It was a staple of past television shows and movies involving families with senior citizens.
The grownup kids see their aging parents starting to have trouble keeping up their domestic chores and taking care of themselves. They try to talk the folks into considering moving into a “home,” but the parents resist. “I want to stay in my own home,” is usually a line in this drama. Eventually, in the worst of these stories, the kids trick the old folks into entering and staying at the home — and lo and behold — the seniors grow to accept it.
Well, the reality today is a little different — except for that last part about liking it.
For one thing we now refer to such institutions as retirement residences.
And they’re not just for the very old. The middle-aged, starting as young as 50, may consider the advantages of living in a retirement home.
Did you catch that? The bit about the retirees themselves weighing their options? Not being tricked into it.
Retirement homes are for people who enjoy mental and physical health. They’re for people who can live there as autonomously as in their own houses or semi-autonomously — perhaps requiring a little assistance for a few daily tasks like housekeeping and shopping trips.
Naturally, many of us do tend to want to stay in our familiar surroundings as we grow into and beyond middle age. But most of today’s retirement residences are so comfortable and appealing — in their general appearance, as well as in the services they offer — that they give us hope that living in a retirement home can be almost the same as living at home.
Or perhaps even better than living at home, in some important ways.
People often consider moving to a retirement home to become more engaged in social activities with others around their own age. It can help to counter the loneliness and isolation elderly people often feel living on their own.
Of course, there are the obvious advantages of not having to cook and still having healthy, delicious meals. Plus eliminating the drudgery of housework.
Your time can be spent instead relaxing and staying active — whether your idea of relaxing is reading, gardening, golfing, friends for coffee, or keeping in touch with your family, with friends.
Such is the appeal of the modern retirement home.
Choosing a retirement home
In Toronto there are literally hundreds of options available to you for retirement living. How do you know which is right for you? Take your time to research it before reaching a decision.
The first step, according to experts, is to assess your needs. Ask yourself some questions.
Are you looking for a rental or for ownership?
Is location important to you? Do you want to live in a certain part of town or near family and friends?
How much living space would you be comfortable with?
How much access to recreational facilities do you need?
Do you have a requirement for any in-house medical services?
What social activities do you wish to engage in?
How much daily assistance do you want?
Do you have any religious or other spiritual needs that have to be supported.
And most importantly, what is your financial situation and how much can you spend on living quarters and services?
For each of these considerations, evaluate how much is a matter of necessity and how much is negotiable. Make a prioritized list.
From a search online and through publications like this you can compile a short list of selected potential residences. Request additional information from them via phone, email, phone or website.
Once you’ve winnowed the list down to your top choices, make an appointment and visit each home on your short list, at least once — though you can also return for second or third visits.
Don’t forget to bring your list of considerations, in case you forget some of the questions you have.
During your visit you can also chat with residents and ask about their own experiences in the retirement home.
On this trip or at a followup, eat a meal or two in the dining room. This lets you sample the cuisine, but also gives you a chance to meet some of the residents in a relaxed setting.
Of course, you will be keenly inspecting the living suites but tour the building’s kitchen and other facilities to check the maintenance and overall cleanliness of the whole operation. Don’t leave out the stairwells and other less-travelled areas.
Also check out the grounds, gardens, patios and other outdoor facilities. Does it look like other residents are enjoying them?
And how about the activities? See if you can schedule your visit in conjunction with any community events. You may be able to watch the activities and even take part in them.
You may also be able to book an overnight visit or a trial stay of a week or two, which would give you a much better of idea of what it’d be like to live there and the ongoing services provided.
Note the safety and security features of the home. What happens if residents have an emergency in their suite. What staff is on-site at all times to assist residents. Are registered nurses available?
And here’s one final consideration that many people do not think of until it’s too late: what are the move-out criteria. That is, under circumstances can you be asked to move out of your suite or out of the entire community? And how much notice do you have to give if you decide to move out?
But right now, my question is:
When will you be ready to make the big move in?
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