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Successful Aging: What are my best housing options now that I’m about to retire?

Q. I am a single, 65-year-old woman about to retire from a wonderful medical career. My plan is to return to the San Francisco area to be closer to my family. I am healthy, social and lead an active life. With all the choices of housing and living arrangements, how do I evaluate the options keeping in mind both my present and possible future needs? I want this to be my last move. M.S.

Dear M.S.

The best news is that you have options. Here is a description of various living arrangements that can provide a good environment, which is so important for that next chapter of life.

Renting an apartment or house: This would be a place with no age restrictions. Questions to consider. Has the rent been relatively stable over the years? Is it part of a Homeowners Association? If so, review the rules and expectations. If you should need help or assistance, you would have to find these individuals and most likely pay for their services.

Joining a Village: When living independently and essentially aging in place, you might consider joining a Village, a membership-driven, grassroots organization that coordinates and delivers programs and services so older adults can remain in their homes as they age, stay connected to their community as well as having the opportunity to volunteer. As a neighborhood organization, it can be an alternative to a retirement community or assisted living facility. See

Active adult communities: These communities are neighborhoods for older adults, usually 55 years and older. They can consist of houses, townhomes, condominiums or mobile homes. Residents are fully independent and take care of themselves and manage their residence. Many such communities offer a range of social, recreational and educational activities.

Independent living communities: These also are known as retirement communities or homes. Older adults can buy or rent; meals often are included. Other services often include housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Residents live independently and don’t need help with daily tasks; they are fairly active and appreciate the services.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: These communities offer a variety of residences typically on a large campus. Residents can choose independent living, assisted living or if needed nursing home services. As needs change, one can move from one level of care and support to another. This often is considered the most expensive of the senior living options. Residents are required to sign a contract, often provide an entrance fee and pay a monthly service fee. In these communities, older adults can live in one place for the rest of their lives.

This is one of the newest type of self-governing housing for older adults although the communities often are intergenerational. The cohousing complex is for a group of people who want to design their own community. They agree to maintain their own homes and share community space and if needed share a caregiver. In addition to private homes, there is a common house consisting of a large kitchen and dining area where members typically volunteer to cook for one another two to four times a week, bringing the community together. According to Pasadena Cohousing expert Alexandria Levitt, “What is so fantastic is it is impossible to be isolated; there is always someone to play with, a task to be done and good people all around. In the San Francisco area, check out Mountain View Cohousing.

To evaluate the options, consider the following questions:

Is the residence affordable?

Will I have access to transportation?

Does the residence have one floor or an elevator?

Do I want to live independently as long as possible and hire care providers if needed?

Do I want to live in an age-segregated or age-integrated community?

What are the available services such as medical, fire and police?

Do I want access to an airport for my own travel plans or just to make visits easy for visitors?

Do I prefer an urban or suburban lifestyle?

If I enjoy walking, is there a safe and lovely place for me to walk?

How important is weather which varies in the San Francisco area?

What are my most important priorities; what am I willing to give up since we rarely get everything we want?

M.S., Thank you for your good question. Best wishes to you in your search and enjoy the next chapter.

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