Senior Housing: Consider a Retirement Community

Whether you are on the verge of retirement or it is years away, many of your current financial decisions are shaped by the questions of where you will live in the future and how your financial and social needs will be met. In addition to decisions about your own future, you may have aging parents who need help working through the complexities of choosing retirement housing.

Changing Needs

Your housing needs can be affected by any number of life changes, including seeing your children move out of the family home, experiencing health issues, and becoming a widow or widower. Each of these life changes can raise questions regarding the physical layout of your home, the maintenance required to take care of it, and the location of necessary resources, as well as the need for continued social interaction.
If you have lived in the same neighborhood for many years, the thought of moving can be both difficult and emotional. In addition to a lifetime of memories, your family home offers the comfort of familiarity and an important sense of community. It also may be completely paid off by the time you retire. However, its size and maintenance requirements may become increasingly difficult to manage. The family home may also feel isolating if its location limits access to social support systems, particularly if lifelong friends are no longer nearby.

Consider a Retirement Community

Retirement communities are enjoying increased popularity as an alternative means to meet the housing needs of senior citizens. Many retirement communities offer an array of services, with costs directly related to the level of direct care provided. A complete community may have independent living options with condominiums and apartments; supervised assisted living for those who need help with basic daily activities but not full-time nursing care; and a health center for those requiring more intensive nursing care.

There are a number of advantages to such living arrangements. The first is the security of knowing that medical care and support services are readily available. Indeed, the ability to shift from independent living to a nursing home level of care without having to make difficult moving decisions is one attraction of retirement communities. Second, financial concerns may be eased by committing to a total life care community, particularly if providing for later health care has been done before the need arises. Third, most retirement communities offer planned activities and transportation to meet a variety of recreational and social needs. Many active seniors enjoy the ease of socialization a retirement community provides.

Addressing Concerns

Despite the ability to meet the needs of older adults in terms of medical services, safety, and social interaction, isolation from family and prior friends can mean a difficult adjustment for some people who choose to move to a retirement community. Pressure to interact with others can infringe on oneís sense of privacy, and some retirees dislike the idea of being in a community composed solely of people their own age.

There are also procedural issues that need to be addressed. One of the most important questions involves who decides when the resident needs a higher level of care. This issue affects both the individualís sense of self-esteem and independence, as well as the cost of care. When couples move into a retirement community, it is important to consider how the necessity for an increased level of care for one spouse may affect the independence of the other spouse. 

The decision to enter a retirement community involves a lot of thoughtful planning. Knowing in advance some of the factors involved can help facilitate the decision-making process for you and your loved ones.


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