphasizing wellness and social connection on a smaller scale are springing up in cities and suburbs. Some are constructed in repurposed buildings like former shopping malls or hospitals. These “adaptive reuse” build projects often combine the convenience of apartment living with amenities targeted to older people, including social activities and outings.

Increasingly popular: College-linked communities, located on or near campuses. The extent of connection varies by school. Some allow residents to take classes and use facilities. Although popular with alumni, a degree isn’t a pre-req. Some are continuing-care communities, meaning residents can access additional services should they need more help.

Co-housing and intentional communities

More grassroots are intentional communities: groups of people who choose to live together and share resources on the basis of common values. These aren’t necessarily age-restrictive.

Two increasingly popular types are  green retirement communities , which focus on sustainable construction and a green lifestyle, and  cohousing , where residents have their own homes but share kitchens, dining spaces and outdoor spaces.

“Co-housing provides the privacy we’ve all become accustomed to with the community we seek,” says Karin Hoskin of  Cohousing USA , a nonprofit that supports co-housing communities.

The Foundation for Intentional Community  keeps an online directory and many resources for finding and forming such communities.

Manufactured housing community

Some newer “senior mobile home communities” are  age-restricted  and feature community centers, pickleball courts and more. Even upscale versions tend to be more affordable than fixed-site homes. Some communities are land-lease, meaning you own the home and rent the land it sits on.

Some commercial groups maintain listings, such as  Active Adult Living .

Continuing care retirement communities

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are independent dwellings that double as assisted living and skilled nursing care as more help is required. (Confusingly, in the senior housing market these are sometimes referred to as “independent living.”)

CCRCs often have wellness centers, activities, events and transportation. Residents pay an entrance fee (often in the tens of thousands) as well as monthly or other fees depending on the level of care needed.

This arrangement is ideal for those who find it appealing to remain within the larger community they’re familiar with even if they become sick or frail.  Here are the questions to ask yourself before signing onto a CCRC .

Assisted living

Assisted living is residential housing that emphasizes privacy and independence while providing 24-hour access to help with certain everyday activities, like meals or transportation.

Assisted living best serves those who may find managing a household too taxing but don’t need as much personal assistance and want to live in a safe environment near other people. A care plan, including some medical and personal care, is tailored to individual needs.

Residential care homes (sometimes called board-and-care homes) are smaller assisted living facilities — often in an actual house. The  Green House model  has been used to create hundreds of these settings, with private rooms and outdoor spaces.

You can also look for members of the  Eden Alternative Registry , which emphasizes individualized care in “life affirming” environments.

The  Eldercare locator  provides the local lay of the land for assisted living and other care-specific options.

Care community options

Many facilities provide a stepped-up level of skilled nursing care and support. These are intended for those who are frail or ill and require 24-hour care. Few people plan ahead to live in this style of housing.

Nursing homes

At nursing homes, care is supervised by a medical doctor (who is not typically on site, though a registered nurse may be).

Skilled nursing or rehabilitation care

A shorter-term housing provided at nursing homes or stand-alone facilities, this is for those who have been discharged from a hospital or have a chronic illness and require more even care services than is typically provided at a nursing home, such as rehabilitation therapy.

Memory care

This round-the-clock residential care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias may be located within a dedicated wing of a nursing home or in a stand-alone facility.

Care is provided by those with some training in memory disorders and typically includes activities like art or reminiscence therapy, in a secure environment for those who wander or forget where they live.

Hospice care

Whether in stand-alone facilities or located within skilled nursing centers, this care emphasizes quality of life for those with a terminal illness. Here’s  how to choose hospice care .

Other alternatives

The transient life . Move from place to place using an RV, boat, or cruise ship as your full-time home. A newer example:  Storylines  residential cruise ship.

Retiring abroad . The trend jumped by 40% from 2007 to 2017, motivated by a mix of cost-savings and adventure.

Long-term voluntarism : While some kind of home base is eventually necessary, options that include long-term housing include seasonal national park work and The Peace Corps.

This article is reprinted by permission from  , © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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