Housing

Housing and Caregiving Updates

Just in time for the holidays. . .Five resources for parents and spouses with dementia and Alzheimer’s, then an interview about boomer and senior housing.

  1. The Alzheimer’s Association. Besides a Caregivers Center with educational resources, updates about the disease, a blog, and support groups, there’s a 24-hour helpline (TK), message boards to fit your situation and an online tool called the Alzheimer’s Navigator. It’s a five-minute survey that asks you questions about your specific situation, offers feedback on your answers, and helps you craft a customized action plan. The coolest part: it gives you resources in your local community.
  2. The National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Referral Center. Besides basic consumer information, it lists research centers, clinical trials and news. Another gov. site: alzheimer’s gov. with treatment plans and money matters.
  3. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, with in-home care strategies and live chats or Skyping with a social worker.
  4. An AARP blog on best books for children about Alzheimer’s and dementia. (I’m biased, I wrote it.)
  5. The National Institute of Health’s list of organizations and associations

Green door houseAnd now, part of an interview I gave to housing expert Steve Moran from the Senior Housing Forum:

How do you see the needs/wants of seniors changing with the emerging wave of Boomer seniors?
As I said in a chapter I wrote in an upcoming book on retirement, “Boomers aren’t going to take aging lying down.” They refuse to accept today’s traditional nursing homes. Rather than grow old in isolation, the Me Generation (which should be retitled the “We” Generation!) plans to do it together. That could mean aging in place with community support and services, sharing housing or moving into a Green House family-style nursing home. And, aging in place technology will play a prominent role. The 78 million boomer demographic ensures they will have more choices if they demand them—which they are. It’s a fascinating time to be a boomer and write about it.

Because my focus very specifically is senior housing, which means in effect I am an insider, I worry that I don’t have the same perception of senior housing as someone who writes from a higher view.  How do you see the senior housing options that exist in the marketplace today?
Not varied enough, but making progress. We have multigenerational designs (Lennar’s Next Gen model and other companies.) Niche communities that are CCRC’s on or near university campuses. LGBT senior housing. The aging in place Village model. Cohousing. Active adult communities. Even with all these choices, the senior housing industry is still evolving and growing. You could say it’s in its adolescent phase!

If you were hired as a consultant to help design the perfect senior housing community what are the things you think would be most important?  What are the things that should be left out?
I’m not an architect, but here’s my dream: A good balance of privacy and social interaction, fabulous exercise facilities, first-rate medical care, a warm and responsive staff, and the ability to call the shots as much as possible. It would be within walking distance of a city or suburban town center so residents would be near restaurants, movies, stores, and people of all ages—the world outside their senior community.

Residents would be able to continue making meaningful contributions (volunteering, mentoring—feeling that they have a purpose). There would be ongoing, varied stimulation—lifelong learning, and rich cultural events not only in senior housing, but also outside the facility. When I look at the physical layout (central nursing stations, shared rooms, an institutional feel) and offerings in my mother-in-law’s nursing home (the highlight is bingo), I want to weep. At least when boomers hit the nursing homes, most will be following the Green House, neighborhood “home” model.

 Photo by jaciXIII courtesy of Flickr

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Cohousing and Caregiving Go Hand in Hand

Remember when neighborhoods were like caring villages? I never had that experience, but got more than a hint when I visited Camelot Cohousing in Berlin, Mass., a couple of weeks ago.

I went to do a housing story and found a family caregiving story!

It also brought home the point that there are many ways to grow old and have support. Whether you’re a boomer or in your 70s and beyond, it’s an interesting option.

First, the cohousing concept: People own (a few rent) a small, often attached, home with an inviting front porch. Houses are next to, as well as face, one another across a walkway. Roads and cars are banished to the perimeter of the property so there is daily pedestrian interaction with innumerable everyday opportunities to get to know one another. This regular, impromptu communication fosters deep friendships.

Residents share outdoor space and a multipurpose common house. Usually there’s a kitchen, a living room/meeting room/movie area, a bedroom for guests or future caregivers, and whatever else the group wants (a fitness room, game room, sewing room, perhaps) in the common house. It’s also where residents, if they choose, can have one or two meals together a week.

Members in Camelot range from a newborn to 80-year-old Martha Shevett. The day I visited, Shevett was sitting in a white wicker chair on her porch. She had a rail installed because “I’m old and tottery,” she said.

Shevett used to live alone in an apartment. “It was tremendously isolating,” she recalled. Now Shevett lives alone but isn’t lonely.

Before moving to Massachusetts, she had settled in Pennsylvania and Florida. “I’ve never had these kinds of relationships with neighbors. People are so wonderfully supportive,” she said.

If she has trouble opening a jar, she’ll ask someone on the walkway. She’s fallen several times in her house, winding up in the hospital more than once. While she had a visiting nurse, neighbors also rallied. If she had been living in her old apartment, “I would have been up a creek,” she said. Taking a shower is still hard. A neighbor, a registered nurse, called when I was visiting to see if it was a good time to help Shevett take a shower.

There are 34 units in Camelot. If she wants to see fresh faces, she hops in a three legged motorized cart she’s dubbed “my chariot” and in two minutes, she’s atMosaic Commons, another intergenerational cohousing community.  They share meals and have a similar set-up.

