When is it Time to Consider a Retirement Community?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “aging in place.” Many individuals default to spending their retirement at their family home under the common belief that if you’re healthy and live in close proximity to family, then it’s better to stay put. In today’s society, with all the convenient services that abound — from grocery delivery services to prescriptions and meals delivered to your door to in-home healthcare services, there really isn’t a good reason to do anything else… or is there?
Today’s Retirement Communities
When you think about senior living, what do you think of? If you imagine a thriving community with fine dining, numerous amenities and an events calendar with activities and adventure around every corner – you’re on the right track! Senior living communities have come a long way from what they once were, and in many ways, they are different from the “nursing homes” of old. Senior living communities encourage independence and overall wellness with a wide range of benefits, services and amenities, which include fitness opportunities, social activities and much more!
Senior living communities, especially continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), offer many levels of care. Although some communities focus on certain levels of care; CCRCs provide a full spectrum of care services for their community members — independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing care.
The great thing about CCRCs is that you can move in as a fully independent individual and take advantage of the many activities and offerings that the community has to offer. Entering early allows you to make the community your home and jumpstart your new life as an active and social retiree.
If you are not ready to make the jump today, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind as you consider when to move to a retirement community. Let’s look at some of them now.
Trying to determine the best housing option for yourself can be difficult. It’s impossible to know what the future holds; however, it’s never too soon to start planning for successful aging. Unfortunately, too many people wait for something unfortunate to happen before they consider the right type of care to support their personal needs and wants.
Try to imagine what your life will be like in five to ten years. Do you have any health issues that could worsen overtime or impact your ability to function independently? Will you be able to safely drive? Will you be able to keep up with household chores and maintenance? How will you cope if your spouse requires care or, heaven forbid, passes away? Taking a realistic look at what the future may hold can be difficult, but it is vital to ensure your needs are covered no matter what the future holds. We all wish and hope for the best-case scenario, but what is realistic for your life?
While there are many in-home services available in today’s senior living market, the benefit of moving to a CCRC cannot be understated. In addition to ensuring that all homes are equipped with convenient floorplans for successful aging, there is a continuum of care in place to ensure that everyone can enjoy independent living, then if any health needs arise, can move to assisted living or memory care with ease.
Medical Acceptance Criteria
Many senior living communities, such as CCRCs, have medical acceptance criteria that their incoming community members must meet. This is important to consider while you’re still active, healthy and can live independently. If you wait for a medical crisis to “force” you into making a decision, or if you have a progressive medical condition, your options may become limited. It becomes so much easier to make the best decision when all options are available to you.
The earlier you consider moving into a retirement community, the more likely it is that you’ll have the opportunity to select, rather than settle for, the best community for you. By selecting a community before health needs get in the way, you have the option to choose the community that best fits your lifestyle and needs. The longer you wait to make your decision and allow health issues force you to “settle,” the fewer options you’ll have to choose from.
Household Maintenance and Chores
For some older adults, life’s day-to-day chores can be too demanding for what they’re physically able to handle, or they may demand so much from the resources they have available to them that there’s no money, time or energy left to take part in activities they truly enjoy.
Will you be able to stay on top of household maintenance and chores — both physically and financially? Can you plan, shop for and prepare good, healthy meals? Can you care for and adequately meet the needs of any pets that are in the home? Can you drive yourself to doctor’s appointments, on errands and to take part in various social activities? If your spouse needs care, are you able to fully meet their care needs?
Home maintenance and repairs is another issue that should be considered. When you start to add up all the necessities of home care, you will notice the costs begin to add up.
When you move into a retirement community, household maintenance and chores are taken care of for you, giving you more time to enjoy your retirement.
Life in a retirement community combats loneliness, head-on. Whether you choose to take part in one of the many planned activities, outings, events or clubs or enjoy the company of others in a common area in the community, retirement communities provide endless opportunities for socialization.
For people who age-in-place, as we get older, it can become more and more difficult to get together with family and friends. Perhaps they’ve moved a great distance away. Maybe you feel confined to your home because comfortable driving as you once were, or you’re not as mobile as you used to be. Whatever the reason, many older adults face loneliness and isolation in retirement. This is often considered to be a normal part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be.
