Can a mortgage make you happy? As an elder law lawyer in Massachusetts I see the worst of the human condition on a daily basis – depression, debilitating illness, greed, elder abuse, death. Seldom is the lawyer brought in to celebrate good news with an elder law clients. The most common characteristic of our elder law clients is depression. Whether caused by isolation, grief or worry, depression is epidemic among the elderly. It is particularly noteworthy in elders that live alone in their own homes.
It’s difficult to know which is the proverbial cart and which is the horse, but it would seem that aside from grief over the loss of a spouse (often the husband had passed first), the isolation and worry are caused by financial insecurity. When an elder lacks financial resources to purchase groceries let alone take part in ordinary social rituals (church, bingo, social clubs) for fear of the stigmatization of poverty they withdraw from the very community that should be there to support them emotionally in their time of need. In most elders’ minds American society rewards financially successful people with acceptance and shuns those that cannot achieve their own financial security.
Over time this withdrawal from community compounds the issues of limited financial resources and depression. The further effects of malnutrition, reduced medical care (often in the form of splitting pills to non-therapeutic doses) and the physical dilapidation of the elders home leads the elder to long term care facilities and being forced to sell their home in an unplanned manner. The elders "house rich" circumstances control the situation and the inevitable outcome. Many elders have children who lack either the means or will to provide financial aid to their parents (if they could provide financial support to their elder parent homeowner, I can recommend looking at the new program offered by Circle Lending (not a lender) called Family Advantage – it’s basically a privately funded reverse mortgage). While selling the home is always an option it seldom helps the elder and often further sends them the message that they have failed to maintain the lifestyle to which they had worked for throughout their lives.
I have been witness to miracles brought about by elders making the decision to help themselves by obtaining a reverse mortgage. Contrary to the conventional "wisdom" that has shrouded reverse mortgages for years; reverse mortgages are good solutions in the right situations. "You mean I will receive $1,100 every month for the rest of my life? – I’m going to start swimming again at the Y." That is what I heard just yesterday at a reverse mortgage closing. By being able to tap the equity in the real estate that they own elders can access value without disrupting their personal culture and well being by selling their home.
It is an empowering thing to be given freedom from lingering debt or years of insufficient income. Anecdotally, I have seen many elder law clients of my law firm emerge from their funks and indeed their depressions, to get back on their feet using their home equity. Contrary to some popular thinking, despite the cost of obtaining a reverse mortgage (nothing in this life is free from what I can tell) and the thought that there will be less inheritance left for the aforementioned good for little children; reverse mortgages are lifelines for the elder community. Reverse mortgages solve problems. Reverse mortgages unlock the paper appreciation in real estate over a lifetime of hard work. Reverse mortgages are the friend of the elderly. Reverse Mortgages make elders smile.