Imagine a life where you are in control, where you spend your days the way you would like, with a variety of appealing activities to choose from and free from challenging responsibilities. Would you get up late? Would you get together with friends often? Would you take up a new hobby or volunteer a few hours a week for the sole purpose of helping the community? What’s amazing is all these things are possible without even getting in your car. Shopping and restaurants are within walking distance. Exercise facilities, entertainment venues and meditative sanctuaries are a stone’s throw away. You’re safe. You’re free. You’re happy.
This dream is not a far-off reality from a choice offered to senior adults in a retirement or “senior living” community. Unfortunately, what puts people off are a host of misconceptions. When most people hear the words “retirement community,” a negative picture comes to mind. That negative connotation is what I call the Great Lie.
According to a 6-year study, “many [people] believe senior living communities are filled with sick and debilitated old people who are inactive and who only complain about their health.” While most senior living communities do have facilities to care for those who are frail, that is only one aspect of today’s retirement community, which is modern, wellness-oriented, and activity-filled. But many — if not most — people have very negative feelings toward retirement communities.
What the average person on the outside of retirement or senior living communities doesn’t realize is that when new members are polled, the overwhelming response is some version of “I should have moved here years ago.” The barriers to making that move earlier are uncertainty and fear; enduring the hardship of downsizing and selling the home; braving the loss of familiarity; and, sometimes, the convenience of friends and family. Once the barriers are toppled and the move is made, the result is opportunities for personal growth, friendship and community, and a newfound freedom that comes with an abundance of stress-free time.
So, what are the misperceptions that are keeping the average retiree from looking at these communities as more than a last resort? The first is “I’ll live longer at home.” In fact, the opposite has been shown to be true. According to brookdale.com, “as spouses pass, children leave home and neighbors move away, it can be hard for seniors to stay active and social.” Isolation leads to depression, illness, and increased risk for physical and psychological effects, including cognitive decline. Living in a senior community, where activity is encouraged and more easily attained by even those with mobility issues, encourages a continued vibrant life. And this promotes wellness and longevity.
When visiting a community, it is important to keep in mind that you are probably not seeing the more active members of the community, because their activities often take them off campus, while the activities of the more frail members will likely be something closer to home.
Another misperception is “I’ll have a wider circle of friends if I stay in my home.” A senior having lived in the same geographical area for a long time probably feels like they have many longtime friends, but how much time is spent with each of those friends? Despite America’s fight for integration of all kinds, people naturally gravitate toward other people like them. Kids gravitate toward other kids, young adults to other young adults, and seniors gravitate toward other seniors. Because of this, when a senior moves into senior living, they are immediately surrounded by a large, new group of friends from all backgrounds who have many things in common.
“I’ll be isolated in a retirement community,” is another common perception. In today’s senior communities, you’ll only be as isolated as you want to be; the focus is on quality of life. Whether you live in a home you own or an apartment you rent, you’re free to come and go. Many members who were previously living at home dramatically blossom after moving to a retirement community.
Fourth misperception: “I’ll expand my interests and have new experiences at home.” As a senior, the difference between experiencing new things at home and experiencing new things in senior living is like comparing making dinner for yourself at home and going to a restaurant. Sure, you can look up a recipe, buy the ingredients, come home and cook the meal, and then sit down and enjoy it. But, the next day, you have to go through all the steps again. However, if you go to a restaurant, there are employees who will present you with a menu, take your order, and cook the meal for you. They are prepared all day to do just that: to serve you with minimal effort on your part. All you have to do is enjoy it.
A final misperception is “I will lose control of my present and future if I move into a senior living community.” It is not the goal of these communities to take control of your life. Their goal is to present you the opportunity to enjoy your life through programs, services, and freedom of choice. Another benefit to a retirement community is the safety it provides by looking out for seniors, a vulnerable demographic. Safety equals freedom equals control for seniors.
The truth of senior living communities is that they can provide the beginning of a new life full of activity, safety, security, and new friends and opportunities. It’s a community of like-minded individuals looking out for each other and growing through new stages of life together. It is freedom. I encourage you not to let your preconceived ideas keep you from the benefits. We would love to have you visit to see the reality of what Advent Christian Village, our vibrant senior living community in north Florida, has to offer you or your loved one.
About the Author: Craig Carter has been employed at Advent Christian Village since 1992, and has been President/CEO since 2008. A native of Dowling Park, Florida, Craig earned a degree in Business Administration and Social Welfare from Aurora University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern.
By - Craig Carter, President/CEO, Advent Christian Village