Among the faces she sees at Mosaic Commons are her 48-year-old son, David, and 14-year-old grandson. Both mother and son love the arrangement. As David put it, “Mom’s not right here. She’s close enough to be convenient and far enough away to give us distance.” He’s “relieved” and “ecstatic” that she’s surrounded by people who care about her. “It’s the dynamic you want in any small town where people look out for each other,” he said. “I don’t ever want to move from Mosaic Commons. I’m in a place I want to be for the rest of her life.”

And so is Martha.

Interested in cohousing? There are more than 120 developments nationwide, all intergenerational except six geared to seniors. (There are plenty of boomers in senior cohousing.) Around the country, homes in cohousing develpoments range from $150,000 to $1.4 million and are 450 to 2,000 square feet.

Two good resource are the Cohousing Association of the United States and The Cohousing Company.

 

Posted in Housing

A Hot Housing Trend: Be Ready

Do you know what “aging in place” means? In layman terms, it’s growing old at home (rather than assisted living or a nursing home). Pay attention! It’s a concept that you will hear repeatedly as America’s 50+ population grays and baby boomers’ parents–and boomers themselves–need to think about next steps.

Ten thousand Americans a day are turning 65. In 2010, the population of folks 75+ was 18.8 million; by 2030, it will be 33.3 million.Add these figures to AARP research that shows more than 80% of people want to stay home as they get older.

 Of course they do. But how are they going to do it if they need family members—who don’t live with them—to monitor their medication, make sure their vital signs are vital, and that they’re eating and using the bathroom? Companies are scrambling to develop in-home health monitoring through mobile phone apps, tablets and Web-based programs. Motion sensors in the lights, on the refrigerator, under the mattress in case there’s a fall. Some technology may be able to spot a change of gait or daytime activity that might avert a later trip to the hospital. 

 Two new stories on the subject naming products and services are Mark Miller’s piece for Reuters—love the first line “Getting old? There’s an app for that.”—and another by Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press.

 Good resources: Aginginplace.com and The Aging in Place Institute

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Where Will Baby Boomers Live?

WHEN CHARLENE DICALOGERO LIVED ALONE in an apartment in Watertown, she knew none of her neighbors. “I felt lonely and isolated,” says the 53-year-old, a grants administrator at Lesley University. But since buying a $230,000, 700-square-foot home at Camelot CoHousing in Berlin four years ago, DiCalogero couldn’t be lonely if she tried.

Camelot is an enclave of 34 compact homes with welcoming front porches that sit clustered together in this rural town, about a half-hour drive northeast of Worcester. The road and parking areas are off to the side, while pedestrian walkways wind among the houses. The development is engineered to encourage relationships with neighbors — and it seems to be working.

Passersby receive invitations to join homeowners for a glass of wine, or, for the kids on scooters, an offer of a Kool-Aid “for the road.” Those who want to can share communal dinners a couple of times a week at the complex’s common house, which also has been the site of dance classes, board game nights, and a workshop on falling safely, attended mainly by the sort of older folks who worry about breaking a hip.

The neighborhood of about 80 people, ranging in age from 80 to 8 months, is small enough that everyone knows everyone else, yet large enough to ensure privacy. That community size is by design, too, an element of co-housing since it was pioneered in Denmark in the 1960s and ’70s. Camelot, with both market-rate and affordable housing, opened in 2008 and sold its last available unit in 2012. Another co-housing development, Mosaic Commons, is just down the hill.

With a one-bedroom unit easily adapted to walkers and wheelchairs, DiCalogero, who is single, now calls Camelot her retirement plan. “There are interesting people around who will be there to help me if I get sick and can relate to me as I get older,” she says. Sure, she adds, the modest homes are “not single-family houses on 2 acres — but why would you want to [live like] that if you have a choice?”

DiCalogero is not the only baby boomer thinking ahead to how she’ll stay active and socially engaged in the decades to come. Camelot is one of 13 developments of its kind in Massachusetts, with more inevitably on the way. And co-housing is just one of many ways boomers are trying to avoid being alone in their later years, or at least delay moving into a nursing home.

Few of America’s 78 million 49- to 67-year-olds have any intention of aging the way their parents have, wedded to their independence at all costs, even if it ultimately means social isolation. Plenty of older people are moving in with their boomer children, but many others don’t want to be a burden — for them, the plan is to stay home until they can’t anymore.

But not the baby boomers, who can envision all sorts of alternate living arrangements. “To [the older generation], living alone is the only measure of success, but the boomers’ comfort with interdependence means there are many options,” says Dr. Bill Thomas, an influential geriatrician and author based in New York. “Aging in community, rather than all alone, is going to make the boomers’ experience of old age different than anything that ever came before.”

It may be time to start calling the “Me Generation” the “We Generation.”

 JOANNE TULLER, a 58-year-old community health center administrator, has lived with other people — other people who aren’t relatives — for her entire adult life. She loved college dorm life, so after she graduated, Tuller moved to a co-op in Cambridge with seven housemates. This is great, she recalls thinking early on. This is for me.

More than three decades later, Tuller owns a big Victorian in Dorchester with her partner and shares it with five other adult men and women — plus one newborn. The residents buy their food together, split the cooking and other chores, and each pays about $525 a month.

While admitting collective living isn’t for everyone, “I expect that boomers are going to find the idea less radical than older people,” says Tuller. “Boomers are community-oriented, they went to college and lived in dorms, the hippie [experience] makes them more open to living with people they’re not related to.”

