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As we age, retirement living may become an option. Deciding whether to move from your current home into a retirement living option is a big decision, but one that can be made easier with knowledge.

You may decide to seek more worry-free living when home maintenance becomes too much of a chore for you and your spouse. You may want to be in a more social environment with others your age.

When you lose a spouse, loneliness becomes a big issue. Depression may result, and the lack of social interaction can have negative health consequences. Social interaction is one of the most important activities that engage the whole brain and that can keep it active, staving off depression and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Cooking for yourself also starts to be a chore rather than a fun activity and your nutrition may start to suffer.

Each type of retirement residence offers varying levels of care and assistance programs, so matching the living arrangement to your needs is one of the better ways to find a good choice.

Independent Living

The phrase "independent living" refers to living in housing without any services included in the price. Places that cater to older adults, such as adult lifestyle and retirement communities, retirement homes, condominiums, and other types of housing can all fall under this category. A key benefit is that these homes are designed with seniors in mind so they are often easier to navigate, come with help with lawn care or other maintenance and/or other quality of life benefits, including social, recreation, fitness and other activity centers within their grounds.

Independent Supportive Living

If you need some help with meals, or housekeeping supports, or if you are alone and would benefit from being with others and participating in social activities, outings, or fitness programs, you should consider supportive living. Many of these residences also offer the safety and security of 24-hour emergency response and staffing. Newer residences offer larger one and two bedroom suites capable of accommodating couples, so that if you are looking for a place that allows you take a break from caring for your spouse while leaving him/her in capable hands, Independent supportive living should be considered.

While many of these buildings rely on outside home care to provide assistance to those who need it, most now also offer services to allow you and your spouse to “age in place.” This means that they offer additional “assisted living” services so you don’t have to move, should your health care needs change.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is for those who require help with certain daily activities. This can range from light services such as medication reminders and bathing assistance to personal hygiene, dressing, incontinence, or feeding assistance.

Helpers are on-hand 24/7 and they are able to assist with a broader range of needs, including nursing care.

Many of services these can be delivered to your suite, at least initially. However, when the level of need becomes greater, it may be advantageous to move to an assisted living floor or wing. These will typically offer smaller suites to help you get around more easily and to allow the staff to deliver services more easily. More importantly, the smaller suites reduce the cost of your “real estate” so you can instead put the money towards the costs of professional staff to serve your needs.

Many newer buildings also offer secure “memory care” floors or wings, which are specially designed for those with Alzheimer’s disease, with special calming environments, programming, and activities. They’re also more secure for those who may have a tendency to wander.

Long Term Care

A long-term care arrangement allows you to receive a high level of medical care in addition to daily living assistance. This can be invaluable when dealing with a worsening chronic illness, the aftermath of a surgery, or complex medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Continuing Care Retirement Community

Sometimes known as a "campus of care community," this is essentially an all-in-one option that incorporates independent living, independent supportive living, assisted living, memory care and long-term care. These allow you to live in the type of accommodation that best suits your present needs but also minimizes the amount of transition required if circumstances change.

If you have a partner or spouse who requires a different level of care than you, continuing care communities can allow you to remain close to each other. But, because long-term care is accessed through the health authorities, your access is somewhat restricted and is based on existing wait lists.

Questions to Consider When Deciding Your Retirement Destination

It is important to remember that the idea of staying where you are now and aging in place is perfectly viable. However, recognizing whether your current situation is truly your best choice calls for a certain level of contemplation.

Here are some questions to ponder when trying to decide if you should begin the transition to a retirement living option.

  • Are elements of your current home becoming onerous or burdensome, such as maintaining the yard, managing the stairs, or cleaning?
  • Are you alone and lonely?
  • How easy is it for you to visit or be visited by friends or neighbors or otherwise stay socially active and engage in activities you enjoy?
  • If you are unable to drive or otherwise experience reduced mobility, will you be able to access shopping, medical facilities, or other areas you frequent?
  • If a family member is currently providing a caregiver role, are they able to meet your needs properly? Are there any potential changes in your condition that could make this more difficult?
  • What level of care do you currently need? Are you able to look after your medications? If you have a chronic condition, is it stable or well-managed? What are the possible complications or developments that could happen in the next year or two?

The Care Guide has been an online repository of information and guidance source for seniors and their families that has been providing insights into elder care and housing solutions since 1996. Our guide can be used to help determine the best living and housing options for you or your loved ones. More information and advice on senior living solutions can be found by contacting us at 1-800-311-CARE (2273) or info@thecareguide.com.

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