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Seniors Have Many Housing Options

Senior living is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition, and that's good news for people reaching their golden years. Fortunately, the "old folks' home" of years past is rapidly being replaced by a variety of options, including medical and housekeeping services that allow people to stay in their own homes. But seniors and their families are well advised to start planning for the transition before they have to make it.

The maturing of America is happening in a big way, spurred on by the aging of the baby boom generation, and other demographic factors. Nationally, the number of elderly people is expected to balloon from about 34 million today to 70 million by 2030. That's going to put pressure on financial and housing resources. Better start budgeting for your future. Don't let fear or negative preconceptions about senior citizens' homes stop you from considering your options. A recent study by the National Council on Aging and John Hancock Mutual Life Co. found that nearly half of 1,000 adults surveyed had done little or no thinking about long-term care.

Fortunately, the long-term care industry is recognizing that people want different levels of care, and a variety of housing situations. Companies have started providing a menu of services tailored to assisting seniors at home, including personal care, hospice care, nursing, housekeeping, and other options. Senior communities now offer staged levels of care, starting with private apartments, with the option of moving up to assisted living, and nursing care, at the appropriate times.

Various plans allow you to finance long-term care, including home equity conversion. A reverse mortgage is a relatively uncommon loan that actually involves getting money back from your loan provider to use however you choose. Reverse mortgages are expected to boom over the next five years, particularly among senior citizens--over a million could apply, according to Fannie Mae, the big secondary mortgage company. But Fannie Mae warns consumers to watch out for the telltale signs of fraud. First, know how to recognize pressure sales tactics-- don't let anyone fast-talk you into a reverse mortgage, not even friends or relatives. Second, make sure that payments are made out directly to you--don't sign the money over to anyone else. Third, remember that it's totally up to you how you spend the money--just because you heard about a reverse mortgage program from a long-term care company or an investment firm, doesn't mean you have to purchase their services.

Fannie Mae's free brochure on Reverse Mortgages is available by calling (800)732-6643.

Sources used in creating this article include writer Stephanie Zimmerman and The Chicago Sun-Times.

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