This post is part of a series dealing with the question of where to live in retirement. Since I am in the process of writing an e-book on this topic, you will see more on this topic.
Most retirees will say that they plan to age in their own home, and this may be the strongest argument one can have for aging in place. Let’s take a look at what is behind it. Some people express a strong preference for living in a community with a range of ages. They enjoy being around young people and children. This works well for all concerned, as long as the community continues to provide social support and interactions as the older person ages, and the needed services are available. The children are exposed to older folks and young people gain from getting the perspective of their elders.
But behind this statement may be the stereotyped view that all people living in senior housing are frail, sick, demented and dying. And, yes, people in senior housing do age and die, as do we all. And the older housing developments tend to have an older population than the more recently built ones. But you will also find a wide range of abilities, capabilities and disabilities in senior living, including folks who have had fascinating life experiences and are still vital and active.
Another factor may be the fear of labeling oneself as “old” – a matter of personal identity. Who am I? Well, I am not an “old person.” At some point, we need to face reality. When will you do that? When you have a major health crisis? At that point, it is too late to make plans for the next step, and you are forced to deal with the reality and the limitations imposed by the crisis.
Two views of senior living:
One woman said “I like living with my peers. We are all dealing with the same issues of aging. We understand each other, and we help each other.”
Another said “I open my door and see the walkers and wheelchairs going past. That is my future, and it isn’t pretty.” Both of these women live in the same community.
How do people in senior housing communities deal with this phenomenon? I have come up with several strategies:
- Keep involved with the wider community, and don’t get totally immersed in the senior development. There is a wider world out there and we need to keep it in perspective
- There are active, vital and interesting people of varying ages living in senior communities. Identify them and make them your models. I don’t like the phrase ‘young at heart’, but that is what these people are, and we can learn a lot about living from them.
- View the frailer residents as reminders and motivators for healthy living – getting exercise, eating well, controlling weight, staying positive in our attitudes. While we all age, there is a lot we can do to, as one author put it “live young while growing old, and to die young, as late as possible.”
So don’t write off the possibility that there may be a better place to spend your older years that you present home.