There are compelling demographic reasons why Tuller’s prediction is good news. For one, the pool of family caregivers is shrinking. Some 1 in 4 boomers never had children; those who did may have sons and daughters thousands of miles away. One-third of the population will face old age single — either widowed, divorced, or never married. Already, 4 million 50-plus women live in US households with at least two other women of similar age.

And since the boomer generation is so large — by 2030, the 65-plus population is expected to double to 72 million, or 1 out of 5 Americans — their economic strength, as a demographic bloc, could lead to communities built around all sorts of shared interests. Andrew Carle, founding director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, envisions niche communities for dog lovers, gardeners, even cruise ship enthusiasts. “Boomers have always had the critical mass to demand more choices in anything, whether flavors of ice cream or brands in blue jeans,” he says. “You only need 300 Grateful Dead fans to fill a retirement community.”

Already, those interested in lifelong learning can live at university-based retirement communities on or near campuses. Lasell Village in Newton was one of the first, and there are four or five dozen nationwide now, near such schools as Dartmouth and Cornell. Meanwhile, popular 55-plus communities cater to physically active types. Great Island at The Pinehills in Plymouth has walking trails, fitness programs, nearby golf courses, and a full-time lifestyle director. Highland Meadows in Weston highlights its luxury units and proximity to highways leading to the city, the beach, and skiing in the mountains.

Another common form of shared housing now and for the future is likely to involve relatives, often three generations living under one roof. Between 2007 and 2009, the Pew Research Center reported a 10.5 percent increase in multi-generational housing. Meanwhile, a 2012 survey by home builder PulteGroup found that about 1 in 3 adult children expect to someday share a house with a parent.

Five years ago, music teachers Ted and Wendy Hagarty sold their home in Bellingham. At the same time, Ted’s widowed mother sold hers in Northborough. Together, they bought a spacious Colonial in South Grafton and created an in-law apartment in the lower level with its own kitchen and door to the outside.

The family knew that some multi-generational households run into privacy issues and hurt feelings, so they set clear ground rules from the beginning. “There are adjustments, especially if you are the daughter-in-law, but it’s worked out really well,” says 51-year-old Wendy. “Not all personalities could make it work, but it does because there’s mutual respect.”

Ted, who is 60, says their 20-year-old daughter regularly goes downstairs to have long talks with her 90-year-old grandmother, particularly when she’s had enough of her parents. Ted himself doesn’t “have that panic feeling of not knowing what’s going on,” he says. “And I see my mother at peace. I think it has prolonged her life.”

EVEN WHEN THEY’RE NOT SHARING their homes, plenty of boomers are finding ways to build and share their larger communities.

There was a time when lots of retirees planned on picking up and moving to Florida or Arizona, but the notion of being a snowbird no longer flies the way it used to. According to recent Census estimates, rural areas — including scenic spots long associated with retirees — are losing population for the first time, the situation exacerbated now by boomers who are deciding to keep working and to keep living in their own homes.

“The biggest trend we will see in the next 20 years is people aging in place,” says William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Some area communities are particularly well-suited to this. Earlier this year, Brookline’s ongoing commitment to quality-of-life issues like public transportation and senior housing earned it an age-friendly designation from the World Health Organization, one of only eight such places in the United States. The town holds regular forums to explore needs of older residents, and the volunteer organization Brookline-CAN (Community Aging Network) recently put out a guide listing apartments and condos with amenities such as elevators, concierge services, and underground parking out of the ice and snow.

For the most part, however, this state’s housing stock — with all its narrow doorways and steep stairs — does not tend to match the needs of our aging population, says Kermit Baker, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard. For many boomers, staying in their homes will require renovating them to make them more accessible.

Paul Morse, the 59-year-old owner of Morse Constructions in Somerville, is a contractor helping older people stay safely at home. He is among the state’s 82 Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS), a designation earned through the National Association of Home Builders. Since 2008, the number of CAPS has doubled to 5,000 nationwide. Morse says the most common changes are widening doorways for wheelchairs and walkers; installing grab bars, higher toilets, and curbless showers; and reorienting living spaces to make it possible to stay on first floors. Increasingly, experts are adopting “universal design,” intended for all ages and abilities. Eliminating thresholds, for instance, makes moving around easier, whether you’re rolling a wheelchair or pushing a baby stroller.

A decade ago, this type of renovation wasn’t at all prevalent, Morse says. In 2011, however, 55-plus homeowners accounted for more than 45 percent of all US home-improvement spending.

“But there’s more to aging in place than renovations,” says Morse. “Being able to stay in your house is not just about having an accessible home, it’s about support.” To foster a community, Morse and his wife Karen, 56, are also deeply involved in Staying Put of Cambridge and Somerville, an organization dedicated to helping people find ways to age well in their homes and communities. The local group puts out a monthly newsletter and conducts workshops and public forums, some in conjunction with area elder services offices.

The couple also belong to a smaller Staying Put neighborhood group that is made up of 13 members, primarily boomers living in and around Davis and Porter squares. On top of meeting regularly for the last three years, they help one another shovel snow, install air conditioners, and deliver meals to members who are ill or recovering from surgery.

Taken together, the friendships “deepen our understanding of religions and cultures,” Paul says. “So our lives are enriched as we get older, as opposed to [just] stopping.”

