Today I took my fit and active 83 year old mother to visit a retirement apartment. We had seen it advertised in the newspaper and it looked like a reasonable option for her to consider. It was a self-contained apartment, smaller than the house and garden that she currently occupies, with a communal laundry, lounge area, on-site daytime warden and moving there would release some of her capital.

At present she has a busy life, is healthy and, since the death of my father three years ago, has taken up bridge, Egyptology, tai-chi, joined a walking group and maintains several other interests. Hardly a slouch! As we walked around the garden and building and then looked at the small apartment I saw that every area had alarms fitted in case a resident needed assistance. I looked at my mother’s face. She was clearly thinking, do I leave my beloved home of over forty years for this?

Let’s consider the dilemma of moving into a retirement home.

– A house can become a real burden over the years. Cleaning a large family home becomes increasingly onerous. Maintenance and upkeep are expensive and can become tiresome. Even if the financial aspect of repair work is not a problem the thought of dust, upheaval and workmen around the house can become overwhelming. The garden which used to be a pleasure can start to become a big responsibility. Sometimes help can be arranged to ease the burden a little, but many older people don’t notice or want to admit that they need a little support and try to cope with less and less success.

– Down-sizing into a smaller apartment often means a big reduction in responsibility. Certainly apartments involve someone else doing the external maintenance, looking after the garden. Often there is an annual service charge to cover these overheads and that charge needs to be considered, but at least big responsibilities like the roof, external painting and cleaning the communal areas are looked after.

– Moving requires possessions to be dealt with and reduced. Many people use this as time to sort through their paperwork, clear out old files and out-dated forms. Often furniture has to be down-sized. Decorating and buying new carpets, curtains and furniture can inject excitement into the move and make it feel a positive fresh start.

– Money is often released which provides the potential to enjoy life in different ways. Being able to purchase new things, a new car, to enjoy travelling, to take holidays without fear of the expense are important advantages. Also it provides the opportunity to financially support family, grandchildren and see them enjoy the benefits of any help given to them.

– Many retirement homes provide active social calendars for residents. The mother of a friend of mine moved into an apartment block and within a very short time had put a note through everyone’s door inviting them to a meeting in the communal lounge. The first time she organised coffee and biscuits and then got everyone enthusiastic about participating in regular games afternoons, cards, bingo, talks, music evenings. Over time she introduced day trips and brought new life into the place.

– Moving while one is still fit and well seems to be the key to success in a retirement home. That way there is the opportunity to circulate and get to know ones neighbours, to become involved in activities, join in, make friends. Leaving it too late can mean that a person moves into their apartment and no one knows that they’re there. Moving in sooner rather than later provides the opportunity to make friends, participate and build relationships.

The prospect of moving into retirement accommodation can feel daunting, like acknowledging that one’s life is coming to an end. In reality it can be a time of reduced responsibility, more money in the bank, plus friends and an active social life on the doorstep. For people with a positive attitude it can be a fulfilling and enjoyable time in their lives.
About The Author:

Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief, with couples in crisis to improve communications and understanding and with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.

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