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Independent Retirement Living Options

When you are getting older, you may experience that the house you live in becomes too big for you. It was ok when you were younger, and your children were still living in, but now the three or four bedroom house becomes a burden.

You’re sixty-plus, still healthy and mobile and you are looking to keep your independence. What can you do? You can of course try to sell your house and find a smaller one (or a flat), but perhaps it is even better to check out the possibilities for independent retirement living.

What does Independent Retirement Living (IRL) mean? It means that you’ll be living in a residence – private apartments which are easy to maintain, in a community of seniors – where you can follow your own lifestyle. The difference with Assisted Living is that here you don’t receive custodial and medical care (like they offer in assisted living facilities and nursing homes); you should be able to look after yourself.

What does IRL offer? Well, there is a variety of offers:

  • You’ll have community access to sports fields, social events and outings.
  • There will also be a cleaning and laundry service available.
  • There may be a library, along with nice shops and gardens.
  • There will also be activity rooms or clubhouses.
  • And of course, you’ll be among people of your own age and interests!

There are several types of Independent Living options available. There are senior apartments (apartments restricted by age, mostly 55+), retirement communities (apartment complexes especially for seniors, aged 60+) and low-incoming housing (subsidized by the government, but these usually have long waiting-lists).

When opting for IRL, you’d better ask yourself some questions. Is there a convenient parking lot near your living unit, and is it well-lit? Is there a security guard? Can you find public transportation in the near area? Does the storage space in the unit meet your current (and future) needs? Is the shower or bath adaptable to needs of older age (meaning: can you install grab bars)? Do you prefer a unit on the ground floor, or is one on an upper level ok? In the latter case, is there a lift or do you need to use the stairs? Also important to know is if there is a doctor (hospital) in the neighborhood.

What does IRL cost? This is not easy to answer. It will largely depend on your income or pension. In my country, people who have worked for the government usually have a large pension and can easily afford a senior flat. But those who worked in the private sector have a much smaller pension and would need to opt for low-income housing. Even then, they may not have enough to pay for it. In that case, in Belgium, the children are asked to pay the difference.

You should also remember that the cost for the unit does not include medical services or a health care plan, so better set some money for this aside.

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