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Things to consider when relocating senior citizens

Relocating can mean leaving some family members. On the other hand, there can be many reasons why an elderly father or mother may want, or need, to relocate with the family. Uprooting a senior citizen can be complicated by several factors -- health issues, community ties, transportation and property ownership to name a few.

Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Elder Care Planner, says it's important to make sure the parent's health insurance will transfer to the new location.

"Medicare HMO is a popular alternative to straight Medicare coverage -- take care of any interviews with the new health-care provider before you move."

Climate and transportation
Climate and transportation are other issues that need to be explored. Is the new location too hot or too cold? Does a doctor's advice need to be sought?

As for transportation, how will the senior get around? Is public transportation an option?

"How will it sit with them if where you're moving isn't conducive to them maintaining independence?" asks Loverde.

Then there are the housing issues. Loverde suggests making sure a house is barrier-free if a parent is moving in with the family. Is every room wheelchair accessible? Will city building codes allow for a ramp to be added outdoors? Can a bathroom be installed on the first floor?

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Homeownership
If the parent is independent and owns a home, relocating gets even trickier.

Fannie Mae, the Washington, D.C., mortgage loan-backer, has a program that allows seniors to take advantage of a reverse mortgage when buying a new home.

It's called Home Keeper for Home Purchase. Janice Mitchell, a manager at the Fannie Mae headquarters, says people must be at least 62 years of age and have some money available toward home purchase to take advantage of the program.

"Home Keeper for Home Purchase is for a very targeted audience," says Mitchell. "It's for people who aren't concerned about leaving their home to their children. We have a mobile society and that works for some people."

Here's an example.

Mom sells her house for $200,000. The family relocates and she finds a house near them that costs $250,000. She can buy it using proceeds from the sale of the home and pay the balance with $50,000 of her own money -- or she can take out a Home Keeper for Home Purchase loan. With her equity from the house sale, she qualifies for a $104,000 loan. She'd take the $104,000, apply it to the $250,000 and have $146,000 that she'd have to make up. If she takes that money from the sale of the house, she has $96,000 left.

"The benefit," says Mitchell, "is she doesn't have to dip into savings and there are no mortgage payments until she permanently moves from the home."

At that point, the loan balance would typically be paid off from the sale of the home, through other assets or heirs may opt to pay it off with their own money or funds from the estate.

For more information on the Home Keeper for Home Purchase loan call Fannie Mae's Consumer Resource Center at 1-800-7FANNIE or 1-800-732-6643.

Social ties
When housing issues, medical coverage and transportation are taken care of, there's still a critical area that can't be neglected -- social ties.

Patrick Burns of the National Council of Senior Citizens in Silver Spring, Md., says when his parents moved from Kansas to an apartment building in Arlington, Va., it was terribly isolating for them.

"The rest of the family is making connections through work or school -- the seniors don't have that. If you rip your roots out from one place you must be very activist and involved to get roots in another place," says Burns. "Most people are shy, a body at rest tends to stay at rest -- it's not easy for them."

Burns says younger members of the family may need to help the parent establish new ties in the community. It's easier if the parent has hobbies such as golf, playing cards or likes joining church groups. Otherwise, see what activities the community offers for helping seniors socialize.

Author Joy Loverde also suggests subscribing to the local newspaper of your new town as soon as you know where you're moving so everyone can get an idea of what activities are available.

-- Posted: July 7, 2004

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