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July/August

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Home, Sweet, NORC: What a Retirement Village Will Look Like In 2025

Retirement villages 10 years from now will very likely play off boomers’ desire to age in place — in other words, instead of relocating to an age-restricted community, AARP and others predict that people will do everything in their power to simply stay in their own ‘hood.”

So what will a retirement village “look” like in 2025? It will be the community you create and build without packing a single moving box, said Beth Baker, author of “With a Little Help from Our Friends — Creating Community as We Grow Older.” There’s even a name for it: NORC — for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.

Baker said if the homes in which boomers raised their families are too big for them in retirement, they may take in housemates to help defray costs and have extra income. They also may form small living communes where driving and household chores are shared. And there are neighborhoods like that in Maryland, said Baker, where the older residents have simply agreed to stick together.

“It starts out with a few things — like jumping in to help when someone needs it,” she said. They check in on one another, give rides, cook when someone is sick, and run errands for neighbors to make things easier.

In some places, like Beacon Hill Village, a group of retirement age Boston friends got together in 1999 and formed a member-driven organization for Boston residents 50 and over. There is a paid staff but the organization is self-governing and self-supporting.

So what about those traditional retirement villages? The lack of self-governance — and the perceived costs — are two of the big reasons why many people shy away from them, said Baker. The percentage of the older population who live in “the Leisure villages” is actually quite small. A MetLife study put it at less than 10 percent.

Baker, who is 63, said she expects that percentage to stay low as boomers age. “We prefer to live around people of all ages, not just older people. Most of us say we want to age in our homes and communities. I don’t think any of that will change. I don’t see the numbers of retirement villages growing — just a lot of salivating by developers hoping that the sheer quantity of boomers will produce a bigger demand,” Baker said.

What people really want, Baker said, is to have strong relationships, friendships and communities. They want to feel like they are in control of their lives. “My generation will definitely be more creative about ways to live in retirement,” she said.

And you can expect that as more people creep into their 80s and 90s, their homes — wherever they are — will be technologically updated. Sensors and monitors will track not only movements but their habits as well. Our devices and appliances will “talk” to one another, sending alerts when the refrigerator door hasn’t been opened in two days and letting someone know that it’s time to take their medicine by interrupting what they are watching on TV.

Homes will also have lower counters and cabinets, power charges at hip level and TV speakers built into our furniture. What we aren’t likely to have is George Jetson’s car — the one that folded up into a suitcase when parking was in short supply. Then again, this won’t be Orbit City circa 2062 either.

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Industry Leaders Offer Predictions on Future of Senior Living

More Americans proactively will seek to reside in senior living communities, and the industry has a role to play in ensuring that consumers will be financially prepared fro their retirement years.  CEOs from the nation’s leading senior living providers gathered to address these issues and share their predictions for the industry’s future at the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) conference in May.

In a panel moderated by Fortune magazine Senior Editor Nina Easton, the CEO panel offered the following predictions on the industry and his future consumers.

1. Americans will proactively choose senior living.
Americans’ perception of senior living is changing, and it will continue to evolve.  No longer seen as a stopping point on the way to higher-acuity care, senior living is increasingly viewed as a genuine home.  As baby boomers make decisions with their aging parents, and begin to create a blueprint for their own retirement, senior living will become a logical next step in life stage planning.  The industry is meeting consumer demand with a variety of offerings across the care continuum – from independent living to memory care.

2. Consumers neeed guidance in saving for senior living.
Though demand for senior living will increase, Americans’ ability to finance their retirement may be in jeopardy.  Americans are living longer and saving less.  The industry has an opportunity to address the growing challenges of long-term services and supports by playing an important role in how consumer finance their most enriching years.

3. Senior living will become a leading career path.
Millennials and their Generation Z counterparts increasingly will choose the senior living industry for their career path.  Known as generations for whom “doing well by doing good” is a priority, these young professionals will be drawn to the opportunity to tap into their sense of altruism, in an industry with an overwhelming growth trajectory that offers the opportunity to build a lifelong career in a variety of disciplines.  The field will require not only caregivers, but also professionals to fill roles in finance, asset management, sales and marketing, food service, and healthcare.

4. The senior living and healthcare industries will converge.
As healthcare systems turn their focus to population health and seek to improve outcomes and reduce costs, the necessity for collaboration with senior living will grow.  Assisted living communities will develop strong partnerships with home healthcare providers, hospitals, and physician practices to provide integrated services that deliver better, more efficient healthcare to seniors.

5. Formalized standards will create a “seal of approval” for senior living operators.
ALFA will introduce formal industry standards and a credentialing program, raising the bar of excellence in senior living by providing the public with a basis for evaluating a service provider or professional.  These programs enable ALFA members to enhance or acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to perform at the highest levels within the senior living industry.

