Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on senior housing featured in Gray Matters.
Dorothy Gale said it best: “There’s no place like home.”
What home looks like — well, that differs from person to person.
Perhaps it’s a ranch-style house in the suburbs, or a townhouse in the city. Or maybe it’s something more exotic like a yurt.
Whatever the dwelling, it should suit a person’s needs and accommodate his or her lifestyle.
As Teresa Cook, vice president of marketing and development at Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, noted, “We all age differently.”
And how we age can affect what we look for in housing.
“There are a lot of reasons people might move from the family home to maybe an apartment or assisted living (facility),” Cook said. "It could be health, it could be economic, or because maybe they just don't want to mow the grass any longer.”
“I think the main thing to consider is that everybody’s needs are different,” added Duana Patton, CEO of the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging.
According to the 2018 edition of American Association of Retired Persons’ “Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Examples from America's Local Leaders,” 77 percent of people 50 and over agree with this statement:
“What I’d really like to do is remain in my community for as long as possible.”
And 76 percent of people 50 and over agree with this statement:
“What I’d really like to do is remain in my current residence for as long as possible.”
Further, 62 percent say it’s extremely or very important to have affordable housing options (such as active adult and assisted living communities, and those with shared facilities and outdoor spaces) for older adults of varying income levels.
According to Patton, housing options for seniors that are affordable and accessible — meaning both within the home (wheelchair accessibility, bathroom accessibility, etc.) and within the community (vicinity to grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) — are currently in short supply.
“Based upon the availability of what's out there now and the wave of those that are aging, there just won't be enough,” she said.
Cook noted that the Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 15,000 a month in Ohio.
“So just those numbers alone, you take that down into Richland County, that shows us that the need is here, that wave of the Boomers is coming,” she said. “So there’s a need for additional housing from all different levels, whether it's assisted living or an independent apartment.”
Senior housing options come in various forms. DailyCaring lists seven popular choices in its “Housing Options Beginners Guide.” These include aging in place, the village concept, independent living, residential care homes, continuing care retirement community, assisted living and nursing home or skilled nursing facility.
“We believe looking at that 60,000-foot view that we have to begin as a community thinking about what it is we're going to need (with regard to housing), and then we need to make those things happen … And that starts with a conversation with individuals who can champion new ideas, new opportunities because any kind of development takes resources and time,” Patton said.
In part one of our series on senior housing, residents in Ashland, Crawford and Richland counties responded to this question asked by a reader:
The majority of respondents were in favor of the idea, while some said they would prefer living in their own home or with relatives. This feedback isn’t unlike that which Cook hears from clients at the Area Agency on Aging.
“It really is a combination,” she said.
For those who want to remain in their own home, the agency can help via its home repair program which offers repairs to leaking roofs, furnace repair or replacement, wheel chair ramps, bathroom accessibility modifications and other necessary home repairs.
“But for some people, social isolation is big, especially in a rural county, so that's where that apartment complex living is something that they're looking forward to,” Cook said.
According to Patton, there are currently too few congregate living facilities throughout the region.
Examples of local congregate living facilities include Mansfield Memorial Homes Apartments, Logan Place, Park Village Apartments, Applewood Place, Robert Sturges Memorial Home, The Woods and West Park Senior Center.
“For us as an area agency, we have made a commitment and are actively looking at opportunities in and around Richland County for development of senior housing, and when I say development of senior housing, I'm thinking about affordability and a place where people can age in place because that's tied to our mission,” Patton said.
“You'll never appeal to everybody when you're developing a senior living facility or community, but if done right, you can appeal to those people who say they don’t want to live in a congregate setting where there’s all kinds of socialization,” Patton said.
It’s all about balance.
“Somebody that really likes their own space, likes to be able to go into their yard or have all the amenities of a home like a single family dwelling — you’ve got to think about that when you're looking at a facility,” Patton said.
Finding a place to call home
Not sure what’s the best option to pursue? The Area Agency on Aging can help with that.
“They can call us and we can sit down with them and go over what the person needs,” Cook said. “We would be happy to go over what's available, and maybe it is something as simple as the home repair program.”
To those who are assisting their parents or grandparents in making this decision, Cook advised that they consider their relatives' wants and wishes.
“Involve them in the conversation, whether it's looking at an apartment building or looking at an assisted living facility,” she recommended.