When is the Right Time to Move to a Senior Living Community?
“I’m not ready.”
I think this is the most spoken phrase in senior living sales. Followed (usually about 5 years later) by “I wish I had done this sooner.”
I’ve been working in the senior living industry for over nine years now. During that time, I’ve heard those two phrases spoken hundreds, maybe thousands of times. I’ve spent countless hours speaking to audiences ranging in size from 1-200 about this exact subject. The phrases seem relatively simple, yet are profoundly complex. Why? Because “not ready” equals fear, and “wish I had done it sooner” is the hindsight received once someone realizes the full advantages and joy they’ve received by moving to a senior living community.
Moving is scary
The number one fear that hides behind the “I’m not ready” phrase is moving. The thought of downsizing 30, 40, or 50 years of clutter, stuff, and memories can be paralyzing. Instead of tackling the work, we avoid it. It’s far too daunting a task to get rid of our things and move to a senior living community so we just close the door to that room and ignore it. The process itself is exhausting. People have no idea where to start, so they just don’t.
I learned a great deal from hosting downsizing (or should I say rightsizing) events. Start with one bag or box a day. If you commit to purging a single bag or box every day, then each day that passes you’ll have moved toward the goal of rightsizing your life. Separate items into trash, donation, or give away. Get rid of the trash or donation items first. Leave the giveaway items for last. Why? Because you’ll be surprised that they’re harder to give away than you think. Your adult children typically do not want your heirloom china, crystal, or linens. We have our own homes bursting at the seams with stuff. Sorry mom and dad, we don’t want yours.
Here’s the silver lining in all this… Whether you move to a senior living community or not, your world will be far less cluttered and you’ll have the freedom of choosing the direction you want to go with a mind clear of worry about what you’ll do with all the belongings you’ve accumulated over the years.
You’re too young to move to a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community)
Senior living, retirement, CCRC, these may be all new terms to you, or you might be very familiar with what they are. Regardless, you don’t see yourself as “old” and you definitely aren’t moving to “the home” until you absolutely have to. Here lies the biggest misconception about our industry.
A CCRC provides amazing benefits to enrich your life. Contrary to what you might think, we aren’t “the home” of old. Senior living communities today are filled with vibrant young seniors who are living their best life. Pursuing passions that they couldn’t before due to other obligations and the burden of home ownership, our residents are some of the most active people I know. Whenever I have contacted a resident to tour their home with a prospect their immediate response is “let me check my calendar.” I’ve known residents whose calendars are so full that I couldn’t schedule a meeting with them for 2-3 weeks out. Their calendars are more full than mine was when I had teenage children.
My advice to you is to rethink your bias about communities and check one out. Will you see people with assisted walking devices? Yes you will. More likely than not, they moved in long before they needed the assistance and you will too.
Let’s address the “old” part head-on. You think you’ll be surrounded by old people who will in turn make you feel old too. The reality of living in a CCRC is that you are surrounded every day by people of all ages. Every single day you’ll encounter teenagers working in the dining rooms, staff of all ages milling about the community, grandchildren visiting their grandparents, families, friends, and visitors of all kinds. You’ll have more opportunities for an inter-generational lifestyle than you do in your current living environment.
Just like starting a new school, we’re afraid of starting new
This is another big source of fear. We are generally afraid of change. Name your own, but I’m betting I’ll hit one for you. Fear of leaving our home, neighborhood, church, friends, volunteer opportunities, familiar surroundings, doctors, and social circles.
The biggest benefit to moving to a CCRC is the ability to connect socially with people who have gone through exactly what you’re going through. Everyone before you has had the same fears, apprehension, and questions you have about considering a senior living community.
If you want to discover new passions, reinvigorate old passions, and generally define your life on your terms for the next 20 years, move to a CCRC. There is more to do there than a college campus. I promise, you’ll find something you love to do every single day. If you don’t, the other great thing about a non-profit CCRC is that most programming is resident driven. Meaning if there is a club, activity, or group that you’re interested in but the community doesn’t have it, you can champion that cause and start it yourself.
“I wish I had done this sooner”
In my experience I would be willing to bet that at least 90% of the people I encounter living in a community will tell you they wish they had made the move sooner. The reality is some people get so paralyzed by the fears of moving, being too young, or starting over somewhere new, is that they just don’t do it for years. I once worked with a couple who was in our database for 20 years before they finally made the move. What eventually prompted it? The spouse’s cognitive impairment.
Make the move while you can actually enjoy it. Making no decision is in fact, deciding. Deciding not to take the plunge and enjoying all the benefits a CCRC has to offer. Deciding you are too overwhelmed with the burden of downsizing and selling the home. Deciding you’re too young, when in fact, you’re not. If you’re over 55, you’re old enough to move to most communities. Deciding that the unknown is too scary to face, so you stay in the security and comfort of the familiar and in turn, deprive yourself of living your best lift.
Don’t fall into the same old cliché of all the people who state “I wish I had done this sooner” because now is the best time of your life. Take a chance and live it fearlessly.
About Kristin Hambleton
As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Presbyterian Senior Living, Kristin Hambleton is responsible for the oversight, direction, and management of marketing, communications, and census development to ensure organizational goals are achieved. In this capacity she provides direction to the marketing and sales staff for all service levels in all Presbyterian Senior Living communities. In addition, she oversees lead management systems and establishes education and training programs for marketing/admissions personnel.