An even more involved way to get support is called the Village Movement. Beacon Hill Village in Boston, the first of 110 such groups around the country, isn’t a housing development but essentially a big in-person social network. Founded in 2001 by friends who never wanted to move, its 340 50-plus members each pay $675 a year (or $975 per household) to stay socially engaged and get information and discounts from vetted service providers. Need a dog walker or a carpenter? Want to get a doctor referral, attend a cocktail party, or volunteer in the larger community? Paid staff and volunteers can make it happen. (The seven other Villages in Massachusetts have differing fee structures and services.)

“The connections that we had generations ago when our families lived around is gone,” says Karen Morse. “When you’re connected to your neighbors, you know them differently and are able to do things for each other. It allows for the kind of connection you might have with a family member.”

OF COURSE, as any Rolling Stones fan knows, you can’t always get what you want. For reasons ranging from a lack of family to take you in to medical issues that require professional attention, staying out of a nursing home is not always possible. Yet these days, not all nursing homes are synonymous with institutional hallways, bland cafeteria food, and prickly roommates.

A little over a decade ago, geriatrician Bill Thomas conceived of a new kind of residential facility that would feel like a home, encourage social engagement, and offer the medical care of a nursing home — and it would aim to do all of those things while remaining within reach of those on Medicaid and Medicare. Thomas dubbed his concept the Green House model — not for ecological reasons, but because they would be devoted to the idea that the old can continue to grow. There are 150 or so Green House projects in 24 states; 150 more are in development.

The Leonard Florence Center for Living opened in Chelsea three years ago. There are 10 “homes” in the six-floor building, each occupied by 10 to 12 people. Visitors step off the elevator and come to a door that looks like it belongs to a private home. Inside, there’s a living room with a large fireplace, art and ceramics everywhere, a plate of fruit and fresh-baked cookies on the counter. Each resident gets his or her own bedroom and bathroom, a flat-screen TV, and access to the Wi-Fi network.

Rose Blake for the Boston Globe

Rose Blake for the Boston Globe

Life in the Green House is different from the norm, too. Rather than following a set schedule, residents are in control. They wake up and go to sleep when they want. There are no special visiting hours. In each suite, meals are prepared in a homey kitchen and are shared at the long wooden table in the dining room. There’s an airy cafe, stocked by a pastry chef, and a deli in the lobby.

It all sounds awfully expensive, and this $38 million, 93,000-square-foot project certainly was pricey to build —  something that makes it challenging to replicate on a larger scale, critics of the concept say — with some $28 million coming from private donations and tax credits and the rest covered by a mortgage. And yet 70 percent of residents pay for their stays with Medicaid and Medicare, a percentage of government funding similar to traditional nursing homes.

One of the residents is Lou Sanders, a 95-year-old widower and former military technician. He’d watched his own mother in a nursing home. In a place like that, he says, “you’re losing not only privacy, but your dignity.”

But after four years of living with his daughter, Shelley Diffily, it was clear he was going to need more medical help than she and her family could provide. His blood pressure sometimes dropped dangerously low and he was facing the early stages of Parkinson’s. “I knew I wasn’t heading in the right direction,” he says.

After a period in assisted living, Sanders and Diffily, who lives about 30 minutes away in North Reading, looked at a nursing home in North Andover. It was very nice and clean, but didn’t feel right. “I didn’t want his life to be reduced to half a room with a curtain in between and a little dresser,” Diffily says. Then she heard about the Green House.

About 18 months after moving in, “I couldn’t be in a better place,” Sanders says. “I feel like a person as opposed to being a patient — it’s like a family here.”

As for Diffily, she says one of her concerns is not knowing where she’ll end up in her later years. The 58-year-old has two sons in their early 20s, but she’s resolved not to become a burden to them. “I don’t want to wind up in a nursing home,” she says. “But if I do, I hope I can get into a place like this.”

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SALLY’S BOOMER HOUSING RESOURCES 

 

Posted in Housing

Is Home Sharing for You?

At the online service Let’s Share Housing, based in Portland, Ore., which provides a list of people who want to live in shared housing and homeowners who want to share, 80 percent of the clients are boomer women. Fifty-five percent of the women enrolled at the Vermont-based in-person matching service Home Share Now are over age 50. Online interest in the program has doubled since 2007 — likely due, in part, to many more people who have never been married enrolling.

Conditions are ripe to make home sharing an option for many women. Four million women age 50-plus live in U.S. households with at least two women 50-plus — a statistic that is expected to rise. According to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, one out of three boomers will probably face old age without a spouse. Women, on average, live about five years longer than men. Adult children are often far away. And since 1990, the overall divorce rate for the 50-plus demographic has doubled.

Add the recession, rising health care and housing costs, and longer lives to the reasons for shared housing’s popularity. “My hunch is that money will be the incentive to get over the fear of ‘Me? Live with a stranger? Never!’ ” says Annamarie Pluhar, a shared-housing consultant and author of Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. ”But it’s also having someone say, ‘How is your day?’ and having a social connection that feeds the soul.”

Few could deny that there are emotional and physical benefits from friendship and social engagement — and research supports this. In a home share, the residents can also split household chores, feel safer with more people around, and grow older at home without feeling isolated.

