Preparing your Community Association for Aging in Place

Posted by Guest Post on April 5, 2013

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What is the responsibility of the community association when homeowners make the choice to age in place?

Guest Post by Paul D. Grucza CMCA©, AMS™, PCAM©

The recent release of the award-winning series King's Point on HBO has put our minds firmly on the aging populous and the choices people make about how they want to age. While the HBO series highlights a popular choice of one segment of the population (to move to Florida where it is warm), another segment of the population has chosen a relatively new path - staying put. The subject of Aging in Place has been covered a lot from the consumer perspective, but Paul Grucza, former president of CAI National, takes a look from another angle by asking a key question - "What happens to the community associations that are aging in place alongside their homeowners?" We are thrilled to bring you this timely and informative guest post!

Much has been said, sung, lamented and discussed about aging.  People age, buildings age, communities themselves age and the beat goes on. No place is this aging more evident than in multiple community associations across our country where the inhabitants are aging right along with their home or unit simultaneously. 

What is Aging in Place (AIP)?

The property exhibits a natural deterioration process due to lack of maintenance, reduced maintenance, the failure of components or other elements conspiring to reduce the effectiveness of the property.

What exactly is the aging in place community and what are the implications of this growing trend in communities across our country? Simply put, aging in place from the person perspective is the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. From the property perspective the property exhibits a natural deterioration process due to lack of maintenance, reduced maintenance, the failure of components or other elements conspiring to reduce the effectiveness of the property.

Put the two of these aging elements together and you have a mixture for concern and serious evaluation.

AIP from the Homeowner's Perspective

If we first look at A-I-P as it is commonly known, first from the occupant’s perspective, home modifications as one ages may become necessary. Simple modifications such as adding an assist bar in a bathroom tub or shower to adding non-slip surfaces, lever door handles, easy-flip light switches or telephones with larger buttons all feed into the aging in place model. More significant modification such as establishing accommodation for wheelchairs or scooters by door widening, ramp installation and such take the aging in place person to a new level. Just these simple accommodations can make life a bit simpler for the occupant.

AIP from the Community Association's Perspective

Meanwhile, the property or homes themselves are also aging and begin to manifest symptoms: deteriorating wood, clogged gutters, flaking paint, rusted lighting, overgrown and unkempt landscaping, missing mortar, threadbare carpeting and the list can go on and on.

Lack of funds, lack of interest, lack of professional management or a combination of factors can all lead to this property deterioration. Not only does the property need to be maintained but as time goes by the cost escalation in providing restoration or repair will continue to mount, costing the association thousands or more to renovate and maintain. The longer the absence of maintenance continues, the more costly the maintenance becomes, and sadly, many associations then become victims of the dreaded special assessment when the monies allocated are simply not enough to cover the costs of the needed repairs.

In some cases these assessments can mean the difference between allowing a person to continue living in the community or having the need to move:

The Consequences of Complacency

Use this as an opportunity to both assist the residents and to bring back to standard any elements within the community that have not been attended to for a long time.

A community that I once managed that we acquired from another management company had years and years of deferred maintenance and was the poster-child for the aging in place community. While not a wealthy community, when we tabulated the costs for immediate and needed repairs and restoration to preserve what the community had, the tab came to well over 2 million dollars!

The board had some serious decisions to make and even more serious meetings to hold. After the crying had ended, at least 5 of the owners had to sell their homes and move because they could not afford the special assessment that was approved by the membership.

Don't let this happen to your communities!

What Should the Community Association Manager Do?

As a management company taking on an aging in place community, use this as an opportunity to both assist the residents and to bring back to standards any elements within the community that have not been attended to for a long time.

As a community or management company looking into aging in place options, remember that all of these potential problems can be avoided by having rigorous pro-active preventive maintenance programs in place and providing resources for the residents to use as they and the property continue to age in place.

Visit www.ageinplace.org and www.nw.org (NeighborWorks/America) for more information on the Aging in Place phenomenon – it is here, it is real and will be with us from now on!


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