After four years or so the housing market is still idling at terribly low levels, but even if we’re all feeling it, it’s our nation’s seniors that seem to be uniquely hurt. The problem has been growing over those years, and I’ve written about it here, but the Kaiser Health News recently put out an article taking stock of the situation and new reactions from assisted-living and nursing home facilities. With housing prices and market demand so low, seniors simply can’t get up and enter into a facility, even if they need it. For many seniors, the plan had always been to use the equity in their home as the investment to keep them afloat in retirement but the value in those homes simply dropped in 2008. Even if you can forget how much the house was worth in 2007, before the crash, it’s simply not easy to sell a house these days and they tend to just sit on the market for years, or fetch too little money to make the sale possible. It’s causing seniors to wait that much longer before they can enter into a facility, and that’s time on top of however long it took them to finally make the decision to give up the home in the first place. It isn’t good for finances, and it is especially bad for health. The facilities themselves aren’t happy with the trend and some are working to help ease the transition. In certain facilities across the parts of the country that were hit hardest by the housing bubble the occupancy rate has dropped as much as 10%, with nursing homes and continuing care facilities hit the hardest and assisted-living only slightly better. In response, some of those facilities have begun incentive programs from simple real estate education classes to more fluid contracts that allow the entrance costs of the facility (usually something like the cost of a home itself) to be paid whenever the house is sold. One management company, Brookdale Senior Living, has even begun offering to buy seniors’ houses at pre-determined prices if they do not sell within a set amount of time on the market. For you or a loved one it means that there are a number of possibilities to plan for. Those that can’t quite get out of their homes might consider bringing the care to them through in-home care services or perhaps living with loved ones. Still, if a facility is necessary then there may be options out there, depending on the facility and your part of the country, and it might be possible to work with the administration; chances are you’re not the only one with the problem and they may offer a solution.
Reference: Kaiser Health News (August 21, 2011) “Housing Bust Derails Some Seniors’ Assisted-Living Care”