If your homeowners association has a lot of elderly residents in the neighborhood, it is worth taking that extra step to help ensure their safety. But, how exactly do you keep aging residents in HOA communities safe?
Let’s face it — the population is aging. In fact, residents aged 65 and older make up about 16.5 percent of the population in the United States. In the past, people who reached this age would move into retirement homes or assisted living residences. This does not happen as often today, with more and more elderly residents aging in place instead.
For homeowners associations, though, this understandably brings forth many challenges. Keeping senior citizens in HOA communities safe is not as easy as it seems, but there are some tips you can follow to make the task more manageable.
Aging, while a natural part of life, comes with a number of disabilities. Older people slowly lose control of their motor skills, become hard of hearing, or suffer from poorer eyesight. These disabilities, though, could spell disaster for your HOA, legally speaking.
Therefore, HOAs must keep up-to-date with the ever-changing laws in their state for how to protect elderly residents. This way, you can safeguard the association from potential liability. Your HOA board probably has little to no experience navigating the complexities of new legislation, though. For that, you need an HOA attorney.
Make sure to check for any legislative changes twice a year — in January and in the fall. By doing so, you will give your board time to budget for unexpected changes in the community to remain in compliance with the new laws.
If you have a large elderly population in your community, your board should review your policies to make sure they are senior-friendly. Changing your policies to better fit HOA aging residents is one way of keeping them safe and protected. Of course, that does not mean you should make compromises in terms of quality.
Landscaping, for instance, is an area of difficulty for most older residents. Chances are, they can’t mow their own lawns or trim their own trees. Instead of asking residents to take care of their landscaping themselves, consider hiring a professional landscaper to do it for everyone. Alternatively, you can offer the service in exchange for an additional fee.
When you make an effort to alter your policies to better accommodate aging homeowners, residents are more likely to stay in the community. In addition to resident retention, you can also expect homeowner satisfaction to go up.
Collecting emergency contact information must be SOP to keep aging residents in HOA communities safe. To do this, ask every homeowner to give you the details of their emergency contacts. You should also make sure these contacts are updated every year to ensure no lapse in the information. This applies to both young and old residents in your neighborhood.
The best way to know what your HOA elderly homeowners need is to simply talk to them. While there are some assumptions you can reasonably make, nothing beats getting information straight from the horse’s mouth. This is especially true for HOA boards that are mainly comprised of younger volunteers.
Make sure to keep an open line of communication between your board and the community’s residents, aging ones included. Allow them an opportunity to voice out their concerns and issues. Remember that elderly residents may not be as tech-savvy as others, so it is worth using all forms of communication.
It is important to get seniors moving, as regular exercise can help reduce the health risks associated with aging. Elderly homeowners who live alone, though, may not have the same support or motivation to do so. As such, your board should consider organizing regular events geared specifically towards senior residents.
Start with exercise classes designed for elderly folks. Things like dancing, brisk walking, or even tai chi are great ways to encourage older residents to participate in physical activities. In addition to exercise, these activities also give them a chance to socialize with other people in the community.
Homeowners associations are no strangers to repairs and improvements. But, when there are a lot of elderly residents in your community, this becomes even more of a priority.
Schedule regular inspections of your common areas to ensure they are safe for older people. Check the entrances, ramps, and walkways to make sure they are in good shape. Remember that seniors can stumble and fall more easily than younger residents, especially if they are already wheelchair-bound or use walkers in the first place.
Your association’s potential for liability increases as your elderly population grows. Many of these challenges stem from requirements to provide proper accommodations as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes adding ramps, elevators, and parking for handicapped persons in common areas and even individual homeowner property.
A good way to ensure your association remains in the clear is to review each request from homeowners carefully. After all, denying a request for reasonable accommodation could result in litigation. Since these are considered architectural alterations or additions, though, you must confer with your Architectural Review Committee as well as your HOA attorney.
Privacy is another common issue HOA communities must tackle when it comes to aging residents. Elderly homeowners might fall down the stairs or forget to turn off their stove once in a while. Sometimes, neighbors stop hearing from them altogether. When this happens, does your HOA have a right to enter their property?
Privacy laws differ from one state to another, and they can be rather tricky to maneuver through as well. This is where emergency contacts can help you. A family member or emergency contact can address the matter in a way that your association can’t.
You could also consider turning to the government for assistance. In some areas, you can ask the local government to intervene or perform a welfare check. Whatever you decide, though, it is best practice to check with your legal counsel first.
Working as a board member in an HOA community is often time-consuming. As such, most of the people who volunteer for board positions have a lot of time on their hands. Usually, these are stay-at-home parents or retired elderly residents.
Although elderly board members will have a more accurate grasp of the problems troubling fellow seniors, a board made up of aging residents is generally not advisable. This is because aging presents many cognitive and movement issues. When board members can’t move as much, they can’t attend board meetings as often. Similarly, as cognitive functionality declines, the decision-making process is hindered.
Of course, that is not to say that the board can’t have senior members. A healthy balance of young and old residents is generally recommended.
Smaller associations have an easier time keeping up with their community members. But, if you have a larger association, you will benefit from performing regular age surveys.
An age survey simply lets you know how much of your community’s population is of a certain age. Remember that homeowners come and go all the time, so the demographics of your community continuously changes. By conducting an age survey, you can have a more accurate picture of your association’s elderly population.
With this information in mind, your board can make smarter decisions for your community. You can change your policies, organize activities, and adjust maintenance work to better suit your population. You can also prepare your association for any possible legal issues down the road.
Aging residents in HOA communities is not a new subject, but it is a rather sensitive one. One wrong step, even with the best of intentions, can put your association at risk of liability. In your efforts to keep the neighborhood safe for this specific demographic, make sure to consult with your attorney every step of the way.
An HOA management company can also help you handle the legalities and policies of senior safety. Find the best one in your area today using our online directory.