Posts Tagged ‘Aging’

Granny Pods: a senior housing option in your own backyard

Mother and daughter sitting by garden shed

 

If your house isn’t big enough to accommodate your aging parent or if a senior living community is out of the question, an alternative known as a “granny pod” – a tiny house in your backyard — may be a solution worth considering.

“Most people try to fit a living space for an aging person in their home, but the issue that always comes up is how to make the living quarters from the rest of the family separate, since most adult children doing the caregiving also have children of their own,” says home accessibility consultant and architectural designer Michael Saunders, who works with Toronto-based families to adapt their homes for multi-generational living.

“What ends up happening a lot is that the space ends up being a basement apartment, which isn’t ideal,” Saunders adds.

Saunders says granny pods, also known as MEDCottages or guesthouses, are a useful and relatively low-cost solution that gives aging parents their own space while allowing adult children to easily provide necessary assistance.

Designed by a Blacksburg, Virginia-based company along with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the pre-fabricated, portable homes are typically installed in the caregiver’s backyard.

While the homes range in size, a typical granny pod is about 12 by 24 feet and includes a living space, kitchen and bathroom. Costing anywhere from $85,000 to $125,000, these homes tend to resemble a miniature bungalow from the outside with vinyl siding and double French doors that allow access for hospital beds and other necessary equipment. They also come stocked with medical supplies and safety features designed with aging adults in mind, such as the following.

  • Hand railings
  • Lighted floorboards
  • Soft floors
  • Defibrillators
  • First aid supplies
  • Video devices that inform caregivers and doctors about vital signs, among other important information.

To get all the necessary utilities, Granny Pods are hooked up to the main home’s existing sewer, water and power lines.

“The most common difficulty I find with granny pods is complying with a municipality’s zoning by-laws. As these are a relatively new phenomenon, they aren’t explicitly covered in most by-laws, and are thus more likely to fall under ‘accessory structures,’ which may or may not be permitted, and may or may not include habitable space,” Saunders notes.

Still, he says, it’s best to approach your city officials and let them know what your intentions are for the home. “Some people are afraid to go to their municipality, but if you explain that it’s for an aging parent and that you’re not putting a house on the property to rent it out, they’ll be willing to work with you,” he says.

Before making the purchase, Saunders advises considering whether your yard has enough space and if it’s flat enough to hold the structure. Climate also plays a role. “If it snows a lot, you’ll have to build a path to get the person out,” says Saunders.

Better Options?

Even with all that granny pods have to offer, some believe the cons outweigh the pros.

“Depending on the granny in question, a person’s needs can change profoundly very quickly. So while you might think ‘I’ll deck out this little cool prefab room and my parent could be happy here for years’ if you’re really lucky that could be the case. But if you’re like most of us as we age, a person’s condition doesn’t stay stable for any period of time and the likelihood that they’d outgrow the environment that you’ve created for them is high,” says Tracey Lawrence, founder of Grand Family Planning which helps families find solutions for aging parents.

Lawrence adds that tiny homes only provide the “where.” You’ll still need to consider access to caregivers, doctors, and medications for your loved one. And if you’re comparing the cost of a tiny home to typical assisted living or nursing home costs, she says the price of care encompasses much more than where you live.

“It’s about all the resources, such as meals, people who evaluate your loved one, physical therapists, activities that help to enhance the person’s quality of life,” she says. “You’ll have to have somebody who is going to come in and care for your loved one if it’s not you, and if it is you, how realistic is that?”

Lawrence draws on her personal experience of losing both her parents to dementia. Her father passed away within a year of being diagnosed, but her mother lived for several years, living on her own at first, then in assisted living, then with Lawrence and her husband.

“That worked out for a while until she had a psychotic break and we had to hire caregivers to come into my home and help manager her care. In time, living in my home was no longer practical because she was falling and I needed her to be watched more carefully 24/7… I finally settled in a group home which was a small setting that was equipped to handle her behaviors,” says Lawrence.

It’s important to remember that if at some point your loved one can no longer live in the Granny Pod or once he or she passes away, you’re left with the home, she notes.

“It’s an impractical use because I would imagine the value would go down significantly and for the next user it’d have to be reconfigured completely,” says Lawrence. “The only time I can see something like these having value is if you could lease the home and when your loved one no longer needs it, the Granny Pod is returned.”

