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Writing by Aerin Atinsky

Artwork by Aeneas Eaton

There are social outings, opportunities for new hobbies and activities, friends within walking distance, delicious meals prepared for you, housekeeping services and even entertainment—there’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to community living. 

ProMatura, a market research firm focusing on residential communities, reports a nearly 90 percent satisfaction rate of residents in senior living communities, saying residents are “significantly more likely than non-residents to have enjoyed life and been happy.” Unfortunately, however, conversations regarding the topic are often negative or rejected. 

This stigmatization around senior living has serious, reverberating effects, engendering a lack of understanding about what it is and the importance of knowing when to move. 

It’s time for some education and debunking.

When to move

Elizabeth Dupree, director of sales and marketing at Edgehill, a retirement community in Stamford, says people often consider moving too late in life. 

“It usually takes some sort of event to trigger looking at a community,” she notes. 

Dupree says the best time to look is when you’re in your late 60s to mid-to-late 70s. 

“Most seniors have made plans for their estate, funeral and burial, but they have no plan as to what they’re going to do from now until then,” she says. “I think people need to be prepared for the cost and plan. Studies have shown that moving to communities at a younger age increases your quality of life and longevity, compared to folks that wait and don’t move until there’s a life-altering episode.” 

Being proactive about your choice and making a plan helps ensure your decision is not made under duress, should something bad happen. 

“It can be made peacefully, cerebrally and not in crisis,” Dupree explains. “Make the decision while it’s still a choice, not a need. Once it’s a need, that changes the type of decision and who’s in control of the decision.”

“There are physical, psychosocial and cognitive signs,” says Leslie Florio, regional director of sales at Maplewood Senior Living, which has communities in New York, Connecticut and other states. According to Florio, some signs include: 

  • Difficulty keeping a calendar or planning daily activities.
  • Disinterest in socializing. 
  • Disorganized home and/or hoarding.
  • Inability to prepare nutritionally diverse meals.
  • Necessary home repairs left unfulfilled. 
  • No longer driving or shouldn’t be driving.
  • Not leaving your house.
  • Not paying bills.
  • Poor sleep schedule. 
  • Wandering.

There are more general challenges to consider as well, such as: 

  • Concerns with carrying laundry up and down stairs.
  • Getting from your car to your house.
  • Handling yard work or housework. 
  • Managing during a major storm (basements flooding, trees falling, etc.). 

“The time to start looking is when you start to feel overwhelmed or concerned about your safety in your home,” says Dupree.

Why you should move

If you’re reluctant to move, you’re not alone. Florio says everyone is resistant. 

“Whether you’re 20 or 104, it’s an emotional pull to leave a place you love,” she says. 

But it’s also important to be aware of the risks, like running out of medication and not being able to readily replace it or slipping and falling, resulting in a life-changing injury. There are also nutritional concerns, especially when living alone. Seniors may either become disinterested or unable to shop and cook for themselves, so they begin to rely on microwaveable meals, which likely won’t meet all their nutritional needs.

“In a community environment, all these things are in place and allow for a person to have a very lively, healthy and successful life,” highlights Dupree. 

Isolation is another huge factor to consider. 

“Loneliness is a big part of brain activity and factors into longevity,” Dupree explains. “Keeping active, meeting people, having a nice social circle—they’re all things community environments provide.” 

Where to move 

Doing your research is crucial to making sure you find the right fit. There are a variety of senior living opportunities, with levels of support and services ranging from complete independence to total dependence. Some options include:

  • 55 and over
  • Assisted living 
  • Assisted living with memory care 
  • Continuing care retirement (a/k/a life plan) communities
  • Independent living establishments
  • Memory care 
  • Skilled nursing facilities

Dupree recommends choosing your location first. Do you want to live in your current community? Do you want to live closer to a child? Next, make sure you like it. 

“If you walk into a community and your first impression is positive, continue investigating it,” Dupree recommends. “Stay overnight, go for lunch or dinner, participate in events, and more.” 

And, figure out what type of space and environment you want. 

“Make sure you tour places, and make sure you’re asking questions,” says Florio. “Ask about their culinary program and menus, their philosophies, staff training and tenure, apartment sizes and layouts, 24/7 nursing, transportation availability for doctor’s appointments and more.” 

Moving day

“There’s an entire industry of senior move managers, and it’s one of the best things that can be done,” Dupree says. “They will visit the community’s apartment, then go to the senior’s home and help them choose the specific items to bring to their new apartment. They will pack up their stuff, move it and unpack everything. It helps the seniors and removes the burden from the adult children.” 

Upon moving in, communities usually have an integration plan for new residents, from welcome committees and community ambassadors to events. 

“It’s a transition, and it’ll take time, but all new residents should realize they have an entire community to lean on and help them,” adds Florio. 

And now, every day can be customized, with many options to choose from. 

“You have a village at your fingertips,” says Florio. “Multiple caregivers and chefs, programming throughout the day and meals in beautiful dining rooms. And your family gets to become your family again, not your caregivers.”

“I really feel that living life to its fullest happens in a community environment,” Dupree adds. “The choice is to stay in your house alone and figure out what to have for dinner every night, or you can come to a community and participate in a Mardi Gras celebration, a Valentine’s Day dinner, brunch on Sundays and so much more.” 

This article was published in the March/April 2024 print edition of Connect to Northern Westchester.

Aerin Atinsky
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Aerin Atinsky is a college freshman who is currently studying in Dublin. In high school, she was a student ambassador for News Decoder and the executive editor for her school paper. Aerin is passionate about writing and film and is pursuing print and video journalism. She also has a shameless obsession with Quentin Tarantino films, a love for rock music and might be Harry Potter's biggest fan.