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September 2014

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WSJ: Senior Living Transition Requires Planning

Giving older adults more say in their future housing arrangement and advanced planning are ways to ease the stress of moving for older adults, according to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal  (WSJ) ( Read article).  Starting the conversation early allows more time for loved ones to weigh in on housing options, but these discussions take effort — for both the person moving and his or her family members.

“Scratch the skin of a 60-year-old man and you’ll get a seven-year-old child, and scratch the skin of a 60-year-old daughter, and you’ll get daddy’s little girl every time,” Larry Minnix, president of LeadingAge, tells WSJ.  And some older parents may refuse the conversation all together.

Minnix offers advice for family members when broaching the topic of new living situations with older loved ones, noting the distinction between saying “seeking input” and “we want to do the best job in carrying out your wishes.” The latter puts the reigns in the older adult’s hands, giving them more confidence.

In addition, adult children need to plan, says Bobbie Guidry, director of housing and community-based services for the Benedictine Health System. “Families should sit down and talk about who is playing what part: Who is going to help with the move, who is going to help with the finances, and who can visit when,” Guidry adds.

Other advice includes setting up the new living space for the older adult before he or she moves in to make the residence as homey as possible, Guidry says.

For family members welcoming an older adult into their home, be realistic about the impact that new resident will have on finances and lifestyle, advises Gail Hunt, president of the National Alliance for Caregiving.

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Census Report Shows What Makes Seniors Relocate

Like any age group, seniors are diverse and impossible to fit into one category. While it’s only too common for the media to portray older adults as homogenous, the desires and behaviors of those over 65 are just as variable as they are in anyone else. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau identifies some key trends in how and where elders age, using data from a number of population and health surveys.

One of the broadest trends that the agency found was simply in how long the average person lives. The number of people living past 65 in 2010 was 12 times what it was a century ago, comprising more than 40 million individuals in the U.S. As a percentage of the total population, seniors grew three times, from 4.1 percent to 13.0 percent in that same time frame. By 2050, nearly 21 percent of Americans are predicted to be over 65.

Most people do not change residences past age 65, according to the report, but the percent who do has remained constant, while younger populations have been fewer in numbers. Seniors who do relocate often go to retirement communities, but the type they choose is changing. The percentage of people in skilled nursing facilities declined from 4.5 percent to 3.1 percent between 2000 and 2010. Assisted Living has become a more popular option over the same period. According to the report, part of the shift is related to Medicaid funding, which now favors independent living. Benefits for home services expanded from 13 to 43 percent between 1990 and 2007.

An AARP survey in 2010 showed that people over 45 prefer to live near family, and within reach of basic services. The desire to stay close to the people and services that they rely on may be one factor keeping seniors in place.

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Forbes: 8 Major CCRC Considerations

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) have been in the market for 70 years, but are rising in popularity among today’s retirees, writes Forbes in a recent article.

Today, there are nearly 2,000 continuing-care communities in the U.S., servicing more than 570,000 residents. More than 80% of CCRCs are nonprofits.

Forbes offers eight variables to evaluate for those considering moving into a CCRC:  affordability; average age of current residents and their lifestyle; occupancy rate; the CCRC’s finances  –  existing debt; entrance fee conditions; cost of monthly fees and what they cover; opportunities for different levels of care for spouses; and the operating agency of the CCRC.

“One of the advantages of CCRCs for couples is that they can continue living in the same place if, for instance, one needs skilled nursing care and the other is able to live independently,” Forbes says, noting that older Americans are eyeing CCRCs for the model’s ability to offer a continuum of care. “Couples can choose to live separately within the community, although they will likely incur higher fees to do so, or they can move as a couple to assisted living if necessary, one day.”

While one couple  –  the wife in her mid-50s and husband in his mid-60 –  enjoyed traveling between their Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Ill.,  homes, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) caught their attention.

“They could continue to live in a house; wouldn’t have to worry about a lawn or home repairs and would never need to move again,” Forbes says. The CCRC offered several levels of care so they could live independently and –  if and when they needed it –  move to an on-site, assisted living facility or nursing home.”

When it comes to the most important deciding factor of which CCRC to choose, it’s all about promoting a positive image, Larry Minnix, president and CEO of LeadingAge, tells Forbes.

CCRCs carry high price tags, which can range from $30,000 to $1 million, plus a monthly fee which can range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on type of housing and level of care selected. Also, depending on the contract, residents or their estates may receive a partial refund of the entrance fee if the resident moves out or dies, though it may take a year or more to receive the money. If residents purchase an all-inclusive or life care plan, the fee covers housing and care as long as they remain in the development.

But CCRCs are more than just a cluster of facilities that cater to various medical and care requirements. They pride themselves on their wellness activities.  Many feature multiple dining options, recreational areas, shopping and other services. “It’s like living at an all-inclusive resort for those who can afford it,” Forbes says.

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Finding the Perfect Retirement Location

Every year, 700,000 Americans move to new towns to retire, says Annette Fuller, editor of Where to Retire magazine and WhereToRetire.com. “Nationally, two dozen states and hundreds of towns seek to attract retirees as a source of economic development.”

The top five factors that people consider when assessing a retirement location are low crime rate; an active, clean, safe downtown; good hospitals nearby; low overall tax rate and a mild climate, according to a recent survey of the magazine’s  readers.