 

Joan’s Journey: Homeward Bound

Happy Holidays, bloggers! As we wrap up Christmas and Hanukkah and celebrate the New Year, our thoughts may turn nostalgic. What did we do in 2014 that we prefer to do differently in 2015. Many of us focus on relationships and relationship-building.Welcome Home

For me, in a recent trip “Home” to Baltimore, relationships were the focus of my visit. I relocated from Baltimore to Los Angeles in January 2014, with the expressed intent to be close to my children and grandchildren. Moreover, I was ready to downsize from a large condo where I lived alone, to a senior living community with amenities that would enhance my quality of life.

These first 11 months at Holiday Villa East, a senior residence in Santa Monica, Calif., I remained closely in touch with lifelong family and friends back home. A funny thing happened during this time. I began to refer to Santa Monica and HVE as Home. I surprised myself when I first said to a friend, “I’ll call you when I get home,”—meaning California, not Maryland.

On the plane eastbound, I contemplated my emotions visiting the city, family and friends I have known all my life.

To read about Joan’s trip, and the realizations it provided, please read Joan’s Journey, Part 25: Homeward Bound.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor, specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren.

The Differences Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

A few weeks ago, we took an in-depth look at assisted living communities, and what exactly they offer. Today, we’ll look at a related topic, stemming from a question we are repeatedly asked here at SeniorHomes.com.

What is the difference between nursing homes and assisted living communities?Resident with Daughter

Well, there are many, starting with the care services they offer. We have published a new, thorough article that explains nursing homes in great detail, including these key differences from assisted living:

An assisted living community does not provide skilled nursing services, and these communities are often private pay only. In contrast, nursing homes accept Medicaid and Medicare in addition to private pay or health insurance. Residents at an assisted living community are also capable of carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing and toileting with some or minimal assistance. In contrast, nursing home resident require more support with ADLs.

Of course, there are many other differences, and much more to learn about nursing homes. We encourage you to read the full article, and ask any further questions you have about nursing homes below. We’ll be more than happy to answer them.

If you think either assisted living or nursing homes may be right for you or your loved one, you can use the links in this sentence to help find a community in your area. And our Care Advisors are available every day to help with your search—just call the phone number at the top of this page!

Joan’s Journey: An Unexpected Lesson in Comfort Zones

Welcome, Joan’s Journeyers. I have a sad, but true, tale to tell. Recently, we’ve been exploring comfort zones with one’s senior community and the surrounding geographic location—whether a new area or lifelong location.

My tale begins last week, as my car exited the underground parking lot of Holiday Villa East (HVE), my senior living community in urban Santa Monica, Calif. As I drove onto the alleyway, I noticed a head, neck and shoulders in the overflowing roadside dumpster. Convinced I was seeing an illusion in the sunshine, I stopped my car. Two frightened eyes stared directly at me. Then the head dove and disappeared into the commercial-sized dumpster.

Totally flustered, I was not sure what to do. Perhaps the person would suffocate. Maybe he or she was committing suicide. Was I safe driving past the dumpster? Should I call 911?

To see what happened in Joan’s story, and the lesson it taught her, please visit Joan’s Journey, Part 24: An Unexpected Lesson in Comfort Zones.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor, specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren.

Technology Gifts to Simplify Life for Your Aging Loved One (or Make It More Fun)

In an interview with Jon Stein, a Forbes Contributor, technology journalist Lary Magid makes a strong statement about baby boomers and technology: “It’s stupid and insulting to pitch baby boomers as tech novices.” His statement was prompted by an email he received from a PR rep pushing a touch screen computer for older people who want to “get on board with technology.” As Magid points out, “Many of us used CP/M, DOS or even Unix long before Macs and PCs had graphical user interfaces. We were the ones who had to know how to use escape codes to get our printers to work and sometimes wound up building our own PCs.”

