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When is it Time to Consider a Retirement Community?

older adult man laughing

The key to aging well is having a plan. And yet many seniors put off making a decision regarding senior living until an unexpected event – like a heart attack or fall – compromises their ability to live independently.

At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we understand that there’s no “right” time to begin exploring continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), or senior living communities that offer a full spectrum of care. However, there are some telltale signs that it’s time to transition to a CCRC.

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Today’s Senior Living Looks Different

Senior living communities have come a long way from what they once were. In many ways, they are very different from the “nursing homes” that people usually think of when they hear “senior living.”

Today, these communities help older adults live longer, happier lives. At CCRCs, residents are afforded access to tiered levels of high-quality support, from independent living to skilled nursing and rehabilitation.

Residents also benefit from a wide range of services and amenities, from chef-prepared dining to daily social programming.

In the past, senior living communities have been perceived as places where the sick and elderly have to go. But now, CCRCs are places where active and healthy seniors want to go.

When Should Seniors Begin Exploring CCRC Options?

While there is no perfect time in life that everyone should begin thinking about moving to a CCRC, there are several common signs that it may be time for you to start exploring your retirement options. Some common signs that it is time to consider moving to a retirement community include:

You Long for a Maintenance-Free Lifestyle

For some older adults, life’s day-to-day chores are too physically demanding. Or, they take up too much time, energy, and resources, leaving nothing left for true passions and hobbies.

Now might be the perfect time to join a CCRC if you:

  • Want to be free from planning, shopping, and preparing healthy meals
  • Don’t want to deal with owning and maintaining a car, plus driving yourself to doctor’s appointments or errands
  • Are tired of mowing the lawn and making general home repairs
  • Want the freedom to do what you want, when you want, like leave for a vacation at a moment’s notice
  • Would rather spend your time doing something you love than have to worry about chores inside and outside of the home

You Want to Downsize to a Home-Like Setting

As an independent and active older adult, CCRCs offer the best of all worlds. You’re able to move into the community and establish yourself and your routines, make friends, and learn the ropes. You can get comfortable just like you would in your own home.

Many CCRCs offer several living options that are just like home, including cottages, townhomes, condos, and apartments.

You Desire Comfort & Stability

Once you’ve become a CCRC community member, you’ll always have a place to call home within the community. As your care needs change, the people surrounding you and the friendships you developed remain the same.

Your life will have security and constancy like never before because you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the community can provide assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care.

You Crave Opportunities for Community & Social Interaction

Loneliness, isolation (perceived or real), and depression cause many problems for older adults. Life in a CCRC combats loneliness head-on by offering various activities, amenities, and services.

Whether you choose to take part in one of the many planned activities, outings, events, or clubs or enjoy the company of others in a common area in the community, retirement communities provide endless opportunities for socialization.

In addition to on-site activities, CCRCs also offer ways for residents to remain active and involved in the broader community through volunteerism, adult education classes, service projects, and more.

You’re Seeking a Network of Long-Term, Close-Knit Friendships

As a community member, you can form relationships and friendships with others who will continue to be there for you even as your care needs change. Having a support network can be especially important as future healthcare needs arise.

You’re Ready for an Environment That’s Designed to Support Your Emotional & Physical Goals

CCRCs work hard to help the community members live active, independent, and healthy lives for as long as possible.

To accomplish this, they offer a wide range of health and wellness programs, which may include fitness and aquatic centers, fitness professionals, exercise classes, and special diet programs.

The programs offered in many of today’s CCRC emphasize holistic care, understanding the importance of intellectual, vocational, emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences.


Who Benefits From a CCRC?

When researching senior living options, you may wonder: “Will I be happy in a CCRC?” You may be concerned that you’ll lose your independence, feel isolated from the outside world or not have enough alone time.

Though these feelings are valid, you should know that many different types of seniors thrive in CCRCs. Here are just a few examples:

The Bored Busybody

After retiring, some older adults find themselves lacking a sense of purpose. Without a 9-to-5 job, they feel lost and unsure of how to spend their time. Fortunately, these seniors thrive at a CCRC. With an activities calendar packed with museum visits and live performances, CCRCs provide countless opportunities to stay engaged.

The Lone Wolf

As an introvert, the lone wolf may worry that living in a group setting will compromise their time spent reading, hiking, or knitting alone. However, since CCRCs afford a maintenance-free lifestyle, these seniors will have more time to do what they love most. Rather than spend a Saturday cleaning, the lone wolf can take themselves out to brunch or go fishing.

The Fall Risk

Seniors who have slipped while showering or taking out the trash will benefit from the safety features of a senior living community. At a CCRC, each apartment home is designed with accessibility in mind. There are grab bars in the bathroom and anti-slip flooring in the kitchen, for instance. Staff are also available 24/7, should an emergency occur.

The Worrier

Some older adults worry that an existing or future medical condition will compromise their ability to live independently in the years to come. Others worry that aging-in-place will burden their adult children. When you become a community member of a CCRC, you essentially make aging-in-place possible for you without all the headaches involved with doing it all yourself.

CCRCs afford immense peace of mind since they provide a full spectrum of support. CCRCs offer a tiered approach to senior living – from independent living to assisted living to rehabilitation to skilled nursing and memory care. As your care needs change, you transition to other areas within the community to have your needs met. Residents don’t have to worry about their changing medical needs or about who will take care of them.

