While some might see assisted living as “the beginning of the end,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people move to assisted living so they can actually live their life to the fullest — and on their own terms.
Imagine if you could move to a community where cooking dinner and washing the dishes after are optional. Where exercise classes and massages are offered on campus. And, where your friends live right next door.
But, moving, even moving to assisted living, can seem like a scary change.
These types of big changes are full of unknowns — but they’re also full of possibilities. What would you do with the time you’re not spending vacuuming the living room or doing the laundry? Have you ever wanted to learn tai chi or go ziplining?
Choosing the Right Age to Move to Assisted Living
Here’s the thing: It may never feel like the “right” time to move to assisted living. There isn’t an answer to the question, “What age should I move to assisted living?” If you walk into an assisted living community, you’re just as likely to see a 72-year-old as you are a 102-year-old.
But moving to assisted living when you have no other choice left can leave you feeling like you’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities.
“I see people who wait until something bad happens and then they’re rushed into making a decision that they may not be happy with,” says Marlena Azure, the Community Relations Coordinator at Highgate at Great Falls.
Azure shares a story about a couple she knew who lived in a rural town outside of Great Falls. The wife had late-stage dementia, and her husband was caring for her at home. When he passed away suddenly, their children, who lived out of state, were left scrambling. “The family was without a caregiver,” Azure recalls. “They had to drop what they were doing. And when they came in, they were in panic mode.”
The assisted living community didn’t have any available apartments, so the children put their mom on the waitlist. “They had their own lives and jobs, but they had to put all that on hold because there was no plan,” Azure says. “They had to stay in their parent’s house to take care of their mom who was in a wheelchair — and the house was definitely not handicap accessible. I don’t know how they did it.”
That’s why it’s better to move — or at least research your options — while you’re healthy and can play an active role in where you will live. People who wait end up moving when they’re sick or have had a bad fall or some other health crisis, and then they lose control over the decision-making process. Also, being proactive in a move may help you avoid a health crisis. While there’s no guarantee, it’s a lot harder to be motivated to stay active at home, by yourself, rather than taking advantage of activities that will keep you moving like in an assisted living community.
Still not sure about the assisted living pros and cons? Here are four reasons to make the assisted living move sooner than you think.
Pros of Moving to Assisted Living Sooner Rather Than Later
1. You’re in Control
With each birthday, it can feel like you lose control of one more aspect of your life. The best way to remain in control of your future is to be proactive in your search for assisted living. By thinking about what you need and want now as well as in the future, you can be prepared for whatever life throws your way.
If you decide to move into assisted living sooner rather than later, you get to choose what type of community, what amenities and services you’re looking for, and what type of living arrangement you want — not what you need or what your kids want.
“The whole move will be much more pleasurable if it’s made proactively rather than waiting for an emergency to happen to make the move,” Azure says.
2. You Gain Independence
Instead of spending your days busy trying to keep up with housework, paying multiple household bills, or figuring out what to cook for one, you now have the freedom to pursue a passion project or visit with your grandkids. Instead of being stuck at home because you don’t feel like driving or talking a friend into giving you a ride to an appointment, the community's transportation services to outings, activities, and doctor appointments allow you to be in control of how you choose to use your time.
It seems counterintuitive, but many people find that they have more independence and freedom in assisted living than they did living at home.
3. You Rediscover Purpose
Think you’ve already experienced the prime of your life and that the time after retirement is just one long, steady decline? If you live at home alone, you might be right.
Research shows that the secret to living well into old age is engagement, which can be difficult to accomplish when living at home alone and isolated. Although staying home may be the most comfortable thing to do, it leads to a lack of purpose. This can cause energy loss, depression, and even illness.
Assisted living can help you rediscover purpose as you age. From enjoying hobbies and learning new things to volunteering and making new friends, the possibilities are endless.
“I know this woman was anxious about moving to an assisted living community, but once she moved in, she became so involved that her kids complain that they can never get ahold of her because she’s never in her apartment,” Azure says. “Instead, she’s out and about baking cookies or getting exercise or making crafts or playing cards. There’s really not much that she doesn’t do.”
4. You Retain Your Relationship with Your Children
It’s not easy to call your children and ask for help. The fear of “bothering” loved ones or “being a burden” is real, even if your children really do just want to help.
Have you thought about how your relationship with your adult children will change if they need to start leaving work early to take you to a doctor’s appointment or if they miss out on a long-awaited vacation with their spouse because you fall getting out of the shower and end up in the hospital?
If the thought of moving to assisted living has you feeling anxious, consider the outcome: You won’t get annoyed by hovering children worrying about your every move. You won’t feel parented by your children. And you’ll get to have relationships with your children that are defined by making new memories, reminiscing about old ones, and spending quality time together.
Of course, there are other reasons to move to assisted living — social opportunities, delicious meals, better access to health care, safety and security — but the biggest is that when you move while you’re still in good health, you can really enjoy all the benefits community living has to offer.
To learn more about how Highgate Senior Living helps residents of all ages thrive, download our eBook Each Day to the Fullest.