Boomers and seniors are more tech-savvy than you may think

So, where has the idea come from that baby boomers and older Americans are not astute in their technology use? In the Stein article, Patricia McDonough, senior VP-analysis at Nielsen Co., says, “It’s actually a myth that baby boomers aren’t into technology. They represent 25% of the population, but they consume 40% [in total dollars spent] of it.” In fact, the numbers from an April report from the PewResearch Internet Project reveal that 59% of seniors report they go online. Additionally, 77% of older adults have a cell phone (18% own a smartphone), and 27% of seniors own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both. The statistics definitely support the notion that baby boomers and older Americans are using, and enjoying, technology. The myth, more than likely, is due to the fact that usage rates among seniors trail those of the overall population: 86% of all U.S. adults now go online.

Most seniors are on the Internet daily

The report also points out that once U.S. adults age 65 and older do make the online jump, 71% go online every day or almost every day, and 11% go online 3-5 times per week. Furthermore, older internet users have very positive attitudes about how online information benefits them: 79% of older internet users agree that “people without internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing,” and 94% agree that “the internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.” Overall, the statistics support the ideas that seniors can and do use technology and that they see the benefits of doing so. With seniors embracing and enjoying technology this much, and with shopping “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it makes sense for you to give them the gift of technology. 

Smart phones, tablets, and e-readers

According to a report, eight of the world’s 10 best-selling smart phones are made by Apple or Samsung. Apple’s iPhone 5s was the hottest selling phone, beating out the Samsung S5 and S4. The ranking was based on smartphone sales from 35 countries. With their popularity and widespread use, these smart phones would make great gifts for your aging loved ones. Plus, the phones store contact information, pictures, videos, and more, to keep your loved ones connected with the entire family. Loved ones also can take advantage of all of the mobile apps available for the phones – everything from medication management apps to physical activity trackers to games are ready and waiting for them in the App Store and on Google Play.

Tablets are another great tech gift idea for your aging loved one. An International Business Times article summarized Gartner’s data on 2013 tablet sales, which revealed that tablet sales grew 68% from 2012 to 2013. Apple’s iPads remain the most popular individual tablet, with 36% of the market; Samsung’s Galaxy Tablets come in second with 19% of the total sales. For older Americans, the Apple iPad mini is a great choice, because it is smaller, lighter, and more affordable than the standard iPad. The iPad mini comes loaded with built-in apps to get your loved ones started on the internet, with email, photos, iBooks, maps, FaceTime, contacts, and more.

As for e-readers, CNET ranked the best of the best, and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) came out on top. Calling it the “best e-reader currently available,” CNET explains that Amazon improved the Paperwhite with a faster processor, more responsive touch screen, and a better integrated light that’s brighter and whiter and displays more evenly across the screen. These are just a few of the reasons that make Paperwhite the best choice for your aging loved one. Plus, the benefits that come from the improvements mean that seniors can read anywhere – even outside – without any screen glare and without eyestrain.

Technology Gifts for the Home

Technology is more than just about smart phones, tablets, and e-readers. So, when you are starting to think about your holiday gift lists for this upcoming season, consider the tech gifts that can make life for your older loved one more simple and maybe even more fun, while at home.

Lutron’s Maestro Occupancy/Vacancy Sensors are a gift that keep on giving because they turn lights off when you leave, helping your loved one to save energy. Better yet, they turn on when someone enters a room, so your aging loved one does not have to worry about coming home to a dark house or fumbling for the light switch in the middle of the night. Saftey, security, and convenience are all a part of the Lutron sensors.

Control4 provides home automation and smart home control, and their solutions integrate with iPads, iPhones, and Android smartphones and tablets. Control4 allows you to begin with one room or automate your whole home all at once. Some of the options included with Control4’s solutions are perfect for your aging loved one. A “wake up” scene automatically adjusts the thermostat and gradually turns up lights each morning, and the “goodbye” button will lock the doors, set the alarm system, turn off the lights, and adjust the thermostat when people leave. Your loved one won’t have to worry about controlling much of anything in the home, and if your loved one is preparing to age in place, Control4 can alert you to movement in the home or even if there is a water leak. Control4 is a great gift of convenience for your loved one, and it provides you with the gift of peace of mind.