The Couple

When couples tie the knot, they vow to remain together in both sickness and in health. However, this promise can be hard to keep when one spouse requires more care than the other. If your spouse needs care, are you able to fully meet their care needs? Fortunately, CCRCs keep couples together by offering many different levels of care on the same campus.

The Isolated Loner

For people who age-in-place, as we get older, it can become more and more difficult to get together with family and friends. Perhaps they’ve moved a great distance away. Maybe you feel confined to your home because you’re not as comfortable driving as you once were, or you’re not as mobile as you used to be. Whatever the reason, many older adults face loneliness and isolation in retirement. This is often considered to be a normal part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be.

According to the 2014 census, 28% of older adults age 65 and older live alone, leading to isolation and loneliness which can have serious consequences for their health. Even perceived isolation – the “feeling” of being alone, separated, or isolated – can have a devastating impact on the lives of older adults.

Feelings of isolation and loneliness can have an impact on both physical and mental health, causing:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbances
  • An increase in cortisol
  • Decreased immunity (decreased white blood cell count)
  • Increased chance of developing depression
  • Premature death

When older adults feel socially disconnected, they’re more likely to experience poor mental and/or physical health. Perceived and actual loneliness are both linked to poor cognitive functioning, leading to further cognitive decline and increased risk for the development of dementia.

This is why everyone has to make sure they find the right Continuing Care Retirement Community to meet their needs.

Why It’s Better to Start Early

Since coming to terms with aging can be difficult, many seniors don’t start considering CCRCs until they need intensive, daily support. But waiting until the last minute places unnecessary stress on you and your family. That’s why at Havenwood Heritage Heights, we always recommend that seniors begin exploring CCRCs as soon as possible.

Planning your long-term care well in advance allows you to:

Maximize the Full Value of the Community

The great thing about CCRCs is that you can move in as a fully independent individual and take advantage of the many activities and offerings that the community has to offer. Entering early allows you to make the community your home and jumpstart your new life as an active and social retiree.

Plan for the Future

While it’s impossible to know what the future holds, it’s never too soon to start planning for successful aging. Unfortunately, too many people wait for something unfortunate to happen before they consider the right type of care to support their personal needs and wants.

Try to imagine what your life will be like in five to ten years.

  • Do you have any health issues that could worsen over time or impact your ability to function independently?
  • Will you be able to safely drive?
  • Will you be able to keep up with household chores and maintenance?
  • How will you cope if your spouse requires care or, heaven forbid, passes away?

Taking a realistic look at what the future may hold can be difficult, but it is vital to ensure your needs are covered no matter what the future holds. We all wish and hope for the best-case scenario, but what is realistic for your life?

While there are many in-home services available in today’s senior living market, the benefit of moving to a CCRC cannot be understated. In addition to ensuring that all homes are equipped with convenient floor plans for successful aging, there is a continuum of care in place to ensure that everyone can enjoy independent living, then if any health needs arise, can move to assisted living or memory care with ease.

Live With Your Spouse

It’s not uncommon for couples to require different levels of care. For instance, a husband may experience mobility issues related to a chronic medical condition while his wife remains relatively healthy.

When this happens outside a CCRC, there are a few different scenarios that may result:

  • The husband is moved to an assisted living facility while the wife remains at home
  • The husband is moved to an assisted living facility while the wife moves to an independent living community
  • The wife assumes a caregiver role

Neither situation is ideal. However, the latter scenario puts the wife at risk of experiencing a state of physical and emotional exhaustion called caregiver burnout. This state can contribute to psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression and chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. It can even cause early death.

Fortunately, CCRCs offer a better solution. When couples move to a CCRC, they can continue living together on the same campus – no matter what happens.

Focus On What Really Matters

CCRCs promote a maintenance-free lifestyle. That means you can skip cutting the grass and cleaning the gutters and instead spend time doing what you love, whether that’s kayaking or crocheting. In short, a CCRC helps you make the most of your retirement.

Join Your Top Pick Community

Most CCRCs require incoming community members to be able to live independently upon move-in – having no foreseeable need for healthcare services or assisted living.

Many senior living communities, such as CCRCs, have medical acceptance criteria that their incoming community members must meet. This is important to consider while you’re still active, healthy and can live independently.

If you wait for a medical crisis to “force” you into making a decision, or if you have a progressive medical condition, your options may become limited in the future. It becomes so much easier to make the best decision now when all options are available to you.

The earlier you consider moving into a retirement community, the more likely it is that you’ll have the opportunity to select, rather than settle for, the best community for you.

By selecting a community before health needs get in the way, you have the option to choose the community that best fits your lifestyle and needs. The longer you wait to make your decision and allow health issues to force you to “settle,” the fewer options you’ll have to choose from.

Explore Your CCRC Options at Havenwood Heritage Heights

At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we understand that transitioning to life in a CCRC is a big step that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why we’re committed to helping older adults choose a senior living community that suits their wants and needs.

We value transparency and are always happy to explore our residency options, services and amenities, care options and pricing with prospective residents. We can also offer on-campus tours and overnight stays to help you make a sound decision.

To learn more about our senior living community, contact us today. You can also talk to a member of our friendly staff by calling us at 800-457-6833.

By Mike Wall

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