6 Reasons that Community Living Is Independent Living
I’m rarely surprised when I hear someone say, “I will never move out of my house.” I hear that a lot. Very few people see community living as an option; they see it as a last resort. The thing most people fear as they age is losing their independence.
Our culture perpetuates the myth that senior living is where old, abandoned sick people wait to die. We say, “We’re putting our parents in a home.” There’s no independence in that. No choice. If that’s senior living, then who in her right mind would want it?
But the reality may surprise you. In truth, people living in communities often have fuller, more independent lives than those who don’t.
The Independence Illusion
From an outsider’s perspective, moving to a retirement community looks like you’re giving up personal freedom, but where does that idea come from? No one takes away your cellphone or hides your car keys on move-in day. Community living is about access to quality healthcare, reliable transportation, and healthful meals — not restriction.
Take a hard look at community living versus the reality of owning a home. How many senior citizens who live at home rely heavily on friends and family for transportation or pay for the services they can no longer perform themselves? As we age, what we imagine to be independence is often independence we borrow from those around us.
One of our residents had offers from both of her children to move in with them. She had been self-sufficient and independent her whole life and didn’t want to lose that part of her identity. As grateful as she was for the offers, she knew that accepting would have been the wrong choice for her.
In her community, she has forged new friendships, tapped into her creative side by writing a book of poetry, adopted a rescue dog, and — most important — protected her relationships with her children from an awkward role reversal. She’s thriving in a community that supports the life she wants to live, and she’s as close to her family as ever.
When community living becomes one of the choices for retirement living — along with staying in your home or moving in with a loved one — you have the time to find the best fit for your personality and needs, and the chance to move before a health event forces you to do so.
After you move, you have the time and freedom to enjoy these six benefits of community life:
- Hassle-Free Maintenance
People are emotionally attached to their homes, and moving can be difficult. One of our residents put it quite well when he said that a home is a wonderful thing — until it becomes a burden. If a home feels like more of a challenge than a joy, then it might be time to start looking around to see what other options are available.
In a house, you put your health at risk trying to keep up with regular maintenance. You may also feel like a burden for asking favors of your friends and family. In a community, there are people whose job is to help you with those same tasks.
- The Freedom to Be Yourself
Cooking, cleaning, shopping, and other routine tasks take up more of the day as you get older. Living in a community means never having to cook again unless you want to. You’ll be amazed at how much more free time you have.
- Access to Amenities
If you’re living at home, a simple trip to the gym or a club meeting can require serious planning. Communities bring the activities to you — with access to clubs, classes, and fitness right outside your front door.
- Easy Transportation
No more going through your contacts trying to remember in which order to ask people for rides. Most communities provide transportation to appointments, shopping centers, and local attractions. You can meet friends for lunch, continue attending your favorite church, or even get a ride to the airport if you feel like a bigger adventure. You can also take your car along to most communities.
- People Power
Isolation is a serious problem for older adults. Nearly 2 million senior citizens in America rarely or never leave their homes. Being with other people doesn’t limit your personal independence, but being alone does pose risks to your health and happiness — risks that community living can help to alleviate.
- Personalized Healthcare
In a community, staff members know your individual medical needs and can get you help quickly. We’ve heard countless stories of couples who used to act as caregivers to each other but now rely on staff so they can be partners again.
Time and time again, residents in retirement communities tell us they wish they had moved in sooner. They value their independence just as much as anyone. The only difference is that they’ve experienced firsthand how a community can enhance their lives.
The desire to stay someplace well-loved and familiar — even long after it’s clear that a move would make life easier — is understandable. Our emotional connections to our homes are real. We don’t want to lose who we have spent our lives becoming, and change of any kind can be daunting. But having conversations about the independence you gain in community living can help people see that making the move is an empowering choice — one that leads to the freedom to keep being ourselves and living our best lives.
John H. Cochrane III is the president and CEO of be.group, a nonprofit organization committed to revolutionize and redefine senior living by offering ways to help older adults continue to learn and grow.