In my role with Asbury, I have daily conversations with people who are weighing moving to a retirement community versus adapting their current home to support changing physical needs, buying a smaller place, and utilizing family and friends for support as they age.
But for some, the decision to age in place seems to stem more from concerns about the task of selling their home and misperceptions about retirement communities than a lifestyle choice.
During these conversations, I share two considerations that have tremendous benefits:
Perhaps the greatest benefit of retirement communities is one that seldom tops a person’s list of reasons for moving to one – preventing the emotional, physical and cognitive cost of reduced social interaction. Scientific studies continue to document the very real effects of social isolation and lack of meaningful interaction. They include:
Retirement communities are designed for successful aging. They offer opportunities to remain engaged through volunteering, planned trips and programs, resident clubs, fitness centers with trained staff, and new friends right outside your door. This doesn’t mean that after a move, your interests are limited to the campus. Residents maintain community ties and friends, and continue to travel or enjoy vacation homes. How people engage in their new community’s lifestyle remains a matter of their preferences.
We commonly talk to new residents who note that even though they didn’t feel lonely at home, they often ate alone or went long stretches without much conversation. Time and time again, we hear, “I should have done this sooner.”
Home sweet … maintenance
A well-known benefit of becoming a resident rather than a homeowner is eliminating the burden of maintaining a home. The upkeep on a house can become financially, physically and even emotionally overwhelming as we age.
So many new residents – even those who never viewed maintenance as a burden and worried that they would miss their house – tell us within a few weeks of settling in that they are amazed by how liberated they feel, especially when preparing for or returning home from a trip.
The financial burden of home ownership is particularly true in an older home that may need major renovations such as a new roof, furnace, or water heater. The average cost of painting your home is $5,700, while a new roof can set you back an average of $20,000. Replacing 10 double-hung windows is an $11,000 investment.
Many of the expenses of home ownership are included in the monthly service fee at a senior living community. Further, the monthly service fee actually includes some of the bills paid separately as a homeowner, not just the mortgage.
There is a general misconception that a retirement living community is an expensive alternative. But there are a wide-range of floor plans and pricing options to match a variety of income and financial asset levels. Comparing the cost of retirement community living to home ownership is important, and may have a surprising result.