What happens to a house when the occupant has Alzheimer’s

wooden houses

Alzheimer’s disease can be hard on a house. The owner may forget to clean the kitchen and pay the bills. Can you imagine remembering to pay your property taxes when you don’t always remember who you are?

In the US some 27% of people who are over 60 live alone. age is the biggest known risk factor for dementia. The majority of people with dementia are over the age of 65, and the risk of this condition increases as you get older, and the population is aging.

It is easy to forget to turn off the burner on the stove. Operating a microwave oven isn’t always intuitive and for people with dementia it can be very difficult.

I don’t have any answers or solutions on how to keep people with dementia safe when they are alone in their own homes. We all need to keep pay attention to aging family members and help our neighbors when we can.

In St. Paul, the fire department has a team that can respond to non-emergency crises. They can be reached at 651-228-6216 on weekdays between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM. I recently met the head of the unit Deputy Chief Dwayne Gibbs.

There is also the House Calls program through Ramsey County. 651-266-1290.

There are other services. I am in the process of working with a couple of government agencies and the Saint Paul Areas Association of Realtors to come up with a list of services specifically for elderly homeowners in crisis.

Seniors are not part of the conversation about senior housing

I am not sure I believe in “senior housing”. For starters, there is about a 50-year age range for people we call “Seniors”. It doesn’t seem like a group of people who could have the same housing needs.

A few years ago I took some classes and became “Senior Real Estate Specialist” SRES. I do my best to keep up with housing trends for all age groups. When it comes to “senior” housing news it is all about how institutions that house the elderly can make more money.

Granted all businesses need to make a profit and housing is a business. What I find sad though is that Seniors themselves do not appear to be part of the conversation.

As we age our housing needs may change to the point where we need to move out of current housing and move into whatever kind of housing is more suitable.

There is the belief that all older people want to live near old people and that people over a certain age can not live in housing that has stairs or that older people don’t want to cook or clean but wish to be waited on.

I know a few people who are in their late eighties to mid-nineties who live in housing with stairs and who love to cook. They interact with people of all ages regularly. A relative who is in his late 80s has a social life that revolves around walking with his friends. He does not live in any kind of senior housing.

I know another who will turn 96 this year. He loves having the family over to enjoy a home-cooked meal. He bakes some wonderful pies too. Sometimes he needs a little help but don’t we all? The mother of a childhood friend will turn 99 this year. She LOVES baking and telling stories about her life. She lives in the same house she has lived in for more than 70 years.

Sometimes I sell 55+ housing, which is unusually in the form of small condos. Life in these buildings doesn’t look like what we see in the advertisements.

I’ll just say that senior housing isn’t for everyone who is between 50 and 100 years old. It is possible to age in place.

The city of St. Paul is cruel to the elderly

How to make a lot vacant

In St. Paul, someone can complain to the city about your property. Maybe they think your grass is too long. Maybe they don’t like you or the way you look. Maybe they want to buy your house and see that you are struggling to maintain it.

Someone complained about a barking dog at my house but we didn’t have a dog.

Another time someone complained about too many cats in our yard. We did not have a cat at the time.

Code enforcement in St. Paul is complaint driven. That means that the city does not pay attention to code violations unless someone complains.

The city can condemn a house. There used to be reports that we could see online through St. Paul property look-up that would show what was wrong with the house. They don’t do that anymore.

After a time and it depends upon the inspector a house can be condemned by the city and after that, the city can make it a registered vacant building and charge $5000 for a permit. There isn’t any consistency in this process. It can go on for months or for a decade.

Elderly homeowners on fixed incomes struggle to make repairs without the added burden of fines from the city.  If the fee isn’t paid it gets attached to the already sky-high property taxes They end up living in a car on the property or in a tent near the property because they are not allowed to live in the house.

In order to get the house uncondemned they must pay for a city inspection. City inspectors will go through the house and inspect it and create a list of repairs needed for code compliance.  If the owner doesn’t have the house inspected it can sit vacant and condemned for years.

The vacant building permit fee is $5000. That money could be used to fix up the property or to provide housing for homeowners who are not allowed to live in their own homes. At the very least the $5000 should cover an inspection that outlines exactly why the house is condemned.

The forced registered vacant building program does nothing to improve our housing stock. In fact, some of these houses rot as no one is allowed to live in the house. The program does not help improve housing safety for homeowners. In fact, I know of one situation where the elderly homeowner spent Christmas Eve sleeping in his car in sub-zero weather.

