That’s a question that a lot of us will need to ask at some point in our lifetime, especially as we age and become less mobile. So here are some questions that you might want to consider:
• Can you get around your home safely and manage its upkeep?
• Do you have good support networks in the area – family, friends or neighbours?
• Can you get to the places you need and want to go easily…… by car, on foot, or by public transport?
• Are you reasonably confident that this will still be the case in 5 years, in 10 years, or if your health or other circumstances change?
If you have answered ‘no’ to some of these questions, now may be the right time to find out more about the alternatives – in your local area or in another area, perhaps closer to family. Even if you don’t want to move now, thinking about it will give you more choice in the future if things change:
• Think about different specialist retirement housing options;
• Find out about other people’s experiences of moving;
• See what you need to think about if you might want to move in the future…
o How do different options compare with staying where you are?
o Is it easier to get help, and to have company?
o Can you afford it?
o Would it be better to rent or to buy?
o Where to find out more.
Specialist housing for older people may be an option for you – now or in the future
‘Sheltered housing’, ‘housing with care’ (also known as ‘extra care housing’), ‘retirement housing’, ‘retirement villages’…… there are many different types of specialist housing and not all will be available in all parts of the UK.
One thing that all these alternatives have in common is that they all offer self-contained flats, or bungalows within a community of older people. But be sure to check what is on offer because developments can vary considerably.
What do I need to consider?
Well, first of all will you be happy living in a community?
Most people enjoy being part of a community and many decided to make the move because they felt isolated, often after the death of a spouse, and they were enjoying getting involved in activities and building new friendships.
However, living alongside others isn’t always plain sailing: it can be difficult (at least at first) to get to know people (especially where health problems or disabilities got in the way); you may feel that you don’t have much in common with your new neighbours; or you may be disappointed by the lack or type of social activities available. It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the community you are considering moving to before you move in.
What care and support is available?
In extra care housing, some personal help may be included in the basic costs, but if you need extra help you will need to discuss this and there will be an extra charge. In other sheltered or retirement housing, it is the same as in your own home: you would need to arrange for a home care agency from outside the scheme to visit you. Housing providers and your local council should give you advice on arranging extra help and how to afford it.
Can I afford to live there?
Whatever your financial circumstances, it is very important to get accurate information about the charges in retirement housing and advice about whether and how you will be able to afford them. Charges typically include: rent or the cost of buying the lease; service charges; and the cost of any additional care and support you need. Some leaseholders will also have to pay towards a sinking fund (for major repairs) and may be liable for exit charges.
Even if you own your own home and have never considered claiming benefits, you should get advice, because you have paid tax and national insurance all your life! This may make all the difference to what you can afford, and help to meet the costs. Disability benefits like Attendance Allowance are not means-tested. Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and help with council tax are means-tested but can help with the costs of housing, support and care.
Do I rent, buy or part-own?
Your choices here may be restricted by: your own financial circumstances, what’s available in your area, and the rules of the housing providers. Some former house owner occupiers had switched to renting and were glad they had – they had more disposable income, felt it would be easier to leave if the scheme was no longer suitable for them (or their partner), and felt more in control.
Finding out more
You can call the national FirstStop service free on 0800 377 7070 for specialist advice on any aspect of care, support or housing for older people, including financial issues as well as statutory rights and entitlements.
This article is based on research carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, you can download summaries and full reports at: www.jrf.org.uk/work/workarea/housing-with-care-older-people