The Logistics of Living Together

After conferring with attorneys, accountants and financial planners, McQuillin, Machinist and Bush took out a three-way mortgage on a brick, five-bedroom, $395,000 colonial in Mount Lebanon, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. McQuillin has the third-floor bedroom, bathroom and office; Bush, a second-floor bedroom and private bath that adjoins her office; and Machinist has the master suite.

Every month, the women deposit the same amount into their joint checking account to pay for utilities, property taxes and repairs. They each contribute a $100 gift card, with which they buy and share groceries — if someone entertains family or friends, she pays separately — and they occasionally eat together. They have house rules, including no overnight guests for more than seven consecutive nights, with built-in flexibility.

“It’s like living with two wonderful sisters,” says Bush, 65. The three have coauthored a book titled My House, Our House: Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household.

Another home sharer, Marianne Kilkenny, 63, not only owns a house-sharing coaching business in Asheville, N.C., and gives workshops (one is called “Women Living in Community: From Dreaming to Doing”), but lives with three other women ages 48 to 69; two are divorced, another never married. Each has her own bedroom and bathroom, but Kilkenny pays the most, $900 monthly, including utilities, because she has the in-law apartment with a separate kitchen. The other rents range from $550 to $650. They share living areas, including a screened-in back porch where they eat in good weather.

The women have a meal together at least once a week as well as a weekly meeting. There are rules, such as hours when they can’t do laundry or must be quiet in the halls. Everyone must be notified before guests, such as boyfriends or children, visit.

Lorraine Chambers, 69, is one of Kilkenny’s housemates. Chambers’ son, Jason, is a college dean and father to young children, and he lives more than two hours away. “It’s comforting to know Mom is in a safe neighborhood with people who genuinely care about one another,” he says. “And it’s the leveraging of each other’s financial resources that makes it possible for her to share such a nice place.”

When Kilkenny first moved in at night two years ago, someone left the light on for her. “I was so moved,” she says. “It’s the little things that mean so much.” On her 62nd birthday, her housemates left cards outside her door. “Feeling cared about is worth going through some of the conflict that will occur,” she says.

The Drawbacks of Home Sharing

Not having your own place can also involve compromise. Sharing means less privacy and dealing with someone else’s habits.

Experts say problems usually occur when areas of conflict — household chores, communal property, pets, cleanliness, temperature of the house, noise, guests — haven’t been addressed before the move in or within the first week or two. They also happen when expectations are unclear or there is no home-share agreement (see sidebar).

Zoe Morrison, 55, of Portland, Ore., who runs the house-sharing service Let’s Share Housing, is divorced and has grown children. She has lived in cooperative households six times. One time she called it quits when her new housemate’s lover moved in unannounced. Another time the bills turned out to be higher than she had been told.

McQuillin, Machinist and Bush say that if they lived alone, they’d have their parents, children and grandchildren over more often. “Living with anyone has trade-offs,” says Machinist, “but I’m willing to make little trade-offs and have a little less freedom.”

But as they get older, the three women realize that what they used to call the “old biddies commune” can’t be their home forever. When they bought the house, they were in their 50s and weren’t thinking about health issues. Now McQuillin has a knee problem and lives up two flights of winding stairs. Machinist says her next place will be more accessible for older people. Bush thinks she’d prefer to live in a warmer climate.

They’ll worry about that later, say these converts, and remain right where they are. Says Machinist, “This is the best way I’ve ever lived.”

Home Sharing Do’s and Don’ts

  • Before moving in or accepting a housemate:
  • Make sure everyone in the house meets the prospective housemate before giving the go-ahead. Meet on Skype if long distances are involved. Good chemistry is key!
  • Decide how common rooms will be used and cleaned, what possessions are shared or off-limits, and how chores will get done.
  • In writing, spell out rules on smoking, overnight/day guests, how and when to pay bills, and what happens if the home share fails. All should sign.
  • Before house keys are distributed, make sure all money is paid (for example, first month and last month, security deposit).
  • Don’t pay, or accept, a security deposit in installments.
  • Any pet peeves? Discuss!
  • Share a meal after a week to see how the arrangement is working.
  • Have an exit strategy — just in case.

What to Look for In a Housemate:

  • Does she meet your requirements about what you must have in a housemate? Examples: a productive life, considerate and flexible, good values, a realistic vision of what living together entails, common expectations about the arrangement.
  • What are deal breakers for you? A boyfriend who will be sleeping over a lot? A pet? Someone who is messy or doesn’t have boundaries? Something else?
  • Is she financially stable?
  • What do her references say? If she’s home-shared before, what do her housemates think of her? Get at least two references. Ask about her strengths and weaknesses and if there’s anything you should know.
  • Lastly, have you done an internet search on her name to learn more about her?
 
Posted in Housing

Is Multigenerational Living A Good Move?

Multigenerational living is a popular trend that helps everyone: kids: adult children; and their aging parents. Find out how it works and about its appeal

The Ng family from Hawaii

 

“It used to be older people whose money had run out who were living with their children, and now it’s the next generation that can’t keep up,” says Louis Tenenbaum, a founder of the Aging in Place Institute, which promotes “multigen” remodeling.

True, multigenerational families bunking together is hardly news in certain cultures. In 2009, 9.4 percent of Asian households, 9.5 percent of African American ones and 10.3 percent of Latino homes were multigenerational (compared with 3.7 percent of non-Hispanic white households).

