August 26, 2020 Book Review

Wise Moves: A Checklist for Where to Live, What to Consider, and Whether to Stay or Go

By Sally Balch Hurme and Lawrence A. Frolik

As adults, we pass through many critical markers. We get our driver’s license. We graduate high school. We register to vote. We graduate college and, with luck and persistence, get our first job. We buy our first home. Some of us marry and have children, then grandchildren. At age 65, we qualify for Medicare. These markers are all clear: what to do, how to do them, when to do them.

From adding some affordable features to your current home to moving to a new country, the book covers the wide variety of available housing choices. Should I modify my current home, live with family members, downsize to an apartment or condominium, or move to age-restricted housing? What exactly is independent living and why would I want to move there? What’s the difference between assisted living and memory care, and how to distinguish between them? How to choose—and pay for—a nursing home? It’s all here, and more: the upsides, the downsides, and “sides” you probably never thought about.

A key to the success of the ABA/AARP Checklist series are the checklists to walk you through the process, step by step. While the book is packed with advice the authors have gained from their personal and professional experience, they never tell you what to do. Rather they explain the options and the ramifications, and then provide checklists that guide you to understand what is important to you and your family. By filling out the checklists, you’ll get a clear picture of what you want, need, and can afford.

Before you start packing boxes, the book guides you to think carefully about your current housing, because, as they say, you can’t know where to go unless you know where you are. To answer that question, the checklists help readers drill down to examine where they now live. Readers are asked what they like—and don’t like—about their home and community. Do you have enough space? Too much? Too many steps? Do you have to drive too much? Do you like your kitchen? Is the neighborhood safe? Are supports and services nearby?

Similar thought-provoking checklists are found in every chapter, guiding readers to understand what housing is best for them now and in the future. Consider the book a self-discovery tool kit with lots of supportive information.

Wise Moves is for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, written in a warm and engaging style that relates personal stories from the lives of the authors and their friends. Sally Hurme, for example, relates moving in with her daughter’s family—with two teens and five dogs—illustrating the pros and cons of living with family members. Larry Frolik talks about giving up his home of many years and downsizing to a city coop near his job.

Many of us have thought about whether a retirement community might be the right move. The idea of living in a community that just for those age 55 or older can seem appealing. Visions of playing tennis, joining book clubs, or taking ceramics classes with our contemporaries and driving about a gated community on golf carts can either be a dream or a nightmare. Whether such housing would be a good fit can be answered in the checklists that alert the reader to the realities of these communities.

Some people are “house rich, cash poor:” Their house is their major asset, but unless they sell it, they can’t use its value to improve their quality of life. The authors explain how to continue to live at home and use it to produce more income or to reduce the cost of living in it. Those who have questions about a reverse mortgage will find answers to whether that might be a right choice. Ever considered renting out a room or sharing a house? In Wise Moves the reader finds how best to do it, using checklists with alerts to everything to consider.

If you choose to stay at home, Wise Moves addresses how to modify your house for your family’s long-term needs and, if you need support, options for finding it. If home care is not enough, the authors explain what to consider in supportive housing such as assisted living or skilled nursing care, with a chapter dedicated to memory care. For the readers who take the long view, there is a chapter on continuing care retirement, or life plan, communities.

The book also covers what to consider if you are thinking of buying a second home, including the legal consequences. You also can read all about the good and the not-so-good aspects of timeshares. You can even learn how to prepare for a move to a foreign country. Yes, there are checklists for that too.

Hurme and Frolik have been thinking, teaching, lecturing, and writing about aging issues for over a combined 60 years, and this book reflects the depth of their understanding and appreciation of the personal and legal challenges. If you are thinking about changing where you live, Wise Moves is your personal guide. For you and your clients, reading this book and answering the checklists is the “wise move.”

This article is reprinted from Febuary 2020 Voice of Experience issue.

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Lawrence A. Frolik is a national expert on the legal issues facing older Americans. One of the founders of the field of  Elder Law, he is the author, co-author or editor of over a dozen books. He has published widely on law and aging issues as well as legal issues faced by persons with disabilities in countless journals and currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.       

Sally Balch Hurme is an elder law attorney and author. While with AARP for 23 years she worked on a wide variety of issues including advance care planning, surrogate decision making, consumer fraud, elder abuse, and financial security. Ms. Hurme was an advisor to the Uniform Law Commission in the drafting of the uniform guardianship jurisdiction act and Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship and other Protective Arrangements Act. She also was a member of the U.S. State Department delegation that drafted the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults. She has authored 20 law review articles and book chapters on various elder law issues and taught elder law at George Washington University Law School. She is author of the ABA/AARP Checklist series: Checklist for My Family, Checklist for Family Survivors, Checklist for Family Caregivers and Get the Most Out of Retirement.