According to the 2014 census, 28% of older adults age 65 and older live alone, leading to isolation and loneliness which can have serious consequences for their health. Even perceived isolation — the “feeling” of being alone, separated or isolated — can have a devastating impact on the lives of older adults.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness can have an impact on both physical and mental health, causing:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- An increase in cortisol
- Decreased immunity (decreased white blood cell count)
- Increased chance of developing depression
- Pre-mature death
When older adults feel socially disconnected and experience perceived or actual loneliness, they’re more likely to experience poor mental and/or physical health. Perceived and actual loneliness are both linked to poor cognitive functioning, leading to further cognitive decline and increasing risk for the development of dementia.
Loneliness is also one of the biggest risk factors causing older adults to develop depression. The relationship between loneliness and many depressive symptoms in older adults and resulting in diminished well-being is shown in study after study.
Loneliness, isolation (perceived or real) and depression cause many problems for older adults.
- There is a direct correlation between loneliness and increases in systolic blood pressure
- People who experience loneliness and socially isolation tend to make poorer health choices such as poor diet, lack of physical activity and smoking
- Older adults who experience loneliness and social isolation have an increased need for long-term care
- Socially isolated older adults are more likely to also be pessimistic
As the research shows, loneliness and social isolation, even that which is perceived, detrimentally impacts the lives of older adults. Loneliness and social isolation typically don’t happen all at once. It generally creeps up on a person, gradually increasing a little at a time until one day they find themselves sad and depressed and don’t know why.
When is it Time to Consider a Retirement Community?
After thinking about these issues and many others, every adult, age 55 and older, should consider whether the option of moving into a retirement community is best for them. They should analyze their current living arrangements and ask themselves what is right for them – and, they should do so annually. Probably one of the biggest reasons someone should consider moving into a retirement community is the social opportunities afforded to them from such a move.
As an independent and active older adult, CCRCs offer the best of both worlds. You’re able to move into the community and establish yourself and your routines, make friends and learn the ropes. You can get comfortable just like you would in your own home. Many CCRCs offer several living options to their independent living community members which are just like home and may include cottages, town homes, condos or apartments.
“Living here is like going back to college.”
Once you’ve become a community member, you’ll always have a place to call home within the community. As your care needs change, the people who surround you and the friendships you have developed remain the same. Your life will have security and constancy like never before because you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the community can provide assisted living, skilled nursing and, often, memory care, all available if and when they may be needed in the future.
When you become a community member of a CCRC, you essentially make aging in place possible for you … without all the headaches involved with doing it all yourself. CCRCs offer a tiered approach to senior living — from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing and memory care. As your care needs change, you transition to other areas within the community where those needs can be met.
As mentioned, there are many reasons you should consider moving to a CCRC sooner rather than later. Some of these reasons include:
- Most CCRCs require incoming community members to be able to live independently upon move in — having no foreseeable need for healthcare services or assisted living.
- CCRCs offer a wide range of activities, amenities and services to their community members. Although many of these privileges are offered within the community itself, many CCRCs also provide ways for their community members to remain active and involved in the broader community through such activities as volunteerism, adult education classes, service projects and more.
- As a community member, you can form relationships and friendships with others who will continue to be there for you even as your care needs change. Having a support network can be especially important as future healthcare needs arise.
- CCRCs work hard to help the community members live active, independent and healthy lives for as long as possible. To accomplish this, they offer a wide range of health and wellness programs which may include fitness and aquatic centers, fitness professionals, exercise classes and special diet programs. The programs offered in many of today’s CCRC have an emphasis on holistic care, understanding the importance of intellectual, vocational, emotional, physical and spiritual experiences.
It’s never too early to start thinking about what’s best for your future and making big life changes is easier when you plan ahead, instead of rushing to decide last minute. It’s easier to move and to set up a new life for yourself while you’re still active and in good health. Don’t put it off until you’re ready to move — the waitlists for CCRCs can be long.
Want to know more about our CCRC community in Concord, New Hampshire? Contact our friendly team online today!