Invest in our elders

By Vern McClelland

May 18, 2017 12:00 AM

This past winter and spring I have met with seven different older adults who are working their way through one of the most difficult decisions of their life.
All are widows or widowers now living by themselves, or with an aging companion, in a house that no longer meets their needs.
In addition, the rural community they’ve spent a lifetime supporting does not have all the services required to sustain them in their later years.
Initially, the request is to provide an opinion on the current market value of their house.
However, the conversation inevitably leads to “Where do I go from here?” and it can turn into an emotionally charged discussion.
I spent more than two decades in health services management, much of it in home and continuing care programs, so I’ve been in this type of situation many times before, albeit for different reasons.
Nevertheless, I believe our elders deserve assistance in determining the best course of action; but it probably shouldn’t be a Realtor.
As I see it, my role is to give them straight information on the value of their current home and if asked, to lay out some of the available options for the next step.
Unfortunately, alternatives to the single family detached house can be fairly limited outside of the major centers, particularly for those who may be capable of independent living for a good number of years yet, but have a diminishing ability to manage yard and home maintenance tasks.
If you’ve ever tried to retain a reliable grounds keeper in a small town you’ll know what I mean.
The 14-year-old kid down the block, who has demonstrated the initiative to do lawn care and snow shoveling, is also into sports and school activities, all of which serve to make regularly scheduled attendance at your home unlikely.
He or she also tend to gravitate to consistent part-time employment at one of the local businesses as it provides steady income and the ability to pay for a set of wheels as they come of age.
Professional landscaping companies rarely work outside the city and, if one was available, the senior homeowner would probably protest anyway at paying what the work is worth!
Which leaves the local family member or a benevolent neighbour, both of whom are likely also supplying occasional chauffeur services.
So, what are the options?
The discussion at the kitchen table inevitably starts where the client would prefer to move to as compared to where their adult children would like them to be.
A feeling that we “belong” to a community and the people around us care for our wellbeing is a key determinant of quality of life.
Transportation is also a key consideration, as is the location of grocery stores.
Then there is the whole question of health services, particularly the availability of primary and emergency care.
Some communities are better positioned to provide a wide range of housing choices, but this did not come without a committed effort by either a faith-based or non-profit organization, or a group of like-minded investors.
I recently spoke with a community leader out of the Battlefords who spearheaded—with nine fellow investors and an experienced contractor—a 24-unit apartment building dedicated to mature adults.
While prospective tenants were initially cautious, there are now 20 names on the waiting list.
It’s a simple concept focused on seniors with spacious suites, indoor parking, and no maintenance worries.
An alternative in Moose Jaw is structured as a cooperative.
In Lloydminster, most housing of this nature must be purchased as a condominium, but not everybody wants the responsibility of ownership or has the funds to make such a major purchase.
Personally, I like the LutherCare Community model where all suites are available through a life lease arrangement. This option combines a lease entrance fee ranging from $68,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the one or two bedroom units, then monthly occupancy fees thereafter similar to a condo fee but considerably less than market rent.
When a resident no longer lives within a LutherCare community, there is a guaranteed buy-back provision less the costs to refresh the unit for the next occupant.
Appeals to my Scottish blood; independent and frugal, but realistic as well.
Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.vernmcclelland.com or by following the Midwest Group Lloydminster on Facebook.

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