The Nest Protect Smoke Detector is a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector that is a great choice for older family members. Rather than setting off an ear-piercing or high-pitched alarm, Nest Protect first alerts you to the problem by telling you what it is and where it is. Protect also takes the guesswork out of when to change the batteries in the smoke detector; thanks to its Nightly Promise, Protect’s light ring will quickly glow green to show the batteries are working, or it will glow yellow if there is a problem like the batteries need replacing. Best of all, Nest Protect will send messages to smart phones or tablets if there is a problem, or you can open the Nest app at any time, so you and your loved one can have peace of mind.

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker is a perfect gift idea for anyone, but it’s an especially good choice for seniors. Bose already is a popular choice for speakers among older adults, but now Bose has entered the high-tech world with its SoundLink Mini. It wirelessly connects to smartphones, tablets, or other Bluetooth devices, and it weighs in at 1.5 pounds so it is easy to take anywhere. Your aging loved one will be able to listen to their favorite music anywhere, any time, and because it is a Bose, the SoundLink Mini delivers advanced audio with full-range sound. Its simple, compact design is ideal for your aging loved one – after you’ve gotten them that smartphone or tablet, of course.

The Best Technology Gift for Fun

For years, researchers and doctors have been touting the benefits of playing games and remaining mentally sharp for seniors to stave off the mental decline often associated with aging. But, one newer form of gaming for seniors is becoming more popular and more widely prescribed by health care providers: video gaming. In an overview of the benefits of playing video games, The Economist describes a study conducted by Dr. Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Gazzaley tested a group of participants aged 60 to 85 and found that, upon playing a video game at home in an adaptive mode for three hours a week over a month, they had greatly improved multi-tasking abilities and other improved aspects of cognition, including working memory. Even more astounding was the fact that even after a six-month hiatus from the video games, the participants were “still nimble-minded.”

So, which video games are the best for seniors? Diana Rodriguez explains in her article that one study, presented at the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting, found that seniors who played Nintendo Wii for an hour a week reported higher positive mood and fewer feelings of loneliness than seniors who watched television. In addition, a study done at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, reported that “1/3 of participants who played an exercise game on the Wii reported a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms.”

As if the scientific evidence weren’t enough, Wii mini is a great gift idea for your aging loved ones because seniors who have played Wii games love them. In a Chicago Tribune article describing the fun seniors have while playing a Wii, reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz found seniors at Bolingbrook’s Heritage Woods assisted living community are hooked on Wii bowling. The seniors found that the Wii was easy to use and got people out of their rooms, playing and socializing. 86-year-old Elsie Sottile even admitted the games get serious: “It might be leisure, but we’re fighting.” Who needs a better review than that?

Of course, the list of potential technology gifts for your aging loved one is long. We’ve suggested a few of the most easily accessible, popular, and convenient gifts to simplify life and add a little fun for your older relatives. Have a different suggestion? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Happy shopping!

Images via Flickr by Symo0Markus Spiering and Amnestic_Arts

Helpful Hints for Moving Your Parents

Remaining in a beloved family home until the end, with its familiar creaks and memory-filled rooms, is the desire of many seniors. But all too often, adult children are faced with the realization that their parents can no longer handle home maintenance or need supportive services to remain independent, whether driving to stores or dressing in the morning.Truck on an open road

Though home care agency caregivers can visit throughout the day or spend the night, they can’t replace the security, services and camaraderie found at assisted living communities. Even if parents are willing to move to a community, this doesn’t guarantee moving will go smoothly; unlike other moves made during a lifetime, this move will likely be the most difficult one a family will face.

This is why SeniorHomes.com is taking a look at the moving process. This week, in the second part of a three-part series, we provide tips from experts on the moving process itself, from packing to unpacking.

Get more helpful hints in Part 2 of our moving series, “Strategies for Successfully Moving Your Parents.” For more moving advice, check out the first part in our series, “It’s Never too Early to Plan a Move,” and keep our Senior Moving Center bookmarked.

Moving Your Parents: It’s Never Too Early to Start Planning

Remaining in a beloved family home until the end, with its familiar creaks and memory-filled rooms, is the desire of many seniors. But all too often, adult children are faced with the realization that their parents can no longer handle home maintenance or need supportive services to remain independent, whether driving to stores or dressing in the morning.Planning a Senior's Move

Though home care agency caregivers can visit throughout the day or spend the night, they can’t replace the security, services and camaraderie found at assisted living communities. Even if parents are willing to move to a community, this doesn’t guarantee moving will go smoothly; unlike other moves made during a lifetime, this move will likely be the most difficult one a family will face.

