North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services
How to Begin the Decision-Making Process About Retirement Housing
Staying in your own home may be a priority for you, or you may be like a number of older Americans who are investigating other types of living arrangements. Most older adults would choose to remain at home. But, changes in physical abilities and financial resources, or needs for home repair may create obstacles to remaining at home.
Answering the following questions may help you tailor a housing search to your specific needs. Will you need or do you anticipate needing assistance with things like preparing meals, housekeeping or medical care? Have you investigated ways of receiving assistance with these and other services from your present residence? You may also want to make a list of things that would help you remain in your home and things that would force you to look elsewhere for housing. In addition to your list, you may wish to consult relevant sites on this web page such as reverse mortgages, home maintenance and repair, etc.
If your personal survey leads you to make an alternative choice about housing, you may wish to explore other options. You should ask yourself several questions to confirm what type of housing will best suit your needs. Begin with financial considerations, they're a high priority. Do you expect your income to increase or decrease in the future? If you own your own home, how much equity do you have? What percent of your income is spent on housing? Would you be eligible for subsidized rents? By asking these questions, you will then be able to pinpoint your price range and determine whether or not you will need financial assistance.
Once you have mulled over the financial aspect of your housing search, you will then be free to assess other aspects of housing. Location is very important. Do you want to live in the same community? Would you like to live closer to family, friends, or a preferred climate? Do you wish to have easy access to public transportation, shopping, and services? The priority level you assign to your answers will direct you in your search. Desired services, need for medical assistance, and other preferences may cause you to modify your search along the way. Can you live independently with limited or no services? Do you need personal care, meals, housekeeping, or transportation? Do you need or do you expect to need daily nursing care or daily health monitoring? Do you desire to have readily available health care services? Do you wish to keep pets, furnishings, or personal items? Would you prefer to live in an age-segregated environment? These questions may direct you toward retirement communities, elderly apartments, congregate housing, or other appropriate housing options.
Before you begin your search with the information you have gathered, there are a few consumer tips you may want to consider. Because many of North Carolina's retirement housing developments have waiting lists, especially those categorized as moderately priced or subsidized, it is wise to plan well in advance for your housing needs. Taking the time to look carefully at contracts or leases before signing is also recommended. It is important for you to understand all terms of an agreement before you finalize your search with a signature. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service discusses some of these issues of importance to potential renters and homebuyers like you.
Locating Housing for Older Adults
The Elder Housing Locator Service offers a statewide listing of independent elderly housing. Because we are unable to obtain information about all developments, you may also want to contact your Area Agency on Aging for information on specific housing or residential care options for older adults in the location of interest to you. Area Agencies on Aging generally publish or have access to complete lists of retirement housing and aging programs and services for the counties they serve. This includes information about licensed long-term care communities.
Long-term care communities that provide 24-hour supervision of residents along with personal care assistance (often referred to as "assisted living") are licensed as adult care homes in this state. Nursing homes are another licensed long-term care arrangement providing residents with 24-hour supportive care, nursing care, and other medically related skilled services such as rehabilitation and therapy.
The Ombudsman Program located within Area Agencies on Aging have information on nursing homes and adult care homes in their respective areas. Other resources of information about housing that may be useful to seniors or to those interested in elderly housing development can be found currently at our Elder Housing Locator site.
Reverse mortgages have become very popular in recent years as a source of income for seniors. A reverse mortgage is a loan secured by home equity that doesn’t need to be repaid until the end of the loan term, which is usually when the homeowner no longer occupies the home as a principal residence, sells the home, or dies.
If you obtain a reverse mortgage, you remain responsible for maintenance, insurance and taxes for the home during the loan period. You can use the money from the reverse mortgage however you choose. You cannot be forced to sell or vacate the home if the money received from the loan exceeds the value of the home. In addition, should you die and your spouse is a co-borrower, he or she cannot be forced to sell the house as long as he or she occupies the home as a principal residence.
When the borrower (and any co-borrower) dies, the loan balance plus accrued interest becomes due and payable. Your heirs may repay the loan and keep the home, or sell the home, repay the loan and keep the balance. If the loan exceeds the property value, your heirs will owe no more than the property value, and no additional financial claims can be made against them or the estate.
To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you and any co-borrower must be at least 62 years old, must own your home free and clear or have a very low outstanding debt, and must occupy the home as your principal residence. According to North Carolina regulations, prior to applying for a reverse mortgage loan, you must receive face to face counseling from a state-certified housing counselor who will help you understand all options.
For a list of approved counselors click this link http://www.nchfa.com/Homebuyers/HOreversemortgage.aspx.
