By Devon Gallivan
Over 55 and wondering what’s next when it comes to your lifestyle? Whether you’re planning for retirement or have already cut back on your work schedule, you’re probably starting to think about next steps, even if it’s only in the back of your mind. Retirement and senior community living are definitely not “one-size fits all” concepts. Baby Boomers, Silent and GI generations all have different wants and needs when finding the right lifestyle. Determining these preferences of a retirement lifestyle will take a lot of self-reflection and prioritizing when reviewing the options. Available lifestyles for older adults can be packaged in many ways and they all should be explored to find what fits best.
Retirement living for the “carefree” and most independent seniors offers a maintenance-free home with social opportunities and a sense of security. Simply removing the stress of landscaping, regular repairs and heavy-duty cleaning can take a huge burden off someone’s life, allowing them to spend more time with family and friends. These active seniors gravitate to spacious apartments with full kitchens as they would like to continue cooking and entertaining or tending to small gardens and tinkering around the home with small home improvements. They also enjoy the neighborhood feeling and resort style amenities including swimming pools and greenhouses which are offered by many Independent Living programs. These seniors are sometimes still working, often volunteering and are active socially within their local or regional area. They love having their privacy and independence, but are reassured knowing they are in a safe, secure location with help nearby if needed.
Paul Daunis, a resident of Thirwood Place’s Carefree Living Program in South Yarmouth, explains, “I don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn anymore or shoveling, the things that quite frankly I’m getting too old to do and I don’t want to do anymore. And that frees me up for the things I really want to do like golfing or swimming or hiking – things that I really enjoy.” His wife Pauline agrees, “Even though I’m still active in the community and volunteering, when I’m not doing that I have the pool right down the hall, the fitness center and the café to meet people.” Having a comfortable, safe apartment that’s family-friendly and easy to manage also takes pressure off family members who worry about the seniors in their lives. As Pauline shared with us, “One of the big things for me was when we found this place and were so happy with it, I could look at my three sons and say, ‘you don’t have to worry, we’ll be fine’. It was a very freeing thing for a parent to be able to say that to their children and not have them worry about that, or us. They just love the whole idea of us being here — they’re seeing us so happy and our grandchildren have been here and they love it too.”
Older adults who choose to explore Independent Living options are also active in many cases, seek spacious apartments and are looking for a maintenance-free lifestyle as well, but they are interested in a few additional offerings. They enjoy having some meals provided, the additional support of regular housekeeping, assistance with transportation, enriching planned activities and safety elements such as a daily safety check, emergency pull cords and 24-hour personnel. Most importantly, they are looking to avoid isolation. It is a hard truth to come to grips with but as you get older your social circle tends to pass on. Independent living communities can offer that connection whether it is sitting with someone at a meal or joining a book club. It also allows those who are not as extroverted to take comfort in knowing there is a neighbor just downthe way. Another Thirwood Place resident of the Independent Living community, Helen T. said, “open the door and it’s all right there.” She can go to the café to meet friends, get to her activities she regularly participates in and conveniently walk to the dining room.
Assisted Living is another residential model offering apartment homes and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) to seniors. ADLs are tasks such as medication management, help with dressing and bathing, or reminders and cueing. Assistance with these activities of daily living are being performed by nurses and certified nurse’s assistants. Residents also enjoy a full meal plan, housekeeping, transportation and activities. Multiple regular safety checks are also made on the residents in Assisted Living. Assisted Living is not a medical facility; however, a certified assisted living community is highly regulated and follows the standards of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Beyond these residential and more independent settings, there are also communities that offer memory care and skilled nursing facilities. When researching the options available, one must prioritize. Make a list of what is most important and appropriate for your needs, now and in the near future as you consider the best housing fit for you. At Thirwood Place, residents can transition easily from Carefree Living to Independent Living to Assisted Living, all within the same senior community. Researching senior communities online and visiting in person are great first steps to determining which choice is best for you. From there you can make the best decision for your retirement lifestyle.
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