The only people I know who own condemned houses that they are not allowed to live in are over 70 years old.

These condemned category 2 houses may even be fit to live in. We don’t really know because the process lacks consistency and transparency. In fact, the city may be violating fair housing laws. I occasionally see houses that are filled with junk and have not been cleaned in years that are not condemned. The system is compliant-driven and lacks transparency.

City inspectors encourage owners of these properties to sell. The new owner would be responsible for the repairs.  Is there an age limit on homeownership?

Eventually, the owners have to sell or it is taken from them by a bank or for back taxes.  Sometimes the vacant property disintegrates to the point where it has to be torn down.

More often than not seniors who have lived in their homes for decades do not want to leave. In fact, I can’t think of anything that is more cruel forcing an elderly person to leave their home.

Homelessness among the elderly used to be rare now it is the fastest-growing group.

There has to be a better way!

Senior housing with parking

Old bike
Old Bike

Much of the senior housing, or maybe I should say housing for people 55 years old or older is located in areas that are not very walkable. Many include the use of surface parking lots and underground garages.

The least expensive senior housing seems to be located in the communities that are the least walkable.

Couples with two cars can move in and drive anywhere they need to go. I am not a fan of that lifestyle at least not for myself. I would rather live in the city, own one or fewer cars, walk bike, or use shared scooters.

Walking is good for the legs and the heart and the brain too. Sure it takes time but maybe that is the reward for growing older, more time for walking.

Cars are expensive, parking is expensive, car insurance is expensive and so is gasoline. Having two cars is twice as expensive.

55+ housing options

IcecreamMy parents rejected 55+ housing because it was often in areas that are not very walkable.  When they moved at the age of 78 they chose to live in a single-level condo in the heart of the city. There was only one parking space which was fine with them.

They enjoyed walking to the nearby park and to restaurants. They could walk to the grocery store, take a bus or a cab or even drive.

When they were in their mid 80’s driving became more difficult for several reasons that mostly have to do with how the aging process can change a body.

They often had their groceries delivered and relied on family members and taxi cabs when they needed rides to doctors’ appointments or shopping.  They did most of their shopping online. It was much of a stretch. My mom often ordered items by phone from the catalogs that were around before internet shopping arrived on the scene.

Some older home buyers want the amenities that come with senior housing like exercise rooms, community rooms, and people to socialize with. My mother-in-law was quite the card player. She lived in senior housing and played cards with other residents. That was a huge part of her social life.

There is no one size fits all housing for people who are 55 to 100 years old.  I think I would be the happiest if I lived close to ice cream. I live in an area where there is a lot of beer but ice cream is hard to find.

What is an SRES?

What is SRES? Thanks for asking. SRES stands for Senior Real Estate Specialist. The specialist doesn’t have to be a senior but does have to specialize in real estate for seniors.

It is all actually quite interesting because there really isn’t such a thing as Senior real estate. Older houses are sometimes called “Historic” but never “senior”

There is such a thing as senior housing. Usually, it is housing that people have to be 55 or older to buy or rent. With some housing, a person has to be 62 or better to buy or rent.

The Senior Specialist Designation is through the National Association of Realtors. It is an area of study. Once the course is taken as I recall there is a test.

I have had many clients over the years who are 70 or older. I think my oldest client was in her early 90’s.  There is no one size fits all housing solution for people who are over 55. It mostly depends upon what kind of a lifestyle the person has or wants.

Health and money weigh into the equation too.  I have worked with a few people who are blind or almost blind. Some seniors like to jog and others don’t want a house where there are stairs to climb.

Sometimes families need help with a house that they inherited from a loved one. I have experience with that both as a family member and as a Realtor.

Some of my older clients have downsized while others have purchased larger homes. Sometimes it takes a larger house to meet the needs of a few generations.

Listening is the most important skill for working with seniors. It is best not to make any assumptions about the size, and style of a house a person might want.

I just renewed my SRES membership for another year. Feel free to call or write with questions. Boardman Realty is woman-owned and operated and I suppose technically we are senior citizens too.

Downsizing can be a challenge but we have done that ourselves and have helped family members and clients do the same. In fact sometimes I think about writing a book on how to pack up a life and move away.

Certificate SRES