But strong indications show that multigenerational living is on the rise: The U.S. 65-plus population is expected to more than double to 92 million by 2060. Sixty-one percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 have friends or family who have moved back in with parents or relatives (because they have no job, no money and no other place to live). And the latest census projections show the clear growth in cultures, such as Latinos, that already embrace multigenerational housing (non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population by 2043).

Could this be an idyllic world of built-in child care, elder care and three square meals? A solution for avoiding isolation in old age? A way for pooled finances to go further?

Another Pew report did find that more than three-quarters of “boomerangs” — the young adults ages 25 to 34 who move back in with their parents — were satisfied with their living situation. Almost half paid rent and nearly 90 percent helped with household expenses. And in a 2011 report of multigen dwellers by Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, 82 percent said the setup brought them closer, 72 percent mentioned improved finances, and 75 percent saw care benefits.

Consider long-term care costs alone. A 2012 MetLife Mature Market Institute survey put the average annual cost of a private nursing home room at $90,520, a semiprivate at $81,030 and assisted living at $42,600. Add to those costs the value of peace of mind knowing a loved one is being cared for by family, and multigenerational housing may be the new assisted living plan.

Designing for multigenerational living

Builders and remodelers are ready to support the growing trend. Want or need to stay put? The number of certified aging-in-place specialists who help older folks remain safely at home has more than doubled to nearly 5,000 since 2008. And the construction of new houses has started to get off the ground again.

Some builders have begun offering two master suites, a den or family room that can be converted into a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, and other “bonus areas” with flexible space that can change with family needs. A two-car garage might shrink to one car and the extra area morph into living space for a grandparent or boomerang kid. Builders and remodelers are offering universal design features (wider hallways and doors, good lighting, few or no steps) that work for a baby stroller or a wheelchair. Some builders are installing infrastructure for future bathroom grab bars and stacking closets for down-the-road elevators.

In 2011, national builder Lennar introduced its first Next Gen house in Phoenix, geared to more than one generation. Now Lennar offers more than 50 Next Gen floor plans in 120 communities in California, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Next Gen’s concept is two houses in one: The main home has three or four bedrooms, and there’s an attached unit with its own front entrance, kitchen, bedroom, living space and garage. Perfect for an aging parent (or lucky nanny or guest, or as a man cave), it’s typically one-fifth the size of the main house. An adjoining inner door can be left open so the house can be one big home or, when closed, two residences.

Last November, Tom Moser, 60, a financial planner, and his wife, Kristin, 56, a registered nurse, moved into a Next Gen home in Marana, Ariz., with Tom’s dad, Lee, 82, a widower, who had lived 20 miles away. Tom had worried because night driving was becoming a concern for Lee and he “was kind of housebound.”

Each sold his respective home and chipped in to buy the $300,000, 3,200-square-foot, two-unit residence. (Tom’s living space is 2,500 square feet; his dad’s is 700.) Lee pays 15 percent of the utilities and helps with errands.

Tom’s sister Diane Weeks, 58, and brother-in-law, Wes, 57, along with Wes’ parents, have moved next door into another Next Gen home; their son, his wife and baby lived there for a while, too. Tom’s mother-in-law, Susan Liem, 81, just bought the house on Moser’s other side. “Everyone has separate space. We’re not stepping on each other,” he says. “This is my dream of being able to care for one another, but not do it alone.”

Tom has his own elder care plan: “When I’m 80, I know exactly where my wife and I are moving: right into my father’s place. Hopefully, my son or daughter [now 23 and 26] will slide into my place.”

A helpful arrangement

Multigenerational setups were common during the Great Depression but declined once people began to rebound economically. Now, as John Graham, coauthor of Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living, observes, the recent recession has prompted a move back from valuing independence to interdependence.

“Families may be coming together because of the economy,” says Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, “but they’re staying together because it helps them all.”

Jason Ng, 38, his girlfriend, Jamie Sonoda, 30, and their 20-month-old baby, Addison, live in a home he and his parents rebuilt on their property in Aiea, Hawaii. His mother, Karen, 64, has dubbed the den “the nest,” because she and her husband, Melvin, 69, have private space to watch TV. The two couples split bills equally: mortgage, utilities and groceries. Karen and Melvin adore caring for their granddaughter during the week when Jason and Jamie are at work, and don’t charge the new parents.

“I dream of having my own house, but the land in Hawaii is expensive,” says Jason. “If I moved where it’s cheaper I’d have a 1.5-hour commute. I love where I grew up, and a comparable house goes for $700,000 to $800,000. We got everything we wanted for $500,000 and split that. And we live in the same house as my parents, so if there’s an emergency, I’m right here.”

Then, the challenges

But the multigenerational housing scenario is not so rosy for everyone. Family friction, strain on spouses, and less opportunity for work and personal time are very real concerns.

Kris Radjewski’s 92-year-old mother-in-law has lived with her, Kris’ husband, Ed, 55, and their 14-year-old daughter, Lexi, in Lake Hopatcong, N.J., for 13 years. The elder Mrs. Radjewski has taken over the family room in the basement, where Kris’ older daughter, now away at school, would entertain friends. Now Lexi feels she has no space for hers. “She’s fed up and wants her life back,” says Kris, 50. “My daughter needs her mom, and I’m either working or taking care of Grandma.”