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The 25 Best Suburbs For Retirement In 2015

There are some good reasons to consider spending retirement in the suburbs of a big city.  While the cultural amenities and top medical facilities of the big city are just a short ride away, the suburbs usually offer quieter streets, lower serious crime rates and more spacious living quarters. (Despite all the hype about empty nesters downsizing, a recent survey of retirees who moved last year found 30% actually moved to a more spacious home and another 19% to one the same size.)

With all this in mind, Forbes presents its new list of the 25 Best Suburbs For Retirement In 2015. It’s two-dozen-plus-one picks are located in 20 states covering all four continental time zones. Ten cities are new to the list from the one published last year. The roster is unranked, so places are listed alphabetically. The full roster can be viewed below.

Aiken, SC; Apple Valley, MN ; Brentwood, MO; Broomfield, CA; Cary, NC; Cibolo, TX; Edmond, OK; Fitchburg, WI; Fort Thomas, KY; Fruit Cove, FL; Henderson, NV; La Vista, NE; Leender, TX; Madison, MI; Matthews, NC; Munster, IN; Montgomery, MD; Noblesville, IN; Oak Grove, OR; Overland Park, KS; Plano, TX; Roswell, GA; Tamarac, FL; West Des Moines, IA.

To come up with this list, Forbes first had to establish criteria. The major one was this: How far out is too far out to be a suburb? Ease of access to the big city is an important assumption behind the list, and distance is a prime factor. So its universe became places 35 driving miles or less from a big city’s downtown area. On average, though, the 25 towns on this list are just 13 miles out. The farthest out, at 22 miles, is Munster, IN., followed by Montgomery Village, MD. at 21 miles. The closest, at 5 miles, are Fitchburg, WI.; Fort Thomas, KY.; La Vista, NE; and West Jordan, UT.

Forbes said “We sifted a lot of other data, much of it economic. We focused on towns with median home values of $333,333 or less – preferably a lot less. In fact, the average median home price for the places on this list is $222,000.”

Since many retirees say they plan to work part-time, at least at first. Forbes says “we also took into account the economy of the metro area where the suburb is located. This was done primarily by rank on the latest Milken Institute list of best-performing metro areas for job growth. We also included an assessment of the state’s tax climate for retirees (something that Forbes has tracked for years).

The Milken Institute also produces a ranking of hundreds of metro areas for “successful aging.” This is defined as the “capacity to enable people to age independently and productively, with security and good health.” We noted these rankings, using them primarily as a check on our other data.

We amassed information about other factors, says Forbes. These included the rate of serious crime (well below the national average in every suburb we chose), presence of local hospitals and colleges and availability of mass transit back to the big city. We also looked at climate issues, including air quality and weather.

Sources of information used by Forbes include city-data.com; bestplaces.net; various real estate reporting services, including zillow.com, trulia.com, realestate.com and coldwellbanker.com; and FBI crime statistics reported either on the agency’s own website or other sources like neighborhoodscout.com. No single town excelled on every factor. And, although data-driven, our conclusions include a certain element of opinion.

One factor we didn’t fret over, says Forbes was population of the suburb, so long as it was 5,000 or more. The range here is from Plano, TX. (population 274,000)and Henderson, NV. (271,000) down to Brentwood, MO. (8,000) and Fort Thomas and Fruit Cove, FL., each 16,000. The average is 70,000.

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Harvard: Rising Debt Jeopardizes Aging In Place

Increased supports will be needed to care for America’s large and growing senior population in their homes, new research shows. And affordability of these supports — and housing options generally – is particularly pressing, as seniors’ debt load is rising.

Many older adults live alone, have at least one type of disability, and have limited resources to pay for suitable housing, according to the latest report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). “The State of the Nation’s Housing” provides an annual assessment of the housing outlook, and summarizes trends in economics and demographics.

“As a result, the demand for units that are affordable, accessible, and provide social connection as well as supportive services will grow increasingly acute over the next two decades,” JCHS said in the report.

Aging baby boomers will lift the number of older households aged 65 and over 42% by 2025, and double the number aged 80 and over by 2035, data show.

“In another decade, the oldest members of this generation will be in their late 70s, a time of life when living independently often becomes difficult,” JCHS said. “By 2025, the large and growing population of seniors is likely to drive up demand for alternative housing arrangements that offer a combination of affordability, accessibility, and supportive services.”

Senior homeowners’ financial picture is worrisome, as those who choose to age in place face rising debt and wealth constraints that may leave many retired homeowners struggling to meet their mortgage payments.

More than a third (38%) of owners aged 65 and over had mortgages in 2013, up from a little over a quarter in 2001, data show.

“Moreover, the median amount of debt they carried doubled over this period in real terms,” JCHS said. At the same time, the real median equity of older owners in 2013 was down to $125,000—lower than in any year since 1998.

“Having less equity and large mortgage payments late in life is a troubling prospect for households on fixed incomes,” JCHS said.

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