Why the Elderly Need to Be Careful with Housing Choices

Updated on May 21, 2019
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker has been happily retired since 2002 and likes sharing what she has learned about aging in order to help those who are facing it.

There are many housing options available for older people these days, but it's important for them to understand that the choices they make today can have major impacts on their mental and physical health in the future.

However, decisions where to live can be difficult because nobody has the ability to look into the future.

People's needs and desires change as they age, so what may seem to be a good housing choice now might not work well in the future due to unforeseen issues that can arise such as

  • serious illnesses
  • divorce,
  • death of spouse or
  • problems with adult children.

For these and other types of reasons, older people need to seek housing that is safe, flexible and can meet present and future needs.

Older people need to do a lot of research before choosing where to live.
Older people need to do a lot of research before choosing where to live. | Source

Choices Must Meet Individual Needs

Each individual has different needs in old age.

  • The lucky ones remain relatively healthy and active, while others become burdened with painful and disabling illnesses.
  • Some have more financial stability than others.
  • Others have stronger support systems than those who relationships have failed

People cannot assume that mental and physical health issues won't strike them, because the older they get, the higher the risk for having these types of problems.

What few realize is that you cannot wait until trouble strikes to make housing changes because in many cased doing so will be impossible.

For example, people with dementia cannot legally sign documents and people with major illnesses are just too sick and weak to be able to handle housing changes, even though their present living facilities are no longer appropriate for their situations.

Many parents wrongly assume that if problems occur, their adult children will take them in, but in reality

  • relationships with their adult children may have changed,
  • children may be dealing with problems of their own or
  • children may not have room in their homes for their parents.

When these things happen, parents are left to fend for themselves. This is the exact reason why they should never plan on having relatives or friends take them in.

Instead they should do all they can to plan to live independently.

Below are some options that can help them to do so.

Will Staying In Your Home Work?

A good number of people have stated that they would prefer to simply stay in their own homes as they age.

For some, this can work well, if

  • their health is good,
  • they can afford the high costs involved in home ownership,
  • they are able to care for their homes,
  • they can make their homes handicapped ready and
  • their support system is strong.

However, this can be a very bad choice for others who

  • are in poor physical or mental health,
  • have limited finances,
  • don’t have many friends or relatives available to help them and
  • don't have the money to make safety alterations to their homes.

The location of the home for this last group is also important. If they live a good distance from doctors and health care facilities, staying put can be a major problem.

What About Other Housing Options

Those who don't want to grow old in their current homes or think they may be unable to do so should take a careful look at other options that may work for them such as:

  • having a room within a house where other seniors also live,
  • independent housing where people with few physical or mental needs can rent or buy an apartment and live as they please,
  • living in a situation where one gets help with daily living needs such as bathing and meal preparation,
  • living in a facility that houses dementia patients,
  • living in a nursing home that supplies physical oversight as well as daily living care or

Some of these choices work well for people, but can cause older people to lose some of their privacy as well as a certain amount of control over their lives.

This is especially true if they are ill enough to require consistent medical supervision.

Regardless of choice, older people need to research each option so that they can provide themselves with the best possible outcomes.

Pros and Cons of Other Housing Options

While living in your own home may seem to be the easiest choice, it does have its caveats. In many cases, living this way can create a sense of isolation which can lead to depression. Transportation can become a problem, especially if the house is not located close to shopping and medical facilities or a person is no longer able to drive his car. On the other hand living this way guarantees privacy and allows free choice in all matters as long as the individual is physically and mentally healthy.

Group living generally eliminates feelings of isolation but can also make the elderly victims of bullying and coercion. In some cases costs can rise significantly, thus forcing people to move to different locations.

Assisted living resolves issues of isolation, and provides assistance with daily living as well as transportation. However, it can be quite costly. Medicare does not pay anything towards assisted living, so cost should be carefully explored before choosing this option.

Skilled Nursing facilities are horribly expensive and are not known for giving people the best care. There are exceptions, however, which is why people need to do their homework before choosing a nursing home. In certain circumstances Medicare will cover beginning costs, but generally expenses are extremely high and must be borne by the patient and his family unless he qualifies for Medicaid.

