Making the Retirement Community Decision: A Resident’s Perspective*
By Greg Hadley
*The following is an excerpt from a free booklet offered by SpiriTrust Lutheran® Life Plan Communities (reprinted from www.aahsa.org)
I am writing this with a bias. My wife and I moved into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) two years ago when we were in our early seventies. Since selling our home and going through the downsizing required, we have had many conversations with friends and relatives who still live independently in their own homes and apartments.
Frankly, a large portion of these people think we were foolish to move. Their arguments come at us from many directions.
- “You two are both so young and healthy!”
- “Why would you want to live with a bunch of old people on canes, walkers and scooters?”
- “What did you do with all the lovely things you had in your home?’’
- “You’ve given up your shop in the garage, your garden and so much freedom.”
- “Geez-it costs so much money; how can you afford to live there?”
- “Aren’t you giving up a lot of privacy?”
- “Where you live, death is just around every corner.”
- “I don’t want to interact with my neighbors every day.”
- “I can count on my kids to help me out when that may be required.”
- “You’re going to cut yourself off from all your old friends and neighbors.”
- “Eating institutional food every day-I would hate that.” And then the last, and most dismissive, comment always is:
- “Well, it might be a good idea for you; perhaps we will start to give it some thought in the next few years.”
A classic definition of old age: “Ten years older than you are today.” Sometime between retirement from daily working for a living and the onset of chronic illnesses that often occur in old age, most people develop a serious “blind spot.” They say to themselves: My spouse and I are getting along pretty well. Sure, we have some aches and pains, but most people do in their late sixties or early seventies. We have planned our retirement income so that we can lead a comfortable life style. We are still enjoying travel. Our home is comfortable and a perfect place to display all the wonderful things we have accumulated in our lives. We enjoy the freedom and opportunities for fun and relaxation that are presented to us. Yes, things are pretty good and we expect them to continue that way for the foreseeable future. In other words, why should we change now when things are going so well?
This is not only a false premise but a dangerous one, too. Time drones on inexorably. We may be drifting along on a tranquil river of life, but someplace ahead of us we are almost sure to encounter white water rapids or even a waterfall. No matter how much we may deny this fact, it is true that nothing stays the same. While we are healthy and vigorous today, it cannot stay that way forever. All of us know this intellectually but we are reluctant to accept it emotionally. Acceptance of this truism forces us to face our mortality. It also forces a review of alternative future courses of action, some of which may be difficult or unpleasant.
Everyone needs to have a plan in place for dealing with advanced age. While that cannot be denied, in reality, so many people are in denial about what might, could or will happen to them if they live long enough. For all the readers of this monograph who are in their late sixties, seventies or early eighties and trying to figure out “what’s next,” visit some CCRCs in your area. Ask questions. Have a meal there. Take your kids along so they can see the place, too. Get a rate card. Attend one of their open houses. Seriously think about how this type of arrangement might work for you.
INTERESTED IN READING MORE of Greg Hadley’s resident perspective? We invite you to request the free booklet from one of the six SpiriTrust Lutheran Life Plan Communities … choose one near you or the one closest to where you’d like to live someday!