We make many changes in life, and moving into a senior living community is one that many retirees will make at some point. Making any kind of transition can be challenging, but with careful planning and a positive outlook, it can be an exciting new phase of your life.
Start Thinking about the Transition Early
Even if you’re currently healthy and mentally alert, it’s a good idea to consider when you or a family member might need — or want — to move to a senior living facility. If you make plans when you’re healthy, you’ll have your future needs in place and that will reduce anxiety when you actually need care.
Today’s senior living facilities offer a vibrant social environment, beautiful grounds, and many amenities, plus assistance when needed.
Many seniors view moving to an independent living facility as a positive move, one where they can have their independence without the hassle of caring for a home and the responsibilities that come with that. Another benefit of moving to senior living is the wide range of activities and the opportunity to make new friends. You can enjoy games, art and exercise classes, plus outings to movies and live events.
But whatever the situation is, early planning is the key to a smooth transition. Whether it’s a necessity due to physical or mental decline, or just a desire to have a more carefree life in senior years, approach it as you would with any project — have a clear plan in mind.
Visit Senior Living Communities
Many questions about making the transition to a senior living community can be answered if you visit communities early in the planning process.
Lists of questions to ask during visits to senior living communities are easy to find on the web. Download a list from a web search or compile your own list, but make sure you have time to ask questions during your visit, and tour as many facilities as possible.
If you need a particular kind of care, ask if they can accommodate that need. Ask about the staff — what kind of training do they have and is help available 24/7? What types of activities are offered? Of course, it’s important to get a tour of a sample living space.
Be sure to take pictures, so you can go over them later and share with friends and family as you consider your options. You can also learn a lot about the facility by joining in during a meal. Because you’ll be eating there two or three times a day, you’ll want to be sure you like the food! That will also provide an opportunity to see how the staff treat the residents and how people interact with each other at mealtimes.
Downsize Early and Gradually
Downsizing to transition to a senior living community will take some time, so the sooner you begin the process the better. Keep in mind that letting go of possessions is an emotional process as well as a practical one. It can be hard to let go of family heirlooms and mementos. Set aside blocks of time when you will work on taking inventory, deciding what to keep, and planning how to donate, sell, or give away items that you won’t take with you.
If you have visited potential communities, you’ll have an idea of the type and amount of space you’ll be moving into. That will give you an idea of how much furniture you can take, which wall hangings you’ll have room for, kitchen appliances, and so on.
Consider Working with a Senior Move Manager
There are professionals trained just to work with seniors who are making the transition to senior living. The great thing about working with such a professional is that they have the experience required to help you. They can help with the entire process from start to finish or with certain aspects of the transition.
Senior move managers either carry out services themselves, or they operate in a supervisory or administrative capacity. They have experience regarding community resources within the local area. They’ll know where to donate or sell specific items or who to contact for other required services.
Some senior living communities have senior move managers on their staff. Be sure to ask about that during visits to communities.
Think about the Transition in Positive Terms
While any major life change can be challenging, keep in mind the many positive aspects of moving into a senior living community. Yes, you’ll be moving out of a home that is full of memories, but you’ll no longer have the upkeep of a large home.
In many ways you’ll be gaining freedom — the freedom from worries about property maintenance, and any anxiety that you have about what might happen if or when you need more care.
Besides the practical aspects of moving into a senior living community, there are many exciting, positive aspects as well. Moving into a new space can be a fun experience — arranging furniture and setting up your new kitchen can be an adventure. Maybe it’s time to retire your old sofa and get something new.
In addition to your new personal space, there’s an entire new community to explore — dining halls, community activity rooms, and spacious well-landscaped grounds. Check out the activities schedule and start meeting new people.
As one Kingston employee says, “We’re living longer, so why not live the best life you can have?”
Story by Julia Osgood