This is why, over the next few weeks, SeniorHomes.com will be looking into the moving process and ways to overcome some of the challenges presented throughout.

The first step, and one of the most difficult, is planning a move. This includes figuring out where your parent will live, discussing the process with them and getting as much downsizing and packing done as early as possible.

Details of this are covered in our article, “It’s Never too Early to Plan a Move.” For even more helpful senior moving tips, check out our Senior Moving Center.

So … What is Assisted Living?

It’s the question we get asked more than just about any other at SeniorHomes.com. It’s a vital question to our company and our consumers, and one that deserves a good, thorough answer.

What is assisted living?What is Assisted Living?

Our Care Advisors do a wonderful job of explaining this to consumers, but we always felt our article on the topic could be a little better. Well, we used to feel that way, at least.

Our revamped “What is Assisted Living?” article clearly explains all of the basics of assisted living. From costs, to services and activities usually included, to the demographics of an average community and helpful tips for touring an assisted living community, we’ve got you covered.

We invite you to learn more about assisted living by reading our revamped page, and let us know what you think. And when you’re ready to learn more about specific assisted living communities, give our Care Advisors a call, and they’ll be more than happy to guide you through the process.

Joan’s Journey: ‘Comfort Zones’ Important for Successful Senior Living

Welcome, Joan’s Journeyers. In our last two blogs (read them here and here), we took an up-front and personal look at illness, dying and death at senior living. Prospective residents need to consciously explore their feelings in order to know their comfort zones. The bottom line for families is to discuss this topic among themselves, and with marketers and administrators of senior living communities.Comfort Zones are Vital in Senior Living

Along my search for senior living, I walked down a long hallway and a quite elderly woman in a wheelchair, pushed by an aide, was heading in my direction. The woman’s face was deformed as though she had a stroke. I felt pained as I glanced at her. To my great surprise, she smiled a big, beautiful smile—as she looked directly at me. She then said as she passed, “Your shirt is such a lovely shade of violet. It goes beautifully with your hair.”

Instantly, this bright, observant woman no longer looked deformed. Her kind eyes and thoughtful comment touched my heart. This woman, despite the adversities she faces, reached out to me, a stranger in her residence, to make me feel comfortable. And she succeeded.

I chose to live in a senior community that does not differentiate by function or medical condition. All financially qualified seniors who meet the admissions criteria are welcome. Fortunately for me, I worked for 11 years in a children’s hospital and am comfortable around walkers, wheel chairs, oxygen tanks and caregivers. For others, this type of community may be beyond their comfort zones.

Comfort zones vary among individuals. Categories of senior communities range from:

  1. Completely independent folks at 55+years;
  2. Physically challenged individuals;
  3. Mentally and\or cognitively challenged individuals; and
  4. Those in need of hospice care.

Some communities separate these functions, while others combine conditions. The key to successful senior living is to know residence categories before a decision is made, and know where one’s comfort zones lie.

In the next Joan’s Journey, we move from inside the senior residence to senior living as part of its neighborhood, city, state and country. We explore the two-way street of visitors who come to senior communities and external community participation.

Thanks to the many Journeyers who posted comments discussing their experiences and thoughts regarding illness, dying and death in senior communities. In the Comments Box below,  SeniorHomes.com and I invite you to continue to share your experiences. Until our next  blog in mid-November,, enjoy the journey day-by-day.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor, specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren. Read about her entire journey here.

The Last Stop: It’s the Little Things

Life goes on for me at my retirement community. Nothing too dramatic. I listen to the world news, the national news, the weather traumas, and know how fortunate I am to be living in this safe, comfortable environment in Colorado. Yet with that said, I still Margery's friends work on a puzzleam aware that every day offers a personal choice, a decision and an opportunity.

It’s the little things that I plan to share with my readers in this essay. Little things such as how I manage my meal choices, the leaving of friends and how a new friend resolved his personal complication. No matter how one simplifies one’s life, living is never without decisions.

Read more about the little things that make a difference in Margery’s life in “Part 12: It’s the Little Things.”

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”