Remember the days when even the thought of visiting a “Rest Home” caused a feeling of sadness and despair, a feeling of being institutionalized and forgotten? No wonder some people still have such an aversion to the idea of retirement living. Many times those preconceived notions can even stand in the way of simply starting a conversation about the idea, especially for those who grew up during the Great Depression, often referred to as the Greatest Generation. They have memories surrounding the places where they visited their grandparents, or had to move their own parents. And typically those memories are not good ones.

Luckily, in 2019, the face of Senior Living has dramatically changed. Thanks to the attitudes of Baby Boomers coming of retirement age, the same old – same old just isn’t enough anymore. The expectations of today’s Modern Seniors have demanded a complete overhaul of what retirement living really means and what those considering this life transition can expect to find. Not all communities are fortunate enough to have experienced this complete transformation, but the good news is that today there are OPTIONS, options that fit all kinds of lifestyles and budgets!

Even with all the options available today, many times it is difficult to even start conversations due to mindsets that have been ingrained for many generations. As you can imagine, trying to move beyond childhood experiences or memories of unhappy family members can be huge obstacles to overcome. Some seniors even have a preconceived idea of specific smells they will encounter if they visit a senior living community. Changing paradigms, perceptions and mindsets can take some time and typically can’t even begin to happen until people are able to see it and experience it for themselves.

Walking through the front door of a retirement community is the most important first step in the process of hoping to change any negative perceptions that may have been previously ingrained in our memories. Just like when you are looking for any kind of real estate, you get a strong first impression when walking through the front door. Right away you will have a gut feeling about whether or not it is a place that could be a good option for the future…a place you would feel comfortable calling home.

Today’s retirement communities are much like living on a cruise ship that doesn’t float.

Everything you need is just an elevator ride away, food and fun are at your fingertips and the responsibilities of chores become the responsibilities of someone else. This environment gives today’s senior all the time they need to focus on the things that bring them joy. Whether they are social butterflies or enjoy their personal time alone, a sense of community surrounds them and gives them the comfort and confidence in knowing they haven’t been forgotten.

There are times when seniors may be so adverse to the idea of learning more about retirement living that they instead make the decision to simply age in place in the family home. At first glance they feel that will allow them to keep the independence they value so much. Later they come to find that the tasks associated with home ownership become more of a burden than anticipated.

Unfortunately, change is a constant and it happens to us even when we think we have made the decision that no change is necessary. Our neighborhoods change. Neighbors die or move away and new neighbors move in, but the old connections are gone for good. No longer do neighbors connect the way they did in generations past. People have become more insular and private and many times when new neighbors move in we never even see them, let alone get to know them the way we may have decades ago. Whether we like it or not, physical changes come too, as we plan to age in place. We become more frail, more vulnerable to those who seek to prey on seniors and the need to have a supportive circle around us becomes more important. Many times it is that universal need for a supportive circle that opens the door for scam artists and people who seek to take advantage of our seniors.

When driving becomes a challenge and perhaps the decision is made that it is no longer a safe option, the independence completely disappears and instead of living a full independent life in their family home as they had planned, their world drastically shrinks and opportunities to interact with others from their generation all but disappears. Loneliness is one of the leading causes for depression in seniors and when they are alone, by themselves at home waiting for friends or family members to visit, or their only social contact comes from caregivers or doctors, there is not much joy in their day to day lives.

As family and friends, or allies of seniors in 2019, we all should do what we can to help create an atmosphere that gives them control over their decisions and offers unlimited opportunities to engage in the things that bring them joy in their lives, regardless of their capabilities. That’s when the idea of looking into living on a “cruise ship that doesn’t float” could help all of us achieve the goal of living full, vibrant lives according to our own plans, while having the circle of support we need to thrive and live life to the fullest every day.

About the Author: Michelle Watkins
After many years of working in the industry of retirement living, Michelle now serves as a Retirement Counselor and Marketing Director of Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor. Helping seniors successfully navigate their choices by better understanding the differences between communities and the services they offer is an important part of her daily role. Whether these individuals end up moving to Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor, or somewhere else, Michelle knows that she and her team have succeeded if visitors leave with the information and tools they need to create a plan that will allow them to thrive in the next chapter of their lives.

Please call me at 713-660-5033 to schedule your complimentary retirement planning consultation. Or feel free to email me at michelle.watkins@houstonretirement.org.