To determine which states offer the best quality of life for retirees, Bankrate.com recently ranked all 50 states based on several major factors, including local weather, cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, tax burden and general well-being. The five states with the highest ranking are: South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming. The five that ranked the lowest for retirement: New York, West Virginia, Alaska, Arkansas and Hawaii.

But there are many factors that come into play. “Retirees enjoy being around others who can experience the joy and enrichment of a shared hobby, heritage or sport,” Fuller says

Recent market research of the readers of Where to Retire magazine shows that most retirees carefully assess their relocation.

For more details about the survey and the full story from USA Today click here .  It lists the top 18 factors that retirees consider, ranked in order of importance:

Information compiled from bankrate.com lists the best and worst states for retirement. To read it, visit:

http://www.retirementliving.com/2014/06#tenbeststates

http://www.retirementliving.com/2014/07#tenworst

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What Seniors Should Look for in a Phone

Cellphones are now nearly as common among seniors as among everyone else. Up until recently, seniors had lagged when it came to smartphones, whether it’s because they’re too complex, expensive or simply aren’t tailored to their needs.

But now they may be starting to catch up. Past surveys conducted by the AARP showed that older adults primarily wanted cellphones for security, while young adults wanted them for convenience, says Christopher Baker, senior strategic policy adviser for AARP.

“That’s changed. The capability to see video on your phone and keep in touch with family members can really get people excited about smartphones,” Baker says.

But how do you find the right phone with the right plan, especially for seniors on fixed incomes? Here’s a guide prepared for AARP.

Questions to ask when choosing a senior’s smartphone: 

1. What does the user really need the phone to do?

One option for seniors is a “semi-smartphone,” says Michael Schulman, member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Elder Planning Task Force.

These devices don’t have all the features of top-of-the-line smartphones, but they still allow users to do basic smartphone functions like check their email, take photos and also text or email those photos.

Some examples of phones to consider in this category include the Kyocera Jitterbug Touch 2 or Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere II.

On the other hand, if a senior wants to get on the Internet often, stream lots of video and talk and text, they will probably be in the market for the exact same kind of smartphone their younger counterparts crave.

2. Does the user need any additional accommodations?

Hearing: Hearing-impaired seniors may want to add on captioning or relay services, which are free as guaranteed by the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Services Program. With these services, the user can see a transcript of the conversation as it’s happening. While the services themselves are free, the data needed to run them is not, so users who will rely on them may need a more robust data plan, especially if opting for a video relay service, says Matt Gerst, director of external and state affairs for CTIA, a wireless communications trade group.

Gerst says that all wireless handsets are given a rating for their compatibility with hearing aids. You can find a device’s hearing aid compatibility rating through either the FCC or on a service provider’s website.

Dexterity: Those with dexterity issues due to arthritis or other issues can add a stylus that makes hitting the buttons on the glass of the smartphone easier, or opt for a smartphone with a slide-out keyboard like the Samsung Stratosphere II or the LG Enact. Also, most BlackBerry phones come with a keyboard on the face of the phone.  Seniors with dexterity issues may also want to add insurance to cover repairs. “Just like you drop your phone, seniors are prone to do so as well,” says Julie Fry, co-founder of Making Care Easier. “From our experience, seniors tend to think of cellphones much like hearing devices: ‘If it breaks, I didn’t really need it.’”

Memory: Fry says that seniors with memory issues may also want to add a phone locator — either an app or something that can be placed onto the phone — to help them locate their phone if it goes missing.

The number of options can be overwhelming, which is why CTIA has set up the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative, or GARI, which is a buying guide for phones and tablets. It lets you narrow down what you need in a phone, including things like anti-slip features, phone shape and easy-to-press keys.

Contract or no?

If the user is going to use a lot of data and texting, then a more expensive, all-inclusive voice/data/text contract plan can be worth the cost, especially if that phone is the only way the user will go online and stream video.

But for seniors on a fixed income, shelling out over $100 a month is not a viable option. That’s where prepaid and no-contract phones come in. Major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile offer prepaid and no-contract phones. Another option is Boost Mobile. You can also go to retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart to shop for prepaid phones instead of searching through each carrier’s website.

AARP has also partnered with Consumer Cellular to offer discounted no-contract plans for members. If you’re not sure how much data a user will need built into their plans, AT&T and Verizon offer free data usage calculators.

When a smartphone isn’t the right choice

Smartphones aren’t the solution for every senior, says Laurie Orlov, industry analyst at Aging in Place Technology Watch, for three reasons: usability, cost and availability in training on how to use the technology.

“The reason they aren’t interested in them right now is the compelling value proposition has yet to be indicated,” Orlov says. “If you can text on a regular phone (and) you can get calls, really the question is what do you want that you’re not already getting?”

If texting and talking are all that a senior user wants, then a flip phone is still the best bet. Companies like Samsung and LG make flip phones specifically for seniors. They feature things like larger buttons and enhanced sound quality to make dialing and calling easier.

For seniors who want help in learning how to use a smartphone or tablet, AARP has a Technology Education Center, which has online guides on how to get the most out of those devices. AARP also teaches in-person workshops; schedules can be found at AARP’s website or by calling your local AARP office.

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