Active Adult Communities

6/3/2024 | By Terri L. Jones

What’s it like making the decision to move to a senior community – and then taking the plunge? Seniors Guide writer Terri L. Jones shares the experience of her mother-in-law, who recently started her new chapter at a retirement community.

A little over four years ago, my husband and his sister talked to my then 82-year-old mother-in-law about moving to a senior living community. Over the past several years, Alice, who lived in a 3,000-square-foot, two-story house on an acre of land, was having difficulty keeping up with the maintenance of her large home. Plus, they worried about her falling or having other health issues with no one around.

While my mother-in-law agreed to put her name on the waiting list of a well-respected retirement community in her town, she kept turning down the units that became available. She just wasn’t ready.

Then COVID hit and everyone pressed the pause button on moving (as well as everything else in life).

When the time is right

After a fall at church, Alice began to see the merits of being close to help if she needed it. So, when a spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with a huge bay window became available, my sister-in-law quickly took her to see it. Alice gave this unit a thumbs up!

Not long after, my mother-in-law had signed the paperwork, the community began making upgrades to her new space, and her move-in date was scheduled.

Whittling down

Alice chose a few pieces of furniture and other items that she wanted to take to her new space. An avid cook, she also whittled down her enormous collection of pots and pans, dishware, appliances, and cooking utensils to fit in her new, much smaller kitchen.

The rest of her 50-plus years of accumulation she gave to family and friends (I was the beneficiary of a KitchenAid mixer and candy thermometer that didn’t make the cut) or left in the house to sell in an estate sale or to be donated. Surprisingly, this downsizing process wasn’t as difficult for Alice as anyone expected, including Alice herself.

A fresh start: Alice’s new chapter at a retirement center

a woman on a laptop in her room at a retirement home, part of her New Chapter at a Retirement Community

Moving into her new home warranted some fresh new décor. Alice picked out a new bed along with a pretty floral comforter and bought coordinating lavender towels for her master bathroom. To accessorize the new space, her daughter found lamps, pictures, and a sideboard on trips to local thrift stores.

Alice turned her second bedroom into an office, purchasing a new desk, where she checks email every morning while gazing out at the beautifully landscaped grounds of the community. She decided not to put a bed in this space. If she has overnight guests, she has a comfy sofa bed, or they can rent the spacious guest suite in the community (we did and were very pleased).

Downsizing services make the task easier

Make new friends but keep the old

Alice, who is fortunate to have a whole gang of girlfriends, was concerned about whether her friends would visit her when she lived farther away. Since she’s moved, her old friends have been eager to see her new apartment, and they’ve also joined her at the community’s onsite bistro, where she now enjoys most of her meals. (Alice will proudly tell you that she has only used her new kitchen to warm up leftovers.)

She’s also met many new friends at the community, gathering with them for movies, concerts, water aerobics, etc. on campus. Most nights you’ll find her enjoying a glass of $3 wine with the tableful of them at happy hour!

Seniors Guide looks at retirement community options

Much more tech-savvy than the average 86-year-old (or even a 63-year-old!), Alice has helped some of her new friends learn to use the community’s app, which is used to register for events, request services, call for help, etc. She’s even helped others troubleshoot problems with their phones. According to one of her new friends, she’s become the unofficial “computer geek” at the community.

Part college, part cruise ship

When we visited my mother-in-law over Mother’s Day weekend, her new lifestyle felt very much like college or camp to my husband and me. Living side by side with people close to your own age and sharing daily meals and activities, it’s the perfect formula for developing camaraderie and a close bond over time. But it’s also akin to a cruise ship with the plethora of amenities, including restaurants, movie theater, concerts, a hair salon, exercise classes, and transportation to stores and doctors’ appointments. Perhaps like going to college or camp on a cruise ship!

Rather than a difficult, depressing transition, moving to a senior living community has been the beginning of a new chapter for Alice. It’s all in your perspective!

Space-saving tips for smaller spaces

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones