If you’re here, you’re already looking into new living options, and that means you’re off to a great start. The first step is always research, and we’ll start by breaking the myth that these so-called senior living communities are scary. Don’t think chair aerobics, white walls, and institutional hallways; think laughter, friends, and weeks filled with productive and purposeful living that moves as fast or as slow as you’d like. We’re talking margaritas before dinner, cornhole championships, birthday piñatas, painting classes, and lots of dancing. Yes, these communities are safe and care-driven, but they don’t have to be boring.
Don’t get us wrong. Like everything else in life, the “bad boy” groups are out there. There are communities just in it for the money, often treating people like transactions. But that’s quickly becoming the exception—not the rule.
Of course, there’s always a little truth in every stereotype. That’s why these conversations are so difficult to start. Who wants to feel like they’re losing their freedom to make choices? Images of The Addams Family mansion roll through your mind; that can stir anger, sadness, and defensiveness, but the conversation doesn’t need to be so frightening. Here are a few tips on how to keep it real (and way less stressful).
Who wakes up and says, “I can’t wait to drink my coffee and run headlong into a difficult conversation”? Yeah, no one. We get why putting this off is appealing. Bringing up new living options can be hard because a lot of factors play into the conversation. But, if you do put it off too long and wait until a crisis hits, the whole process is going to be WAY more emotional and stressful. It’ll feel like running away from your situation rather than heading into a well-thought-out, new one.
Unfortunately, for most American families, delaying this convo has been the norm for many, many years. So, buckle up, buttercup. We’re changing that, too. Start the conversation early with kindness, and make sure everyone has a voice. If you think about it, at its most basic level, the conversation is about simplifying and right-sizing your life. It’s a win-win.
If we told you that you have to have this conversation tomorrow, you’d probably dread it even more, right? Your loved one feels the same way. No one wants to feel like they’re being forced into something. And that’s the opposite of what we want to do here, but we do want to get your loved one thinking about their realities.
Are they safe living at home alone? Are they confident driving themselves? Do they stress about maintaining the house and paying bills? No one gets psyched about these questions—duh—and they may not be thinking about them truthfully if you don’t ask. So, do it. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and make choices based on how they really feel, not how you think they should feel.
You want honesty from the communities you’re looking into, and your loved one wants honesty from you. When talking about senior living, it’ll seriously help if we’re all honest from the get-go.
So, if you’re worried about your loved one, tell them. If you spend daily time and energy wondering if they’re okay at home alone, tell them. If you found a cool-looking community in the neighborhood, tell them. Aging parents don’t want to burden their adult children. If you’re honest about your worries, fears, or stresses, they’ll be honest and more open-minded, too.
We mentioned the “bad boy” groups already. Yeah, they’re around, but they’re not the rule anymore. Today’s senior living communities, elder living communities, assisted living communities—whatever you want to call them—are made to improve lives, not ruin them.
Imagine sitting at home alone with nothing to do but watch TV. Then, imagine days filled with meeting new people in the same season of life as you, sharing stories, cornhole, painting classes, drinks around a fire pit followed by gourmet dinners. Do you want to live in a home you have to maintain yourself or live in a suite you never have to worry about? It’s not a hard choice.
Plus, every data point shows that people were made to live in a community. Living as a hermit works for crabs—not for people. So, don’t feel guilty about this. If anything, feel jealous. Your loved one is going to have more fun stories than you pretty soon.
Traditional senior living terminology is loaded with extra baggage. Have we mentioned we hate the term “senior living?” Since we’ve already ditched the community stereotypes, let’s also ditch words like “facility,” “patient,” and “nursing home.” These aren’t nursing homes, and this isn’t clinical. This is living.
These are homes filled with team members and residents who are friends and neighbors. These are communities offering more fun things to do than you can fit into one week (and a lot more than you could do at home alone).
We know we’re making this conversation sound easy (and seriously, it shouldn’t be scary), but it could still be difficult. If you get anger or defensiveness in response to every question or comment, back off for a bit. Give it some time. That’s the beauty of starting early. You don’t have external pressure forcing you to advance it. Yeah, it’s important to start these conversations early, but it won’t always happen the way you want it to.
It could take a more frightening moment to really convince a loved one it’s time to move. That’s okay. In the meantime, you can still research options, learn more about different kinds of communities, and read more articles like this.
“Surprise! We’re moving MeeMaw this week.” You wouldn’t want it to happen to you, so don’t let it happen to the rest of the family. If you involve everyone from the start, you get more backup, more ideas, more friendly faces, and more help with research. In short, you’ll be less stressed. Sounds good, right?
Don’t bring up senior living the first time without doing your research. You may have ditched the stereotypes and the boring terminology, but now, you need to pass that onto your loved one. This can start at the doctor’s office. Find out what your loved one’s needs are or what they could be in the future. Do you need independent living, assisted living, or memory care?
Then, take a field trip. Visit communities in person together and get a real feel for each one. Meet people, taste the food, and ask literally every question that comes to mind (especially if it’s “Would you want to live here?”).