• Don't wait to talk about retirement living until it's too late. The transition will be much easier if you start these conversations while aging parents are still mentally and physically healthy.
  • When discussing retirement living, consider topics such as the size of accommodation and level of care that will be needed.
  • Keep in mind that these needs may change over time. You can plan to downsize as the level of care increases.

Retirement living: this will inevitably be one of the biggest investments of your life. Seniors today learned to live simply and tuck their money away during the Great Depression. They had to live through an incredibly difficult time and make it out with savings hidden away.

Fast forward several decades later. Many seniors are living in the same family home for 50+ years, they have paid off their mortgages, and they have lived frugally for most of their lives. The move from their long-time family home to a retirement residence is like having to flip a switch from saving to spending. This will feel unsettling as they start planning for their future care in retirement living.

Families need to start having conversations about retirement living while their aging parent is still in good health and physically able to participate in downsizing. When discussing retirement living, the first thing that comes to mind is the cost. There are two main factors that drive the cost of retirement living: the size of the accommodation, and the level of care one may need. As your needs increase, the level of care increases, but you can downsize to a smaller suite size to save the additional money.

Size of the suite

When a senior is quite independent, they have the option to move into a suite that is suitable for their current lifestyle. A great place to start when trying to decide what size of a suite to rent is to consider which rooms in your current home you actually use. In many cases, it’s the bedroom, living room, washroom, and kitchen. If this is the case, a 1-bedroom floor plan would be suitable. In some cases, couples sleep separately, so a 2-bedroom is a must.

The larger floor plans are 1-bedroom, 1-bedroom + den, and 2-bedroom suites. The floor plans can range anywhere from 600 sq. ft. to 1000 sq. ft. 1-bedroom floor plans can start around $4,500/month and a 2-bedroom suite can start around $6,000/month in the Greater Toronto Area. If it is a couple moving in, keep in mind there is a second occupancy fee that will cost roughly an additional $900/month.

When a senior was independent when they first moved in, but now their care needs have increased, a larger suite is unnecessary, mainly because mobility issues will restrict how much space you actually need to live your life in. If this is the case, there are studio and bachelor suites. Suites of this size can vary from 300 sq. ft. to 600 sq. ft. A studio floor plan can start at $3,500/month.

Cost of care

The other factor that one has to consider is the level of care required. The more care you need, the higher the expense will be. Some examples of care are:

  • Medication administration
  • Shower assistance
  • Getting dressed and/or undressed for the day
  • Washroom help
  • Ambulation assistance

Prices will vary and will be based on a wellness assessment prior to the move into the residence. Some retirement residences have minimal care included and some residences charge extra for additional care. Care starts at $300/month and can go up to $3,000/month. The higher end is for someone in need of full assistance with all of their care.

In Ontario, everyone is eligible to apply for services through Home and Community Support Services. Based on the need, a Personal Support Worker (PSW) can provide some assistance with getting dressed and undressed, as well as shower assistance. If you require such assistance, Home and Community Support Services will cover the additional cost of care.

Financial tips

Many retirement homes offer a Retirement Living calculator. This is a great tool to use to identify how much money you would need on a monthly basis to reside in a residence. Many people were pleasantly surprised when they took a closer look at the inclusions already factored in. Our friends at Tea & Toast have created an online calculator you can use to help you plan.

Another great tip to consider is to ask the retirement home of your choice if they have any incentives for any new resident moving in. One example is a retirement home company that has a partnership with CARP. CARP members will receive special benefits including two months' free rent. These savings can go towards any moving expenses that would need to occur.

With all costs considered, you may be surprised to learn that moving to a retirement community could cost less than your current expenditures. One way to save money, in the beginning, is moving into a smaller suite.

The goal of retirement living is to improve your quality of life and enhance your lifestyle. Your suite should only be used for sleeping and you should get out and explore the many activities and events that your chosen retirement home has to offer. Retirement living offers countless advantages if you are considering downsizing in the near future. Having an understanding of the costs involved prior to starting your search can help you find an option that offers the best price and lifestyle for your budget.

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About the Author

Peg Bocci is the founder of Silver Lining Senior Advisors. Working in the senior living industry for almost 20 years has given her the knowledge and understanding of this dynamic industry and the people living and working in it.

During the pandemic, she took the time to re-evaluate what is important to her and how she can help champion the cause that is close to her heart: Retirement Living. She has dedicated her professional career to working with seniors and she wants to continue to educate our community on the benefits and options available in the senior living industry. For many years, she has wanted to start her own business, but she had no idea what she wanted it to be. After many conversations with people who inspire and motivate her, it was clear that this is the most crazy but perfect time to follow her dreams and start something new.

Working with seniors has always been a passion of hers. We learn a great deal by observing the lives of others, especially those that lived before us or who made the journey already. Through her experience, she has discovered the benefits of why one would consider moving into Retirement Living. Let her guide you in the next chapter of your life.

Peg is a Trusted Partner at Viive Planning.

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