First of all, ECHO housing can take on several different meanings. It stands for Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity but can be interpreted as a small unit designed for seniors to “age in place” with more freedom and independence than a long-term care facility can afford.
When a person reaches a point in their life where living alone in a large family home is no longer practical or feasible, they must consider the options available to them:
- Hiring a paid caregiver
- Accessing community programs
- Moving to an assisted living facility or a senior’s residence
- Moving to long-term care or a nursing home
- Moving in with a family member or friend
- ECHO housing
There are pros and cons for each of these choices and it will depend on your personal situation what the right option is for you. The first two choices allow a person to remain in their own home which can be ideal for a senior who is resistant to change and fear a big upheaval to their life. However, living alone, even with paid caregivers coming into the home, can be isolating and lonely, especially when the person cannot leave the house of their own volition. This can also be expensive since it is a significant price, when the senior already has the maintenance of the large home and cost of living to think about.
To consider the 3rd option, moving to an assisted living situation, there is a lot of change. The stress of the move, getting rid of treasured possessions, adjusting to the unfamiliar environment, new people, strict schedules and this may only be delaying an additional move to a nursing home when the senior eventually ages and acquires more significant health issues that can’t be managed in a senior’s residence or assisted living.
Many people in this situation, would consider moving in with friends or family, but don’t want to burden them by invading their small space, or be constantly disturbed by the noisy, busy life of the young family.
An ECHO housing situation might just be for you, if you fit this last category. Based on the model of the “granny flat” in Australia, or “in-law suite,” as it is sometimes called, Echo units are small, self-contained homes such as a modular home or apartment, connected to or temporarily placed on a single-family property. They vary in size and structure but generally have all the amenities that an individual might need but with the proximity to assistance and care when necessary. These units are significantly less than institutional care, since the units can be bought or leased in new or used condition and then sold again when not in use. However, the bylaws of each particular area can be restrictive into having these units on a single structure property. There are opportunities to share a single-family home or an adjoining unit on a single lot with the senior’s family or with another person. The owner of the property can be the senior or the family alike.
For example, if you own a big home you could move your relatives into your home and choose an Echo unit for yourself. If the relatives own a big home, you can rent a space near to them. So, if you are wondering if an ECHO housing situation is for you, check your local bylaws and discuss the many options available to you with your family. You will be sure to find the option that suits your particular needs and lifestyle.