Types of Housing
Housing for older adults, or retirement housing, does not always fit neatly into categories. Definitions are often confusing. Terms such as "retirement community" are used to describe a wide range or very different housing arrangements. New combinations of housing, services and financial arrangements are emerging rapidly, creating new models that may not easily fit a standard definition. Below are some common terms and definitions used for elderly housing, including terms used for residential arrangements that are regulated or licensed by the state. Because many of North Carolina's developments and facilities have waiting lists, particularly for moderately priced and subsidized housing, it is wise to plan well in advance to the extent possible. For more information about housing options for seniors, contact the Area Agency on Aging or local aging agency. You will also want to visit the Division's Elder Housing Locator Service. For Independent Living Housing, the Division's contact person is Nancy Evans. For Assisted Living and Nursing Home, contact Sharon Wilder.
Elderly apartments includes many types of apartments that are specifically intended for older persons, or elderly and disabled. Such apartments may have special features or services for older residents, or may be exactly like any other apartment building except for the age restriction. These apartments may be in public housing or other subsidized housing, or they may be private pay.
Congregate housing is a type of elderly apartments where supportive services are available, including the opportunity for residents to have at least one meal a day in a central dining area. Ideally, services are tailored to the individual's needs including recreational and social activities, special diets, housekeeping, laundry and transportation. The term "congregate housing" is used to describe a wide range of independent housing where services may vary considerably. Such housing may be subsidized or private pay.
Public housing are federally-supported housing units operated by local public housing authorities. Families or individuals pay 30 percent of their incomes in rent. Units may or may not be specifically designated elderly apartments.
Subsidized housing includes a group of housing programs for low-income people. In many, residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. Others charge the same rent for all units of the same size, but rents are lower than that in comparable private housing. Units may or may not be designated as elderly apartments.
Section 8 Vouchers are a rental assistance program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These vouchers enable low-income people to rent a dwelling of their choice in the community if it meets certain standards set by HUD. They are provided to eligible individuals through the local public housing authority and HUD pays a portion of the rent based on the tenant's income. Vouchers are available to adults of all ages. In many communities, there are waiting lists for vouchers.
A more formal type of retirement community is the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
Adult Communities not as common in North Carolina as in some other states, so-called "adult communities" are not, in reality, restricted to a certain age group. However, such communities are sometimes designed to attract active retirees by offering social activities, recreational facilities, and services of interest to those of retirement age. These developments might consist of single-family (detached) dwellings, manufactured (mobile) home parks, condominiums, apartments and other types of dwellings.
"Naturally occurring retirement communities" are communities that are not designed specifically for an older population but still have a majority of older residents. They may attract older adults for various reasons, including their location; services and amenities of interest; nearness to health care, shopping and other services; affordability; and ease of upkeep. Some are simply communities of mostly older adults where long-time residents have "aged in place." These often are not included in lists of elderly housing, since they are not formal retirement living arrangements.
Shared housing can be described in two basic types: shared group residences and home-sharing. Shared group residences are those in which none of the people living there own the dwelling, but they pay rent for private space (e.g., room and bath) and shared common areas. Usually sponsored by non-profit organizations, these residences sometimes offer such supportive services as transportation and meals through agreements with human services providers. In home-sharing, two unrelated people live together in a shared home or apartment, each having private space yet sharing common living areas. Home-sharing may be an informal arrangement among individuals or a program through an office on aging or other service agency. Just a few formalized home sharing programs exist in North Carolina where people are screened and matched through an office on aging or other service organization.
"Multi-unit Assisted Housing with Services" is a second category of "assisted living." (The first category are the licensed adult care homes). Multi-unit assisted housing with services is a category of apartments or other independent living residential arrangements where services are offered to enable residents with special needs to live in an independent, multi-unit setting. At a minimum, one meal a day, housekeeping services and personal care services are available. Hands-on personal care and nursing care, which are arranged by housing management, are provided by a licensed home care provider, through a written care plan. Residents must not be in need of 24-hour supervision.
Like any independent apartment setting, a multi-unit assisted housing with services tenant commonly signs a lease agreement and pays monthly rent. Multi-unit assisted housing with services may be housing with or without subsidized rent. Supportive services are optional to the resident, and the resident must have a choice of care providers. Payments for personal or nursing care may not be combined with charges for housing.
Developments of multi-unit assisted housing with services are not
required to be licensed; however, they are required to register with
the N.C. Division of
Health Service Regulation and to provide a disclosure statement describing
services offered; charges for services; financial/legal relationship
with home care agencies; and other important information for consumers.