WASHINGTON—A National Council on Aging Web site --http://www.benefitscheckup.org -- will identify public programs that may pay for some of your prescription drugs, health care, utilities and other essentials.
The site also explains how to apply for the more than 1,150 programs across the country.
If you don't qualify for a reverse mortgage or the proceeds aren't enough for you to live on, there are other options:
*Accessory apartments: Many elderly owners bought their homes years ago when they needed space to raise their young families. Now, though their houses are too big and costly, they don't want to move. But by turning a section or a floor into an apartment, they can bring in extra money, gain some companionship or get help with chores.
Sometimes known as "in-law suites," accessory apartments are separate, private living quarters in a larger home. They contain at least a mini-kitchen and a bathroom, and sometimes have a private entry.
Their feasibility often depends on the cost of modifying your house. You may need to move walls, rearrange plumbing or install heavier wiring.
If you don't want someone living in your house, perhaps one of your kids can create an accessory apartment in his home.
*ECHO cottages: Elder cottage housing opportunities are small, separate units added in the side or back yard of a single-family house. That way, you can live near a loved one but not "with" them.
Typically, the units are small, relatively inexpensive manufactured houses that can be removed when they are no longer needed.
Many zoning ordinances do not allow elder cottages or allow for a variance only for occupants 55 or older. If they are not allowed, try applying for a special-use permit and seek the aid of local agencies on aging, senior centers or other interested groups.
*Sharing: Having a roommate is for seniors too.
Occupants have personal spaces like a bathroom and bedroom but share the kitchen, living room, dining area and so on. Still, having a roommate isn't for everyone.
Write to Lew Sichelman c/o Chicago Tribune, Real Estate, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 4th floor, Chicago IL 60611. Or e-mail him at realestate @tribune.com. Answers will be supplied only through the newspaper.