Call it elder care management or call it planning for your future as an older person. Whatever terms you use, a good starting point is home. We have written a book, Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age, that is great place to get your ideas rolling. No one wants to imagine the changes that can occur as the body ages. But, it happens to the best of us. Having a home that is designed to allow you to continue to live there in spite of those changes is a valuable asset.
As we wrote our book, we talked to lots of people who were willing to try something new. We sought examples of homes that offered choice and options. Thankfully, the senior housing industry is taking notice that people want more than a 55+ apartment community. People know that they may need some type of assistance later on. But they don’t like the idea of moving into the traditional senior “facility.”
Enter the innovative concept of Upside. Currently they are found in the southeast. Upside has approached senior living with a new attitude.
Many retired people decide to downsize and find apartment living attractive. But, what if you want to live with a roommate? What if you and your grandson are already living together and you want to transition to a smaller place? Most 55+ communities have strict rules about who can and can’t live in the community. Upside has a more welcoming approach. As Jake Rothstein, the Founder and CEO of Upside told us: “If a person wants to share a fully managed 2 bedroom/2 bathroom with a spouse, a friend or another family member, that’s totally fine. And everyone lives without the stigma of a traditional facility environment since our communities are inherently intergenerational.”
One of the greatest things about ditching home ownership is letting go of home maintenance. It becomes someone else’s responsibility. Upside gets that. Included with the rental are some basic amenities: “Dedicated Upside Manager/Concierge; All Home Maintenance; One-Bill Simplicity; Basic Cable and Wireless Internet; and In-Home Communication Portal.” In addition, there are a la carte offerings that you can pay more for if you choose. These range from meal delivery, grocery delivery, transportation, social events, fitness programming and more.
I am impressed with Upside’s emphasis on “Social Living.” Especially with the pandemic, we have all become even more aware of the dangers of social isolation at any age. Experts on aging agree that increased social connection can improve our overall well-being and mental health. We hear many older adults say that they would be interested in sharing a home, but don’t know how to do it. Upside is available for people who know that they want to share a home. But, if you don’t know someone that you want to be “roomies” with, they have a detailed process to match you with another person.
That can be a game-changer for many who need that extra support to make a positive change in their lifestyle. This could be so helpful on many levels. Imagine being a newly retired person or relocating to a new town. Moving in with a “home-mate,” each with their own bedroom and bathroom, provides opportunities for conversation, going to the store, enjoying the pool or community events together. It offers “being known” and room for friendship and company to grow.
This opportunity may remind you of another time in your life: college. Remember the feeling of excitement and uncertainty about your future ahead? That’s why the dorms and roommates are such an advantage. You are sharing a special time of life. Aging can offer the same possibilities of growth. And, that is enhanced with some built-in companionship.
This all sounds great for the right person. But, what happens if you end up needing some assistance? I always think of my own family’s situation. My mother has memory issues. We have care providers who assist her. But she is still social and loves to see people. Would someone who needs care be able to live in this community?
I was curious and asked Jake Rothstein. Jake told me, “Yes, our model is incredibly flexible and members can either arrange to bring their own care in, as necessary or we can provide access to licensed caregivers through our local home care partnerships.”
Flexibility is so valuable. People need real choices and it starts with the people that they want to live with. Having the freedom to choose where you live, who you live with, and be treated as an adult in the process is key. Upside’s novel strategy signals real change that we are looking for in senior communities.