House-sharing could be a golden opportunity to age in place

Back in the mid 1980s, American television viewers were introduced to The Golden Girls, four fun-loving and aging women — still young at heart — who shared a home in Miami and, of course, got themselves into hilarious situations episode after episode. While the ladies would often get on each other’s nerves, their living situation did have several advantages, perhaps the biggest plus being companionship.

In today’s non-TV world, more and more people are looking for housing alternatives as they age, and the house-sharing arrangement like the one portrayed on The Golden Girls is becoming increasingly popular. Leave it to the Baby Boomers to make house-sharing a national trend!

By definition, shared housing is an arrangement between two or more unrelated people who choose to live together to take advantage of the mutual benefits the situation offers. It allows individuals to age in place, yet not alone. In addition to companionship, the house-sharing trend offers several other advantages. For example, those household chores that never seem to get any easier can now be split between two or more people. And, there can be a considerable cost savings for all involved. Just think about it — typical household expenses such as utilities and maintenance can be equally divided and shared! Additionally, there is peace of mind and a feeling of security that comes with having other people living in the home and keeping an eye out for one another.

Of course, house-sharing isn’t always the ideal situation. Finding a roommate, or roommates, who are compatible and trustworthy might not be easy. And what happens when one of the individuals is late paying their portion of the shared expenses? What about rules on pets, smoking and room temperature? While you might like the temperature set at 68 degrees, one of your housemates might prefer 72 and another might like it at 75. Those are all things to consider before moving in together. And perhaps the biggest potential problem of them all: What happens if one of the roommates eventually needs additional care that his or her companions cannot provide?

In the absence of a formal screening process, aging professionals agree that if a house-sharing situation is in your future, it’s probably best to move in with someone who has been a good friend for years, or at the very least the friend of a good friend who comes with a strong recommendation. But, you’ll never know if it’s truly going to work until you put the plan into action.

For more information on independent housing alternatives for seniors, please visit the Erie County Senior Services website at www.erie.gov/seniorservices

Michael Olear is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with MJ Peterson Real Estate – www.olear.com

This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News Homefinder on January 6, 2018 and is reprinted with permission

Preventing falls in the home starts from the ground up

According to the National Aging in Place Council, more than 90 percent of older adults would prefer to age in their current house or apartment rather the move into any type of senior housing. In order to achieve this with peace of mind and safety, there are a variety of steps to be taken to ensure the well-being of an older adult. One of the first steps is clearly fall prevention.

All too often falls result in emergency room visits. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than one in four people 65 and older suffer a fall each year. The real kicker in the stats available is that falling once actually doubles your chances of falling again! Bottom line is if you do have a fall in your home, you must make some changes to safeguard yourself going forward whether it be a move or perhaps a very honest look at your current environment and physical condition followed by corrective actions.

It’s important to note that falls can cause serious injuries such as broken bones or head trauma. If this type of accident occur, independent living and aging in place can get removed as an option. Let’s take a hard look at the preventative side of this question. Some of the causes of falls include general lower body weakness, Vitamin D deficiency, difficulties with walking and balance, reaction to medications, vision problems, and foot pain or improper footwear. The major issue however is “home hazards”.

If your doctor believes you are a good candidate to age in place, there are some precautions to take to ensure a safer and healthier lifestyle. Let’s start at ground level and work our way up.

Look at the floor in every room and hallway. Are there throw rugs that could slip or is clutter present that you might trip over? Are your stair ways clear? If items are in the way remove them immediately. Do your stairs have treads and clear lines so you can see where the edges are? There are many low cost products out there that can help with this. If there are one step changes in level in your living situation, are these clearly delineated? Are there handrails that will help you to safely move from one floor to the other? If handrails are absent, they should be installed as soon as possible on both sides of the stairs.  And don’t stop there! Handrails are extremely helpful in bathrooms as well. People often ask me if they should put these up or not as they are concerned it will affect resale of the house. The answer to this is quite clear – put them up today! It does not affect resale very much if at all and your health and safety is so much more important.

Overall physical condition also plays a huge role in independent living. Practices that will help maintain and even improve balance need to be considered as regular activity you engage in. There are shows on television that teach low-impact exercise routines such as yoga and tai chi. Classes are also typically offered at senior centers; consult your community’s recreation director, senior center or office for the aging for nearby recommendations. Exercise DVDs are also a great gift idea for aging friends and relatives. Maintaining your ability to balance is critical.

It has been my experience that the motivation for keeping a house safe and sound can so often come after an accident occurs, and not before. That way of thinking needs to change, and older adults and their caregivers need to become much more proactive rather than reactive in order to live safely and well in your preferred living arrangement.

This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News Homefinder and is reprinted with permission.

Let’s talk to mom or dad about selling the family house

Look around mom or dad’s house and it’s clear to see that it’s filled with memories and emotions. From photos on the walls to growth notches in the kids’ bedrooms, a house is so much more than just another building.

For many families, a day will come when the only person remaining in the large homestead is mom or dad. The kids have grown up and moved out and perhaps one parent has passed away, leaving a senior citizen to care not only for his or herself, but to maintain the property as well. And as we age, what was once an enjoyable way of life can become a terrific burden.

If you currently find yourself in a situation where you’re helping to care for an older adult who still owns a property, it may be time to talk to your parent or loved one about selling it and moving into a more suitable housing situation. Quite often there is strong resistance to change, but in reality the older occupant(s) are probably only using about one-third of the home’s actual square footage on a regular basis. Additionally, there’s the risk of injury that increases with age. In fact, the Center for Disease Control reports that one-third of adults over the age of 65 fall every year and that these dangerous occurrences increase dramatically with age.

