When Downsizing Isn't Enough: Many Reasons for Moving into a Retirement Residence

By Lisa M. Petsche

As people age, there’s a good chance that at some point their home will no longer suit their lifestyle or their needs. Moving to a different house, a condo or an apartment is not always the solution. In some situations, a retirement home is the best choice.

Retirement residences are private pay, wellness-oriented facilities that enable active seniors to maintain or improve their independence, health and overall quality of life.

Reasons for Moving

The following are common reasons for choosing a retirement home.

  • Freedom – To reduce responsibilities associated with home ownership – particularly property maintenance and keeping track of a multitude of bills – to allow more time for preferred activities.
  • Independence – To offload as many responsibilities of daily living as possible, in order to continue to live independently in spite of decreased physical abilities. People in this situation may wish to eliminate not only property maintenance tasks but also housecleaning, laundering, grocery shopping and meal preparation.
  • Accessibility – To increase the accessibility of their living space – specifically, to make it easier and safer to enter and exit, access all areas and use rooms for their intended purpose.
  • Finances – To reduce expenses associated with home ownership, including property taxes, utilities and maintenance, particularly if they live in an older home that is not energy efficient or requires extensive repairs. Another reason for moving is that the cost of home adaptations to improve safety and accessibility is beyond their means or is not a wise investment from a real estate market perspective.
  • Peace of mind – To ensure help is available if they run into difficulty. This can provide them, as well as their family, with reassurance.
  • Socialization – To increase social contact. Opportunities to make new friends can be found throughout a retirement home, from the dining room, lounge areas and activity rooms to outdoor spaces and organized events.
  • Recreation – To engage in new and previously enjoyed activities that are stimulating and pleasurable and provide meaning or entertainment value.
  • Security – To reduce the risk of victimization. For example, those who are anxious about answering the door, leaving their home unattended or coming home to an empty house may experience increased peace of mind living in a residence with a security desk and locked mailboxes.
  • Community Access – To improve access to shopping and other businesses, medical resources, places of worship and other amenities such as parks and recreation centers. Those who drive and live in the suburbs or a rural area may seek a more central location to reduce travel time. Those who don’t drive – or who anticipate being unable to drive in the near future – may desire a home with easy access to public transit or within walking distance of various amenities. Regardless of the location, many retirement homes offer a shuttle service for transportation to medical appointments, errands, shopping and community events.
  • Health – To ensure ongoing health care needs are met, beginning with the basics: nutritiously balanced meals and opportunities to stay physically active and mentally stimulated. Other needs may include medication management, a special diet and assistance with bathing. Many retirement homes offer assisted living packages for residents who need some degree of help with daily personal care on a temporary or ongoing basis.
  • Lifestyle – To enjoy an all-inclusive lifestyle. Seniors who have the financial means and wish to enjoy life to the fullest may seek a luxury setting that simulates a resort atmosphere. Amenities may include elegant spaces, concierge service, fine dining, a cocktail lounge or pub, fitness center, swimming pool, well-stocked library, beauty salon, spa, cafe, Internet lounge, in-house theater, convenience store, greenhouse, putting green and more.

Retirement homes vary considerably in terms of price, size, amenities and services, which can make it difficult to choose from among them. If you are in the market for one, carefully consider your financial situation and preferred lifestyle to determine which places to focus on.

When making a choice, it’s important to go beyond location, curb appeal and advertisements and take personal tours. Plan to visit several places and take notes. Bring along a friend for a second opinion.

Many residences offer a complimentary lunch or dinner – take them up on it. Before making a final decision, you may wish to consider a trial stay at the place that appeals most to you.

Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior issues. She has personal and professional experience with elder care.

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