For many, the home is the most valuable asset they hold. And, yet, houses cost money to maintain in the form of taxes, mortgage, maintenance, insurance, and so on. Even after the children have left the “nest,” many seniors live in more home than they need. The single biggest reason for this, of course, is that the home is a way of life, and has been for many years, and leaving it for something else is traumatic.
But the fact remains that the home represents idle capital, producing no income, and without the onus of the home, senior citizens could lead a better life, free not only from financial cares but also from day to day living chores.
Congregate living for retired people has become the fashion. Not only can it be less expensive, but it can answer many of the other problems inherent in aging. Traditionally, younger members of the family used to “take in” the older ones, but such is not the case today. The mobility of all people has separated families, and the propensity of all younger people to work has interfered with the traditional family management activities of many.
I have a close association with a company called Life Care Services Corporation. Headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, it is the leading developer and manager of life care retirement communities throughout the United States. These communities are not nursing homes, nor are they institutions. They are, in fact, communities in which senior citizens live independently but have available to them, within the communities, virtually all of the important necessities for full, productive living.
Residents typically “buy” their apartments or villas, pay a regular maintenance fee, and receive services such as maintenance, housekeeping, food, and medical care when needed. Although each community operates independently and in a slightly different manner, residents often are able to recoup their investment or a portion of it if they move elsewhere. Or leave the community altogether. I have visited dozens of such communities, and I find the residents happy about life in general. And why not? Financially, they have secured good housing at a predictable cost (albeit usually the maintenance fees fluctuate in line with inflation), their housing is managed by professionals and they can lead life as they wish.
There are two other pluses to such communities. First, they provide “peer companionship.” That is, automatically, a senior citizen has access to others with common interests, common outlooks, and common problems. This overcomes one of the inevitable fears of senior citizens, that of social isolation. Second, and not insignificant, is the availability of on-site medical facilities. Access to health care and related assistance assumes an even higher role of importance as people age and require and demand medical assistance, not strictly for major problems but also for many relatively minor ones.
These communities are not “cheap,” but in relation to other housing costs and in relation to services available, they represent good value. There are many other types of retirement communities, some expensive, some not, some offering medical care, some not, some available on a rental basis, others on an “escheatment” of capital. Basis and still others on a “return of capital” basis. The choice of a place to live is varied and is dependent on the way in which a person wants to live, the financial resources available to him, and, of course, both the location and expertise of the professional managers. Such a choice is usually not made lightly, but it can be a good way for a senior citizen to invest capital and receive, in turn, a predictable way of life.