the fact that you’re considering other options suggests you may be starting to wonder whether your current home will still be the right choice moving forward.
There are many paths to consider, but it really comes down to three basic choices.
Your current house may be where your kids grew up, the place they still think of as home. Or it’s where you’ve welcomed friends and family for countless get-togethers over the years. Or it’s the dream home you moved into later in life, planning and decorating down to the last detail. Whatever story brought you to your present home, you chose it for good reasons, are used to being there and likely don’t find it easy to think about making a change.
But the fact that you’re considering other options suggests you may be wondering whether your current home will still be the right choice later. Like most questions about the future, it’s complicated. It might help to split that one big question into a few simpler ones:
These are the toughest questions of all. Perhaps you’re unsure about staying in your home because you don’t feel quite the same being there. Maybe you miss someone who’s no longer with you, or sense that your community is changing, becoming less familiar or even less safe. And if there are things around the house you don’t feel as comfortable doing anymore, how will it be in the years ahead, when you may find you’re even less able to manage all the responsibilities of looking after a home?
Many people don’t want to be a burden to their adult children, or to cramp their style in any way. Often this is a misplaced concern; the younger generation may actually welcome the opportunity to give back a little of what they took for granted growing up. They also see a great chance to have their own kids get to know one or both grandparents better. And if that means getting some on-site babysitting as part of the deal, even better.
In other cases, though, the older generation’s instincts are right. There may be a bit too much guilt mixed into an adult child’s kind offer, or other unresolved issues in the background that will make living at close quarters difficult over time. When generosity is driven, even in part, by a sense of obligation, it tends not to survive stress tests too well. Even if your grown children’s enthusiasm is entirely motivated by love and concern, they may be blinding themselves to potential pitfalls that will only become apparent later—and cause more upset and disruption than if they’d never extended the offer in the first place.
Of course there are many, many people who move into their kids’ homes and find that the whole experience—other than the usual ups and downs of household life—is a positive and mutually rewarding one. Still, such arrangements require an extra measure of sensitivity from everyone involved, and it pays to go into them with your eyes—and lines of communication—wide open. The same holds true if you’re thinking about moving in with a sibling or other family member. It may work just fine, but it’s wise to explore all the implications beforehand with a healthy measure of honesty, openness and realism.
There are many more questions to consider (believe it or not) around the possibility of living with your family. You likely won’t cover every potential issue, and for some you really won’t know how it’s going to be until you get there. But our main goal here is to reinforce that this is a big decision that requires serious thinking on all sides, along with a lot of discussion. We hope the points we’ve touched on will help steer the conversation in the right direction.
Most older adults have at least considered the option of moving into a senior community. They can probably tick off some of the obvious pluses: No more yard work and heavy chores. No worries about repainting every few years or fixing the roof before it starts to leak. The freedom to head off on a trip whenever you feel like it, knowing that your home will be secure while you’re away.
But at the same time, many worry that a lifestyle with fewer sources of stress may come at too high a price. People half-joke about “going into an old folks’ home,” as if it were some kind of withdrawal from life. Or they stretch the cliché even further and talk about “ending up in a home some day,” implying that it would mark the final step in a long decline. These are stereotypes, of course. In order to judge whether they have any validity at all, it helps to look at what kind of places we’re talking about, exactly.
In most contexts, “senior community” and “retirement community” are more or less interchangeable. (At be.group we tend to use the former, recognizing that not all seniors are retired—and not all retirees are seniors.) Both labels are also quite elastic. But to keep things simple, we’ll say that senior communities provide specialized support services for older adults. In this key respect they’re distinct from active-adult communities—places geared to people age 55-plus who want to enjoy the amenities and lifestyle choices of an age-restricted environment.
Senior communities recognize the unique priorities, tastes and expectations of older adults and offer a wide range of activities and services to address them. In addition to providing meal plans, housekeeping, maintenance and security, senior communities—or at least the ones worth considering—also offer fitness and wellness programs, educational classes, volunteer opportunities, hobby and special interest groups, day trips and excursions, and a whole spectrum of other activities designed to keep you active, connected and engaged.
Most senior communities also offer at least some measure of added support if or when you require it. You may start out living independently, then take advantage of some specialized assistance as your needs change. And down the road you may find you have health issues that require skilled nursing services. We examine all of these options in greater detail in the sections that follow. But at this point the main thing to keep in mind is that you should be looking at any potential community not solely for what it offers today, but also for the support systems it can provide in the future, along what is referred to as “the continuum of care.”
The stereotypes that many people associate with “moving into a home” are usually dispelled by a quick tour and a chat with residents. Still, there are some natural doubts that may linger:
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