Retirement Housing Options Not Just an American Problem – Rwanda Too

While traditionally the elderly have been taken care of by their family, the emergence of retirement homes causes worries that families might be more inclined to abandon them.

~ Rwanda Focus

The above quote could have come from any American newspaper. But interestingly, it comes from a Rwandan newspaper, where it appears they have a similar problem. As the economy expands, younger Rwandans are moving to the cities leaving older relatives out in the countryside alone. Retirement communities have been popping up to satisfy this need in Rwanda, a trend that Americans have seen going on for a number of years now.

Rwandan Flag

There has been an increasing number (starting years ago) of seniors moving into various retirement communities both independent and care-type communities. This trend comes partly due to changing intra-family dynamics, or put more plainly, grandparents more often live alone today. They don’t live with the kids and grandkids (the built in “help”:) and sometimes they only have one or two children and no grandchildren. And oftentimes, these adult children that could care for them, live in other states.

The challenge for seniors (both in the US and Rwanda) then is to decide between staying in a home where they feel comfortable, and a home where they’d be safer and enjoy more community. The ones who choose to stay home often see many neighbors move away or pass away, and the same relationships don’t exist with the new neighbors. Loneliness increases. This is especially true for the older old (over age 80).

Despite the loneliness risk, there are many concerns that make seniors hesitant about leaving home. For example, there is a worry that families will use these retirement communities to “dump” mom or dad off and eliminate the cares and worries. Rwandas fear the same (again from the article):

Traditionally, the elderly were taken care of by their families, direct or extended. With facilities taking care of old people now starting to emerge, there is a worry that it may encourage families to put their elderly parents there instead of taking care of them properly, or just leave them in the homes and never see them again.

This is certainly happening in some cases. In others, with both spouses working, it is hard to take care of ill parents. And I don’t mean to include health and fully independent seniors when I say that seniors have limited options. Independent seniors still have many options. Those who have the health and mobility into their later years do have choices. For example, in-law apartment add-ons to a child’s home is a nice middle ground choice. The adult child gets additional home value, the parents get independent residence, the adult children still keep their living space and the family can enjoy each other more closely.

Family All Together?

However, if health is fading, or mobility is an issue, then the complexities of where to live in retirement grow. In Rwanda, according to the article, they currently don’t have the capacity to handle the need. However retirees in the US have many options. In my review of the Boston area, I find a sampling of communities with 10% or greater vacancy. We certainly don’t have the challenges found in Rwanda when it comes to finding senior housing. The challenge for American retirees, considering real estate downsizing in retirement, is to find the option that works best for them. Staying at home is an excellent option – as long as health and fitness are good (too many stories of home maintenance accidents to count). Also, if this option is chosen, seniors should consider making that home “senior friendly” and consider hiring an interior architect/designer skilled in such matters.

If the option of selling the home and moving to a retirement community poses a possibility, then the choices become much more complicated as these communities cater to various income levels, health levels (independent vs dependent), care levels (fee for service care, full service, independent only) and cost options (buy in, rent only, lose deposit, deposit-refunded).

If you find yourself facing these choices, give us a call – 781.393.0021. We focus on helping retirees with downsizing planning. If you’d rather send a question through the net, write your question in this nifty comment box  by clicking HERE. Also, for more reading, consider the following options:

Walnut Hill Advisors, LLC Downsizing Page

Article – How to Downsize Your Home

Thanks for reading!