As noted earlier, living with adult children is an option that may not be available. However, if it is, it likely will not be the most comfortable one because the parent who moves in may always feel like a "guest" rather than a family member. It will be up the adult children to set the tone, but many resent having people interrupt their lifestyles and show it. To make this option work, relationships must be exceedingly good and adult children must really want to help their elderly parents.

There is No Perfect Option

While there are many unexpected things that can happen to people on the road to old age, those who are lucky and who live intelligently will be the ones most likely to have the best old age housing options.

However, it is extremely important for people to realize that where and how they will be able to live in their older years may not always be their first choice. Even if it is, it will not be perfect.

While nobody has a crystal ball, there are indicators that can point to potential problems for the future such as poor health, financial problems or limited social support.

For this reason, people need to be realistic and take steps to create living quarters for themselves that will keep allow them to remain secure and financially stable for as long as possible.

I have met countless older individuals over the years who spend their days in isolation, have no one to turn to for help and whose bad financial decisions have left them without many of the necessities of daily living.

This is what happens when they assume that nothing will change and that they will always remain healthy.

You should assume nothing, and you should always be cautious when it comes to housing issues. Growing old is a treacherous trip that is full of stumbling blocks, but the more money, health and good relationships you have when you reach your destination, the happier you will be once you arrive!

Have you given any thought to where you might wind up living when you're old?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment
  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    7 months ago from USA

    Thanks. I've saved the link in case your reply gets deleted and will add it to the article when time permits. Sounds unique to me, but what a great deal!

  • no body profile image

    Robert E Smith 

    7 months ago from Rochester, New York


    We just happened upon this living situation. We were driving by and saw apartments for lease. We thought at first it was a place just for students but they were open to renting to others. I don't know if that has changed or if my situation is unique but we love it here. I hope this link is permitted.

  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    7 months ago from USA

    Robert E. Smith: Thank you SO much for this comment. What a great and creative idea you came up with. It leaves me wondering if there are similar housing opportunities around the country. Could you please let me know the name of the place where you live or provide contact info for it? I'm sure many would love to have further info about this!

  • no body profile image

    Robert E Smith 

    7 months ago from Rochester, New York

    I love the story of the lady that lives on a cruise ship. I love the recluse people that say they are thinking about a tiny home or a secluded cabin. None of those things were unnecessary for me to be happy.

    I had only one job all my working life and I never really thought I would retire from it, rather that I'd be fired before retirement. It is easy to say the wrong thing or one's actions misinterpreted incorrectly at some places of employment but I lasted 40 years there, and, to my surprise, I was able to retire with benefits and reputation intact. Now, I am retired and find the peacefulness and lack of pressure from work are more than enough to keep me happy and easy to please. I ended up renting in housing designed for continuing education students. It is great because everything is included in that one rental fee. All utilities, cable, internet, gymnasium/weight room, swimming pool and hot tub in summer, a clubhouse with pool table, video games and lounging areas where I can hobnob with old and young alike. Though it was designed for college students to be full service to that population, I saw that it would suit for a retirement paradise for me (at least in my mind). It is my hope that all who read this article would find what they need to be happy in their later years. Thank you for an enjoyable read. Bob.

  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    7 months ago from USA

    You're welcome. I've lived a long time, and I've seen what poor choices do to people's lives when they age. Wanted to share some of this info with the hopes of helping people avoid some of the problems.

  • Rachelle Williams profile image

    Rachelle Williams 

    7 months ago from Tempe, AZ

    Thank you so much for this hub! I just turned about a month ago, and I've been preoccupied with where I'm going to live in the not so distant future. I plan to build a tiny home that is comfortable for me to get around in as my body ages. So, no crazy ladders or having to pull out and put together furniture.

    I'm actively planning on retiring from working for others and work for myself in game and app development in the next five years.

    That story about Mary really made me think about loneliness among senior citizens...NOT a nice thought.

    Thank you again for creating this article, it was thought-provoking indeed!

  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    7 months ago from USA

    These tips are a bit off topic but certainly are good ones. I agree completely!

  • Jay C OBrien profile image

    Jay C OBrien 

    7 months ago from Houston, TX USA


    Start planning your retirement in your 20's

    Partner with someone

    Get steady jobs (government?)

    Buy a house (affordable)

    Save and invest

    Do not have children (risky)


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