While many senior Australians want to grow old at home, a concept known as ageing in place, there are many ways to do that without necessarily staying in the family home. Many seniors are now making the choice to downsize after retirement; however, many don’t always think ahead to how well their choice of where to live will suit them once they start to need additional care.
This guide can help you choose the senior living option that best suits your needs now and into the future.
Whether you decide to remain living in your family home or downsizing to a smaller house, apartment or villa – living in your own home will ensure you stay living in the neighbourhood you’re familiar with and keep your independence.
Living in a private home or apartment suits those seniors who value their independence. It works best for those with strong family and social networks as loneliness and isolation is a higher risk for those ageing in their own home.
Accessibility is a key consideration here. How well will you be able to navigate your home as you get older and your mobility may be compromised? Being open-minded about home modifications and getting home help when you need it is important to ensure that your home continues to be a safe environment as you get older. You will still need to coordinate your own home repairs and house and garden maintenance, so it’s worth thinking about how you’ll feel about this in the years to come.
Many seniors who decide to downsize will choose to move into a retirement village or independent living community. This gives them the freedom to live independently, have an active social life and go travelling without worrying about maintaining a garden or if their home will be looked after in their absence.
Retirement village living suits social types who value lifestyle facilities and activities alongside opportunities to socialise with like-minded people. It’s also ideal for those who don’t want the hassle of house and garden maintenance.
Having a complete understanding of upfront, ongoing and outgoing costs is important when choosing a retirement village. It’s also important to ask questions about how your care needs will be supported as you get older. Many retirement villages don’t offer onsite care, although this is starting to change. While you may not need care now, you may in the future and the type of care and support provided to your retirement village can determine if you can remain living in your unit or if you will need to move out to an aged care community or residential aged care facility.
Living with family is a particularly popular senior living option for those cultures who place a high value on taking care of family in their later years. Self-contained options such as granny flats or a downstairs area complete with kitchen and bathroom can ensure that both parties still enjoy their own space and independence.
This option suits close families and those who are committed to caring for their elderly loved one instead of using aged care. It suits those who have enough space, whether that’s in the back yard or underneath their home so that both parties feel like they’ve got enough space.
This option requires good communication and boundaries to ensure that each party continues to be happy with the living arrangement. Getting financial and legal advice on the impact of building a purpose-built dwelling such as a granny flat on the property is a good idea as this can affect issues such as property sales, inheritances and can be a source of family disagreements
Buying a manufactured home in a home park can be a cost-effective option and is particularly enticing for those looking for the added benefit of communal facilities such as pools and gyms.
Manufactured homes can suit those who want the stability of having their own home at a low entry cost. It can suit those who are independent and who are comfortable with communal living and abiding by any rules set by their chosen manufactured home park.
While the manufactured home will be your own, you don’t own the land your home is positioned on and will be required to pay rent for this land. This rent can be increased by the park owner and there is no guarantee that the park owner will operate the park indefinitely which may require you to remove your home and vacate the land.
Aged care communities offer independent living apartments paired with aged care services that are delivered through a combination of home care packages and a ‘pay for service’ model. Aged care communities combine the comfort of living in a homely environment with the peace-of-mind that comes from living in a secure gated community with 24-hour care available.
Aged care communities are an ideal option for people who don’t feel quite ready for aged care but are already having some difficulty living in their own home, including feeling socially isolated. Aged care communities encourage couples to stay together, so this a great option if one person in a couple has higher care needs but they don’t want to live apart.
Most senior care/aged care communities operate on a buy-in 99-year lease model, similar to retirement villages, so you should do your research about the ingoing, ongoing and outgoing costs.
It’s also worth checking how your care will be delivered and funded – this can vary across different operators. Also, check if care is available for residents with dementia and up to palliative care. Some aged care communities will move residents into residential aged care rooms on the same site if care needs get too much in their chosen apartment. This is not always made clear at the outset so if staying in your own apartment is important to you, make sure you choose a community where your wishes will be upheld.
Residential aged care facilities, otherwise known as aged care or nursing homes, are a living option for those requiring full-time care. Most residential aged care facilities cater to high care need residents.
Nursing homes and residential aged care facilities focus on clinical-based care for older people unable to live independently in their own homes.
Each residential aged care facility will have a different feel and way they do things, so visiting them will help you to find out what you can expect. You’ll also be able to see what the accommodation is like, and what types of care, services and activities they offer.
In residential aged care, all residents pay a basic daily fee of 85% of the Australian single aged care pension. Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to pay an additional care fee and an accommodation charge for your room.
The additional care fee and accommodation charge are means tested by the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services. They will review your income and assets and advise you if you need to pay either fee and what the upfront and ongoing fees will be.
As with all decisions about buying and selling properties, getting good financial advice is a must. A financial advisor specialising in seniors and aged care can help you consider the effect of choosing one of these senior living options on your own financial circumstances.