Ready or not, here I come
Plan ahead on retirement communities when you are healthy and active, not when you are sick.
BY: Sunie Levin
Of the 78 million baby boomers, some are already thinking about a retirement community, and most aren’t on social security yet. Retirement community? I know what you are thinking, “I’m not that old? Well, yes you are.”
Let me tell you something. Talk about mixed emotions! It’s like learning you’ve not been invited to a party you didn’t want to go to anyway. You have excellent reasons for thinking about a retirement community.
I like to plan ahead. My husband, on the other hand, does not. He prefers taking things as they come. I like to know what choices are available instead of waiting until a crisis, and then making a quick decision that isn’t right. Quick decisions under emotional pressure quite often turn out disastrously wrong.
I just turned 81 on my last birthday. 81! Wow! And my husband’s 83. You’d think we’d have been in a retirement community a long time ago. We’re not. It’s the prospect of choosing one that has led me to all my research, the results of which I’m now sharing with you.
I wanted to investigate where we would be happy for the remainder of our lives. Well, that may be a stretch. At our age, happy is a day-to-day thing.
My husband is dragging his heels about the idea. Our health is good; our home is paid for. He hates change. His basic concept is: “if isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. I, on the other hand, feel finding the right place will be a step up for future happiness. I feel it is important to make this lifestyle change in advance of actually needing it. In fact, more than time to do it.
Retirement communities today are amazing, far different from what we called “old folks homes”. Today’s communities cater to the needs and interests of every resident within. They can be a Utopian dream where the staff does the cooking and cleaning and plan a variety of daily events and activities to enrich the residents’ lives. This lets you have fun and enjoy life to its fullest, each and every day. That’s true of most of the communities. Granted some may be fairly expensive.
The alternative is to “age-in-place” which some people may prefer. The problem with ageing-in-place is that it can be lonely. As your old friends die or you become a caretaker for your spouse, you won’t have a handy pool of new friends available right in the retirement community to choose. You’ll be isolated, and that can never be good.
I have learned a lot in my research. The variety of possibilities is astonishing. There is a new breed of “niche” or “affinity” retirement communities who cater to retirees who share a common interest, hobby, religion or trait. Some target alumni, some intellectuals, some who are interested in art, music, writing, etc. There are over 100 niche communities throughout the US with more opening soon.
Just a few questions
So you’re seriously considering a change, are you? Here are the three most important questions:
- How will I know it’s the right time?
- How do I make the right choice?
- What question should I ask of myself and the community?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you lonesome and bored?
- Do you have health concerns, eyesight and hearing problems?
- Are you worried about personal safety, difficulty driving?
- Do you worry about home maintenance?
- Are you tired of shopping and preparing meals?
If your answer is yes to one or more, now is the time to explore different communities.
When you consider a community, ask lots of questions. Talk to the people in charge to determine if the administration is resident-focused or more interested in filling spaces, and talk to the residents to see if they like their new lifestyle. Find out how they welcome newcomers, visit their classes and sample the food. If you are buying your apartment, carefully check the solvency of the place.
So, baby boomers, do you want to forget about mowing lawns and shoveling snow. Do you want a home you can lock and leave when you travel, and not worry about it? The economy has changed drastically, so be sure your funds are in place for what you need today and in the future. Don’t wait to long. Go when you are reasonably healthy and active. Lots of places won’t take you if you are already sick. That way you can make new friends, enjoy the activities and get out of your rut.
Do have an exit strategy. What if, whatever reason, the place you’ve chosen doesn’t work out. It happens, for various reasons. How expensive will it be for you to opt out? It’s definitely something to check into.
I’ve done my homework. I’ve been able to locate the retirement community that meets every single one of my own personal requirements. Now all that’s left is to go out and buy some dynamite to blow my husband off the couch, destroy his remote, and come with me to start our new life adventure.
Sunie Levin is the US author of “Make New Friends … Live Longer”. She founded the Midwest Reading and Dyslexia Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri, US, for children and adults with learning problems. A popular lecturer, Levin, who is 81, taught University classes and has conducted workshops and seminars throughout the country. She has appeared on local and national TV and was a syndicated columnist for many newspapers. Her blog site is at www.makenewfriendslivelonger.com.