Once there is agreement to discuss alternatives, the next step will be to determine the appropriate new setting for your loved one. There are many choices depending on needs, health, interests, attitude and finances. For example, an older adult in excellent overall health may be a good candidate to continue living independently in a smaller house, condo or apartment, while someone in need of frequent or daily help may require a senior apartment, enriched housing, assisted living or even nursing home care.

In an effort to make the right decision, many families are turning to geriatric care managers to help them sort through the maze of housing choices. These highly trained professionals typically possess a medical and/or social work background as well as working knowledge of insurances and financing options.  While the care manager can assist you fully with initial assessment and also determining the best place to live, they are also available to stay on long-term to provide ongoing support and assistance. This arrangement often proves very beneficial for adult children who now live quite a distance from their parent(s).

Another good resource can also be found right in your own backyard, that being your county’s department of senior services. An assessment appointment can be scheduled with a staff member, or they might refer you to your town’s community center if you live in a larger community that has its own department of aging services. There is usually no cost for this service and it is a positive way to enlist a third party in an objective, productive discussion regarding meeting the needs and wants of your loved one over the next several years.

Where’s the best place to start? Every situation and every family is different, so perhaps the easiest answer is to begin with a simple discussion around the kitchen table and just keep at it until the timing is right and your loved one is ready to make positive changes.

This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News Homefinder and is reprinted with permission.

You have the keys, so now what? A step-by-step real estate guide for executors

If you have been nominated as the executor of an estate that includes real estate or perhaps you find yourself in a place where you will be exercising a power of attorney for another person, there are some initial steps that are important to know when it comes to residential real estate.

It’s a good idea to change locks and install automatic light timers. A phone call to the local police precinct to let them know the house is now vacant is a good preemptive measure as well as considering an alarm system if there is personal property of considerable value located in the property. Completely photograph the interior as soon as possible to document its contents with close up shots of smaller items such as jewelry and heirlooms. In cold weather geography like Buffalo, NY, it is often wise to professionally “winterize” the property. This involves getting the plumbing completely drained, including the hot water tank as well as placing antifreeze in the commodes to prevent burst pipes in case of a problem with the heating system.

A good second level of effort is to locate any leases, property tax bills, deeds that have conveyed real property, tax bills, the title search for as well as any surveys that may be available. Find up-to-date documents about the house’s mortgage and tax bills, and ensure that they are in good standing. If taxes are in arrears, call the town assessor’s office and let them know that you have stepped in to help and that the taxes will be brought current when you have the money and authority to do so. Locate the insurance policy for the property and discuss its terms with the attorney you are working with before taking any additional steps.

It makes sense to keep receipts for everything you do as you at times you don’t have full authority with respect to an estate until your nomination is approved by the surrogate court. All expenses related to the property also need to be identified in order to estimate the cash needs of the estate over the time period that it will be held, emptied and sold. Making a simple list and then projecting for one year’s time is a conservative enough approach if events proceed in a timely manner.

You’ve taken on a significant role by becoming executor or power of attorney and it will move along in with a lower level of stress and higher efficiency if you take it in smaller pieces with an eye on priority items.

This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News Homefinder and is reprinted with permission.

Is it time to ask an elderly loved one to explore new housing options?

Keeping our older loved ones safe and happy is a high priority for many of us, but when giving up the family home is part of the discussion, there’s often a stiff resistance to change and explore senior housing options. Because a house contains so many cherished memories, talk of any change can become emotional.
When the time arrives to have “the talk” with an elderly loved one, there are professionals who can lend some much-needed assistance. If fact, a growing number of people are turning to geriatric care managers or senior move managers to help sort through the maze of housing choices and levels of care available today. These trained professionals are especially helpful when family members are separated by many miles.
Additional help can be obtained by contacting your county’s Department of Senior Services. Every county has one and it’s funded by your federal tax dollars, so take advantage of the services that are offered.
While every situation is different, positive changes can occur with some well-thought-out planning. Start by making a commitment to do the right thing, and then contact the appropriate social workers for assistance!

Condos with services are emerging

Service enriched condominium and co-op projects are beginning to surface in large markets in Illinois, Texas, Virginia and California with a particularly high concentration in the Chicago area. We have come to expect a monthly fee associated with a condominium that pays for capital improvements, exterior maintenance and common insurance, however, in this newly developed model an array of additional services are also included on an optional basis at an additional cost. These extra services could include meals, housekeeping, transportation, case management and personal care services such as an on-site beautician or massage therapist. According to Michael Hargrave, research director at The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care Industry (ww.nic.org) about 30 to 40 such projects have been implemented or are currently under construction. The underlying concept driving this innovation in the real estate market is that “baby boomers”, more so than their prior generation, would rather own than rent thus making this living arrangement more appealing than assisted living as the service enriched condo can be sold when it is time to move elsewhere.

Two distinct types of these living units appear to be evolving – the simpler model includes only meals and housekeeping, whereas the “full-service” program includes nursing, medication monitoring, personal care services and various therapies. Similar to assisted living, an individual’s capacity to walk a certain distance is required in order to live at these properties. Developers are experimenting with both a pay-as-you go approach to the additional services as well as various meal plans. In some cases residents pay one monthly fee and then have a certain amount of points to use toward any of the aforementioned services they wish to purchase.

This type of development is not available in Western New York at this point, however, it’s likely that this and other innovative approaches to housing o accommodate the baby boomer generation are in our near future.