Ofelia Ramirez, 37, a housecleaner from Kyle, Texas, can relate. She has the 24/7 company of her husband, 42, her children, ages 16, 14, 7 and 6, and her 80-year-old mother-in-law. “The kids like having her around and we get to share a lot of memories,” says Ramirez. The downside is unsolicited advice about how to raise her children and feeling she can’t have their own friends over for dinner. And yet, on days her mother-in-law is not around, “it feels like somebody is missing.”

Ellen Lewis, 49, of Leonardtown, Md., describes having her mom, now 78, live with her, her second husband and her four kids, ages 10 to 20, as “not bliss, but it’s not hellish either.”

Lewis, who owns two knitting shops, says her parents (her dad died in 2001) were incredibly helpful when she was raising her kids, dealing with a failing first marriage and then dating her future husband. “But the dynamic has changed a lot over the years. You can’t look at this as an equal relationship,” she says. “It’s OK. It’s my time to take care of her. I have to remember the good times. I don’t want to see her in a nursing home.”

If you like this multigen concept, check out these tips to make the arrangement work.

Photo by Daniel Hennessy of the Ng family for the AARP Bulletin

 

 

Posted in Housing Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gardens as Medicine: 5 Things You Need to Know

courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital

Want to feel better? Think nature. Healing gardens are a growing trend. Many major medical centers, including the 6,300-square-foot rooftop garden at the Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, part of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the NIH Clinical Center, and long-term care facilities, are adding them. And so are homeowners.

The basic elements of a healing or therapeutic garden include:

  • Plants and wildlife
  • Walkways
  • Private sitting areas
  • Shade
  • A water feature

Most are outdoors. Some have raised planters so patients and family members can plant, weed, and work the garden. Sometimes they have medicinal herbs, such as primrose or foxglove.

Scientists say natural settings can lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, and muscle tension and negative thoughts. The idea is that lowering stress can boost the immune system and speed healing.

Physicians at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida realized that some patients who could see—they didn’t even have to be in—the hospital garden had less pain, needed fewer medications and had shorter stays than patients without a garden view. I don’t know how they figured that out, but what an endorsement!

The gardens’ restorative and medicinal benefits have many converts: substance abuse, pediatric, burn, HIV/AIDS, hospice, cancer, stroke, brain injury, psychiatric, and dementia patients.

But they’re really intended for a wider audience: not just patients, but visitors, family members waiting for surgery to be over, exhausted caregivers, and staff looking for a breather. Some support groups meet in healing gardens.

How come it took so long for us to catch on? They’ve been around forever from the Middle Ages to ancient Egypt and Greece to Japan (as in Zen gardens). In 1879, Friends Hospital in Philadelphia started a program for psychiatric patients who staff noticed were acting calmer after being in the ground gardens.

Don’t have a healing garden? Relax! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Create your own mini-garden. Even on a city balcony, you can have an area of plants. You don’t need all of the features (water, pathways, private sitting areas) to have a lovely oasis.
  2. Have land and want a more professional therapeutic garden? Use a landscape architect.
  3. Call medical centers and ask if they have gardens. Go visit. If you’re considering a home mini-version, see what you like and what you don’t like. Or just enjoy.
  4. The next time you’re visiting a relative or friend in long-term care, take them outside. If there are gardens and pathways on the grounds, hang out there awhile. Walking around the grounds is good exercise for both of you.
  5. If there’s no formal healing garden that you know of, don’t sweat it. Head to your local park or arboretum.

For a better picture of healing gardens:

Posted in Housing

Three Ways to Make Your Town Dementia-Friendly

I always knew I lived in a cool, progressive place, but Brookline, Mass, the closest town to Boston, just went up another notch for me.

It not only attracts an international community (world-class hospitals and brainy universities everywhere), but now has the distinction of being the first dementia-friendly community in the country.

The initiative “It Takes A Village” finds ways for those with dementia and their caregivers to enjoy cultural offerings around town, include other residents who want to attend, change people’s attitudes towardAlzheimer’s, and trigger memories of long ago.

The concept is spearheaded by the non-profit ARTZ (Artists for Alzheimer’s) and bankrolled with a grant from the local Brookline Community Foundation. It has brought together public and cultural institutions, civic and business leaders, and citizens.

Between March and this August, there will be 16 events, every other week for 60-90 minutes. These include:

  • An interactive story telling program at an independent bookstore
  • An art program at the Brookline Art Center
  • A music performance with musicians and those with dementia at the Brookline Music School
  • An outdoor concert on the grounds of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Olmsted was a world-famous landscape architect and park-maker
  • A discussion on politics at the home where John F. Kennedy was born
  • A film program at the 1920’s, Art Deco Coolidge Theatre (profiled in AARP)
  • Yoga in a studio
  • A talk about antique cars at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum

A recent program at the car museum, entitled “On the Road,” steered the conversation from what they were seeing to their own memories—their first car, going to drive-ins in their parents’ cars, and their own travels.

Since this is Boston, college students volunteer and also participate. “The idea is to destigmatize dementia in the community so that it just becomes something people have, like cancer or HIV, that they live with, but it doesn’t define them,” says ARTZ Creative Director Sean Caulfield. “What we don’t want to do is warehouse people and keep them isolated, but rather, inside the community circle.”

Caregivers get to meet one another and find educational opportunities for family members. The adult child I know of two parents with dementia moved them to Brookline so they could participate in these events.

