Accommodation intro – there’s no place like home

Where and how we live are important considerations and become even more so as we get older. Many of us may already have some experience and appreciation of this through our parents or other older relatives. Some manage seem to manage amazingly well on their own until a ripe old age, while others need to move to a more suitable location or property or need support from others to get by day to day.

Setting the scene

Maintaining independence can be a key driver for many older adults, whether living with a spouse or partner, or alone having been widowed or having long lived alone. Some people are able to stay in their existing home for the duration, with or without adaptation including stair lifts, rails, bathroom modifications etc. Others need to move to a more suitable property at some point, either in anticipation of, or as and when, no longer being able to manage the stairs, house maintenance, garden, running costs etc. Others still prefer to move to retirement specific accommodation e.g. a gated community or sheltered / wardened accommodation, so they have support and amenities as well as social interaction from people in similar situations should they need it, whilst still retaining much of their independence.

A family affair

Living with others can offer differing degrees of independence, and probably varies based on the relative ages and capabilities of the individuals.

Most common arrangements are likely to involve living with relatives. Some live with siblings, either in one of their former homes or in the original family home. Other family arrangements include the older person living in a part of the others’ house, sometimes in a flat or annexe, or for family members to live in the older person’s house.  They could act as a safety and support network for one another, providing company or other support, as well as sharing costs. Hopefully in most situations this is perceived as mutually beneficial (or at worst as cost and risk mitigation). There could be challenges in terms of stressful relationships, loss of independence on both sides, resentfulness etc., so these would need to be considered to make the situations work.  While family arrangements are still common in some societies they are less common these days in many western countries. We could expect to see a return to this in future with the increasing ageing population, housing shortages, pension limitations, social care crisis etc. This could also be influenced by more (younger) people choosing to live independently, without marrying or having children.

Friends with benefits

While much less common, similar arrangements with friends (instead of family members) could also become more common for many of the same reasons above. Other examples of living with others include having a lodger, either younger or of similar age, having a live-in carer or living in a care home or nursing home. These obviously differ in the level of independence and support, financial costs and benefits, social interaction etc., but offer a range of options for later in life, depending on the existence, closeness and proximity of family.  Clear expectations of arrangements and house rules should be established up-front with open, ongoing communication to ensure the situation is fair, tolerable and sustainable for all concerned.

Something for everyone

Accommodation options can also vary: houses, bungalows, mobile homes, flats, rooms, granny flats, annexes, incidental or purpose built care homes. Some choose to spend their retirement in a mobile home (static caravan) or even a houseboat enjoying a peaceful or picturesque location as either their primary or secondary residence. Options may depend on the starting point, financial considerations, proximity to amenities, health and physical capabilities, suitability of accommodation, age, life stage and preference of the individual. We’ll look at many of these in future blogs, including pros and cons of the different options.

Home is where the heart is

I appreciate that such action may seem a way off for many readers, but I encourage you all to reflect on your own circumstances and where you want to live; whether your current situation and preparations would support this and what adjustments or additional preparations you may need to make. These may seem like far off decisions, but if the speed my own life is whizzing by is any indication, it’s certainly important enough to start considering.


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