Evaluating your senior living options: Knowing what’s available, knowing what you want, understanding what’s possible
Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday, November 17, 2019 ~ by Eddie Roach
Making choices about retirement living would be much easier if you could predict the future and learn exactly how your housing and care needs will change as you age. However, because there is no way of knowing, the next best thing is preparing as well as possible. But, it’s not an easy task.
“While I’m a smart and educated women, trying to understand retirement community options was very challenging,” said Betty Lipkin, who recently moved to MorningStar Senior Living of Sparks, a retirement community. “I even found that what I thought I knew wasn’t necessarily always accurate.”
Lipkin’s experience isn’t uncommon. There are many types of senior living communities, each providing different services and amenities. Adding to the complexity is a lack of industry standards for pricing.
What services do I need? What happens if my situation changes? Can anybody out there explain the differences in simple terms? Those are some questions, Katherine Hurt, director of Marketing at MorningStar hears often.
“Many people are looking for amenities that can support their daily lives,” she said. “Dining services, housekeeping, no maintenance, a simpler way of living. They may think of it, or refer to it, as assisted living, when in reality it is independent living, with all the perks.”
Meanwhile, there are others that should be looking at options that cater to their long-term care needs, but don’t know what to ask for.
“I also consult with people who are making difficult decisions because they realize they can no longer live at home without assistance,” Hurt said. “Maybe medications are being forgotten or they are falling too much. What they need now is just what it sounds like–assistance with living. Assisted Living. They still feel independent, but support is needed.”
These are only two of literally dozens of options.
From campuses that offer resort-style living to those providing a continuum of care, the face of senior living has changed.
“Familiarize yourself with the terminology,” said Annette Junell, downsizing coach with Junell Realty Group’s Retired Moves Division at Keller Williams. “The marketing messages of these communities can be hard to decipher, even for those of us who work in the industry.”
There are 55+ communities, which are much like any other neighborhood except that your neighbors are likely in the same stage of life. These neighborhoods or apartments often offer shared amenities that encourage healthy living and a sense of community.
Then there are independent living communities that simply aim to make life a bit easier for aging adults, while assisted living communities are geared towards helping those who need some assistance in daily life with bathing, dressing, doing laundry and taking medications. Both independent and assisted living communities have recreation schedules that are unique to each communities’ residents and their abilities.
There are also communities such as memory care, long-term care, skilled care, rehabilitation, and nursing, to just mention a few, that assist with specific health needs.
Continuing care retirement communities are yet another option. These communities offer accommodations for people who are active and independent but are planning ahead. Generally, people move in when they are younger, having the option of moving between levels of care as the need arises.
“In a continuum of care community, independent living offers many desirable amenities, and opportunities to engage with others. It’s like a cruise ship. You do only what you want and nothing that you don’t want to,” Hurt explained.
It seems that untangling the distinction is difficult for everybody—even the pros.
“Sometimes personal consultations can last a couple of hours, especially when they are hearing this information for the first time,” Junell said. “I have sat with really smart and educated people who admit that this is very overwhelming to them.”
A good decision can only grow from accurate information. Unfortunately, misinformation often influences the decision-making process, said Brett Junell, also a downsizing coach and co-owner of Junell Moves Made Easy, a Seniors Move Management company.
“When we meet with families about senior living options they are often misinformed,” he said. “They sometimes get information second hand from well-meaning friends or neighbors but it’s often inaccurate. For instance, they think they have to give ‘all their money’ to a retirement community when they move in. This simply isn’t the case but because they heard it somewhere, they assume it’s true and it keeps them from investigating the real costs.”
Once people understand that there are options available that align with their retirement goals, mapping out a plan becomes easier.
“It’s like a lightbulb goes on,” Junell said. “What scares us most is the unknown, but when people truly understand their options, they feel empowered.”
Having the option to eat out when you don’t want to cook is one of the perks of senior living communities.
Understanding the options can be a life changer, Lipkin said.
“Once I ‘got it’ it was easy to make a decision about where and when to move,” she said. “I felt so relieved and it made the move so much easier.”
In an upcoming seminar, The Truth About 55+ Retired Living Options, experts will answer questions such as “What types of communities are available and their differences?” and share some tips about planning for the future.
“The Truth about 55+ Living Options” seminar will be held on November 21 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the RSAR Building at 5650 Riggins Court, Reno (near Meadowood Mall).
The seminar is free for seniors and their guests. Pre-registration is required because seating is limited.
Seat reservations can be made online
at www.RetiredLivingTruthSeries.com or by calling (775) 432-6398.
This article is sponsored by Annette & Brett Junell in conjunction with the above sponsors.