Moving to a senior community isn’t for everyone, yet it was right for us.
The move came only after we had followed a dream: that of retiring and building a log house in a rural area.
As the years passed our daughter, just 60 miles away, moved across the state on the other side of the continental divide (think challenging driving in any bad weather).
Our son, about three hours north, moved even further and out of state. Our few other remaining relatives were miles and mountains away.
And as we aged, maintaining the acreage and house, as well as 11-mile drive to small supermarket and doctor were increasingly challenging. Getting to better shopping and other professionals seemed even more daunting.
It wasn’t just the distance. The drives all began on one-lane, hilly gravel roads with blind curves, holes and occasional slides.
Internet was available to us with ever-slower dial-up or finally, a subscription to satellite service. But the Internet was where we started our senior community research.
Our vacations, such as they were, were visits to continuing care facilities in five states. We were treated to a couple free overnights, some fine meals and even tours of town with residents as eager-to-please hosts. Some places were impressive. Others uncomfortable. Costs and services varied.
Some offered plenty of medical options, fitness centers, some had swimming or therapy pools, meals ranged from all-day restaurants to limited-hours meal service. One had a soft ice cream machine, very appealing to my taste. Meals were included in monthly fees or were pay-as-you go.
We settled on an application to Homestead Village in Lancaster, PA, an area with more than two dozen such communities. Pennsylvania, in fact, has more retirement or continuing care communities than all but one or two other states.
Our initial application simply was a request to go on a waiting list, that is, we were not ready to move. We had to sell first. The economy tanked. We waited.
One potential buyer lost his job. Another couple seemed very interested, but his company transferred him.
We fretted and waited.
Finally, after seven years, we had a buyer. The wait gave us some advantage. We had moved up on the waiting list and went to active status quickly. Amazingly, soon after a unit opened up.
Suddenly we were under pressure to make all the decisions of downsizing, including disposal of everything we wouldn’t take. The auctioneer in our small county seemed a tad reluctant at first to take on our challenge, but in the end he came through, took everything we were leaving and successfully sold it all.
We parted with some family pieces, a pickup truck, and my husband’s extensive workshop augmented by near-lifetime collections inherited from my father, brother and uncle. I sifted through the special free-lance articles I had hoarded from those written before electronic storage, discarding most.
There are professionals who will aid seniors in downsizing.
We would not have been comfortable hiring help. Rather, downsizing for the most part was a trip down memory lane.
And, in the end, easier and with fewer regrets than I anticipated.
We made some mistakes, paying to move some items we will never need and leaving others we wish we still owned. But there are surprisingly few of either.
Initially, almost everything we were keeping had to go into storage because our agreement to vacate the house came before renovations were complete on our new residence. We had to endure apartment living with a minimum of household goods and a dog who had always been outside in a large kennel. He adapted amazingly well to living in the apartment.
Truthfully, we struggled with it; heavy steps above us in the middle of the night, metropolitan driving, twice changing household insurance, address, subscriptions, driver’s licenses and the like.
This May will mark our second year in our Homestead residence.
We can walk to the bank, the ophthalmologist, a large supermarket, and almost to the dentist’s office. We found a doctor within five miles, a relatively easy drive that doesn’t require embarking on heavy-duty highways.
We have seen more of our grandchildren since moving.
We’ve gone on some Homestead-sponsored trips, visited Amish country, attended concerts and regularly participate in history, writing, book and news discussion groups.
When the doctor prescribed physical therapy, I had only to walk across a parking lot for the service.
When the snow piled on streets, driveways and the front walk, we didn’t have to shovel. When the garage door spring exploded, fortunately with no injuries or breakage, Homestead maintenance staff repaired it.
No, it isn’t the peaceful quiet we enjoyed in the country. Nor is it as economical as our rural residence.
There are all levels of cost, services and types of senior communities. The community where we reside also has apartments, assisted living, rehabilitation and memory-care facilities, available to us should we need advanced care. Others focus on fewer options.
My grandparents, uncles and aunts and good friends from areas where we had lived and worked all had good experiences in different retirement communities.
Yet moving to a senior community was not a simple decision. It requires a detailed look at finances and options as well as many adjustments.
In the end, it was, for us, a wise decision.