‘Disney Worlds’ for adults?

Know your housing options: Staying home or going into a nursing home aren’t the only routes

Just as we change throughout our lives, our lifestyles and housing needs also change.

Different spaces fit different phases. Moving forward in later life should take you to a setting that’s smaller and more manageable, with less (or no) responsibility for maintenance and upkeep.

You’re also wise to seek out housing options that afford you some available support and assistance, along with plentiful opportunities for engagement and interaction with others.

Why? Because these factors will contribute to your health and well-being, will help you retain your freedom and autonomy, and can provide security and peace of mind for you and your family.

By making the right choice about your next home, you can also free up time and space to devote to your favorite people and activities so you can live each day to the fullest, and make the most of your golden years.

With growth, progress

Unlike the not-so-distant past when the only housing options for older adults were aging in place at home or moving into a nursing home, options today cover a broad spectrum.

Unfortunately, the general public’s understanding of these options hasn’t kept pace with the changes within the senior housing industry.

Most people still think of the old traditional nursing home when senior housing is mentioned or discussed. They don’t understand that nursing care facilities are now an option the vast majority of older adults may never even need to consider because of all the new types of housing now available.

Due to the substantial growth of our aging population, senior housing has emerged as a major focus for new construction, along with the development of new concepts and ideas.

These include 55-and-older active-adult communities, senior apartments, elder co-housing arrangements and retirement communities.

Senior housing also includes assisted-living communities, nursing care/rehab facilities and memory care units for older adults who are dealing with dementia.

Open to possibilities

The best way to overcome any misconceptions you may have about senior housing is to visit a few in your area. Ask people you know for suggestions or check those mentioned in this magazine.

Call a variety of places that look like they might fit your situation, request a tour, meet the staff, talk to some of the residents and ask lots of questions. And don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision until you’re ready.

Senior-friendly by design

Residential communities designed specifically for seniors offer a wide range of advantages. Most provide in-house dining options, along with housekeeping and maintenance services.

Many communities also offer optional services and amenities for residents — everything from transportation and on-site concierge services to physical and mental fitness programs, art studios, lifelong learning programs and sponsored trips to cultural and sports events.

Some also cover the full spectrum of housing types on the same site, ranging from units focused on independent living to units offering assisted living, nursing/rehab care and memory care.

This type of senior living community, often called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), provides a one-stop setting that can meet your current and future housing needs.

With more married couples growing older together, this type of housing is especially beneficial because it allows spouses to live in the same community, even if they don’t age at the same rate or in the same way, and even if they need different services.

Condominium life

Moving from a house into a condo is another option. A good friend of mine lived in a condo in San Antonio for many years after she sold her house. She connected with several women who lived in nearby units.

These women, like my friend, were all older and without spouses. They went to the theater together, participated in the same book clubs and, most important, they watched out for each other.

When my friend saw age 90 fast approaching, she sold her condo and moved into a retirement community. Today she has a lovely two-bedroom apartment, and remains active with her book clubs, water volleyball and volunteer activities.

If you make a move sooner rather than later — while you’re still healthy and active — you’ll have lots of options to choose from. By acting early, you can weigh the pros and cons of the best ones for your situation, and make a decision that feels right for you and makes sense for your future.

Even if another move is required down the road, the hardest part of your living transition — the big downsizing move from your house — will be behind you.

Sue Ronnenkamp is a nationally recognized expert in the area of retirement living and later-life transitions. Her programs and resources for senior living communities focus on planning ahead and embracing change. She is currently the corporate director of community life for Philadelphia-based Wesley Enhanced Living senior-living communities.