Want to make your town dementia-friendly?

  1. Figure out what is available in your community. A culinary institute? A college? A community center? A public library? A movie theatre?
  2. Start a coalition of people caring for those with dementia
  3. Talk to local, civic and business leaders, non-profit foundations, community activists, and cultural institutions.
Posted in Housing

3 Ways to Make Your Town Dementia-Friendly

I always knew I lived in a cool, progressive place, but Brookline, Mass, the closest town to Boston, just went up another notch for me.

It not only attracts an international community (world-class hospitals and brainy universities everywhere), but now has the distinction of being the first dementia-friendly community in the country.

The initiative “It Takes A Village” finds ways for those with dementia and their caregivers to enjoy cultural offerings around town, include other residents who want to attend, change people’s attitudes toward Alzheimer’s, and trigger memories of long ago.

The concept is spearheaded by the non-profit ARTZ (Artists for Alzheimer’s) and bankrolled with a grant from the local Brookline Community Foundation. It has brought together public and cultural institutions, civic and business leaders, and citizens.

Between March and this August, there will be 16 events, every other week for 60-90 minutes. These include:

  • An interactive story telling program at an independent bookstore
  • An art program at the Brookline Art Center
  • A music performance with musicians and those with dementia at the Brookline Music School
  • An outdoor concert on the grounds of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Olmsted was a world-famous landscape architect and park-maker
  • A discussion on politics at the home where John F. Kennedy was born
  • A film program at the 1920’s, Art Deco Coolidge Theatre (profiled in AARP)
  • Yoga in a studio
  • A talk about antique cars at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum

A recent program at the car museum, entitled “On the Road,” steered the conversation from what they were seeing to their own memories—their first car, going to drive-ins in their parents’ cars, and their own travels.

Since this is Boston, college students volunteer and also participate. “The idea is to destigmatize dementia in the community so that it just becomes something people have, like cancer or HIV, that they live with, but it doesn’t define them,” says ARTZ Creative Director Sean Caulfield. “What we don’t want to do is warehouse people and keep them isolated, but rather, inside the community circle.”

Caregivers get to meet one another and find educational opportunities for family members. The adult child I know of two parents with dementia moved them to Brookline so they could participate in these events.

Want to make your town dementia-friendly?

  1. Figure out what is available in your community. A culinary institute? A college? A community center? A public library? A movie theatre?
  2. Start a coalition of people caring for those with dementia
  3. Talk to local, civic and business leaders, non-profit foundations, community activists, and cultural institutions.
Posted in Housing

Boomers Welcome New Housing + Technology

AARP Bulletin photo

Ever heard of intergenerational cohousing? Does “niche community” ring a bell?

Boomers exploring what’s-next-optiions for themselves or their parents will want to know about two more: pocket neighborhoods and granny pods.

Check out my AARP Bulletin story on pocket neighborhoods.

The idea is to get to live in a place where there is a sense of community. Run the other way, loners!

************************************************************************** 
Take a look at all the great caregiving technology on the market. Do you know of others?

Posted in Housing

What Are The Top Three Age-Friendly Cities?

Happy 65th birthday, 78 million boomers! Just 20 more years until you’re 85! And what of it?

Today, Philadelphia has the highest proportion of people age 60+, with more than half minority or foreign-born. And, New York City’s older population is going to soar by almost 50% in the next 25 years. AARP research shows that 89% of older Americans want to stay put.

Cities like Philly and NYC are scrambling to find ways to make it easier for older Americansto age in their communities (the lingo is “age in place”). This means good public transportation when driving no longer works, plenty of walking routes, access to parks and stores, and opportunities to participate in the community.

“Age-friendy cities” and “livable communities” are the new buzzwords you need to know. In fact, there are 300 livable community efforts nationwide that include creative partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies, businesses, nonprofits, academia, and experts to make their city hospitable to the old and frail (as well as all ages, naturally).

It makes fiscal sense to care: people live in places that address their needs.

I interviewed experts from New York City, Atlanta, and Philly who are creating age-friendly environments.  These include changing zoning codes to mix commercial and residential so people can shop wherer they live, and getting businesses to think older with chairs to rest and bigger signage, the better to see, my dear.

Take a look at what these cities are doing. http://aarp.us/qOJ59D

What would you like to see happen where you live? What do you think are the biggest obstacles to staying in your home, apartment, community?

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Latest Boomer Trends In Housing

So great to research alternatives to being alone and lonely in later life. Lots of fun options, from cohousing to niche communities to university-type living. A nudist community for older foks is in the planning stages. I pass! Have gotten lots of interest in this AARP Bulletin piece:

http://www.sallyabrahms.com/articles/detail.asp?content=86&category=3

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Married But Living Apart?

It’s a phenomenon, not just a media headline. More older, long-married couples live in separate digs, cities, states during the week, rendez-vous on (some) weekends. Not so dreamy, but driven by economics. I interviewed happily-married-but-living-solo folks and experts for AARP Bulletin.

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/info-07-2011/married-but-living-apart.print.html

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Homeless No More

My latest article for AARP Bulletin covers homeless veterans not only given a second chance, but a new home! The response has been overwhelming. Veterans and social service folks have been contacting me to vent and find resources.

Click here to read: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/housing/info-07-2011/homeless-vets.html

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