By Max Greenberg
Senior Focus: When it may actually be the time to goUploaded: Aug 12, 2015
A couple in their 80s ( Mike and Sue not their real names) recently asked me to help them, actually "make" them, make the decision to move from their home of 50 years into a retirement community. Their lovely 2 story home had been getting to be a handful to take care of ever since Mike had had a serious injury which affected his balance and ability to walk. They had toured communities and had narrowed it down to their first and second choice. Both communities, in Palo Alto, had just one 2 bedroom apt available, and both were willing to take them despite Mike's health condition. Other communities they had considered had more stringent health qualifiers and were not willing to accept them. My assessment of their situation was that there was a very small window of opportunity available to them right now, and if they delayed any further, that window was closing and their options were fading away. Throw in their medium-sized dog they needed to bring with them, and their second choice community eventually turned them down after meeting their dog. Miraculously, their first choice community would accept not only Mike and his physical condition, but their dog as well.
Now the reason that there was one apartment available in that community was because it did not have a very desirable view. To be more precise, the second story view overlooked some small single story factories so the lower half of the view was not ideal. But the upper half of the view through very large windows looked to the West, and the hills and trees were lovely (bottom-up blinds actually went a long way to cover up the factory-top view.) After much consideration, they decided that they would wait until something better opened up. The problem for them is that while they are on a waiting list for non-residents, whenever an apartment comes available it is first offered to current residents who have the opportunity to transfer. This is not uncommon in retirement communities: for someone to take an apartment that is in their minds less desirable, and get the opportunity to basically jump-the-line of those non-residents on the waiting list. In addition, focusing on the view or lack of view in a retirement community, and being willing to jeopardize your chances of ever moving in while healthy enough to qualify, misses the point where your real focus should be. As they say in real estate: Location, Location, Location. What that means in retirement communities is where the apartment is located in relation to ease of access to those daily destinations of senior community living: how far is it from the dining room, from the mail room, from the lobby where you get your car or get your rides, from the health club, from the common areas where the activities take place. I've seen too many folks (and I've counseled against it) choose an apartment with a wonderful view, only to find as they age and their mobility declines, that their main activity of the day is to get themselves to and from the dining room for dinner, if they are lucky. That great-view apartment was located far away from everything.
I'm still trying to help Mike and Sue understand the consequences of "waiting until something better comes along." And also, to remind them of what they are missing out on by staying isolated in their own home as Mike's condition declines, and not being able to enjoy what a retirement community can offer them while they are still healthy enough to partake.
Often, folks choosing to remain independent in their own homes is a wonderful thing and the right thing to do. But sometimes making that move, or downsizing to a smaller, one level home/condo/apartment can enhance the quality of life, plus the peace of mind provided for adult children and their families.
Yes, you'd be giving up that home that has meant the world to you for so many decades. But in the end it can often be quite a liberating experience.