How To Discuss Different Housing Options With an Older Adult

How To Discuss Different Housing Options With an Older Adult

Discussing Different Housing Options

Older adults' housing decisions may be:

  • Considered over time, giving older adults and their family or friends time to explore different housing options, benefits and costs; or
  • Rushed in response to an emergency, such as a health crisis, accident or loss of a partner or helper.

Encourage the older adult to discuss housing options early. Good conversation topics regarding housing options include:

  • How family or friends made housing decisions later in life.
  • How important aging in place is to the older adult.
  • What about the home the older adult likes or wants to change.
  • Any housing, financial or safety concerns you have.

Focus on understanding the older adult's housing preferences and plans. Ask how the older adult would deal with unexpected changes, like breaking a hip or needing to stop driving.

Don't say that you want the older adult's "input" or "opinions," which can sound like you'll make the decisions. Say that you want to make sure the older adult's housing preferences and needs are met, even if an emergency requires quick action. Dealing with emergencies is even more difficult if you haven't discussed housing with the older adult, so you should make the effort to have the conversation beforehand.

Remember, it is essential for older adults to feel in control of the decision about whether, when and where to move. Research has consistently shown that the move and outcome of the move are significantly better when the older adult feels in control. Older adults who feel that they have lost control can suffer long-term negative consequences. To keep the older adult feeling in control, avoid saying things like:

  • "You really need to move."
  • "We have made the decision already."
  • "It's for your own good."

Instead, say things like, "let's talk about the advantages and disadvantages," allowing them to voice their perspective. You should always allow the older adult to voice their concerns, and you should make an effort to actively listen when they do, so that you can work with them to address the concerns rather than trying to solve all their problems without their input.

If you and the older adult are exploring housing options, ask how each option might affect the older adult's:

  • Ability to take care of needs at home.
  • Finances, including insurance and benefits.
  • Health, safety, and access to care and services.
  • Privacy and control over care, schedule and activities.
  • Time with friends and family.
  • Need for help from family, friends or neighbors.
  • Ability to enjoy hobbies, social and religious activities.
  • Need to make home modifications or use assistive devices.
  • Choices for potential future moves.
  • Desire to "downsize," travel or meet other goals.

If the older adult is considering moving in with you or other family or friends, talk with everyone who could be affected, including children. Discuss:

  • Changes like switching or sharing rooms, adding grab bars or making other home modifications.
  • Having people who help the older adult in the home, including paid staff.
  • If the older adult's moving in might affect work schedules or social activities.
  • Financial arrangements with the older adult, like paying rent or sharing household costs.