The Cassia Life

The Many Upsides of Moving to a Senior Living Community

The Cassia Life
By Jesse Watkins, Cassia’s own resident blogger

The world at large probably wonders why many seniors choose to stay in their own home as long as possible rather than move to a care center designed and staffed to meet their every need and wish.

But reasons for and against leaving your home behind, perhaps forever, are certainly substantial. The tasks may seem insurmountable, and can bring on a paralysis of decision that lasts years! Little wonder, for moving requires you to:

  • Pack up everything
  • Get help from relatives and friends for moving day, or hire it done.
  • Leave good neighbors behind.
  • Give away or sell much of the furniture you have had for years and that you love.
  • Decide against keeping items that you know you’ll wish later you’d kept.
  • Eventually quit driving your car and sell it.

As we grow older, some of us are fortunate enough never to move as a senior. Most of us, however, are not so fortunate—we will make a move. The trick is not to wait so long that it’s more of a physical and mental undertaking than we’re up to.

If staying put in your home does happen, whatever the reason, taking care of yourself will eventually take most of your energy and time. Little will be left for the fun stuff, for being with the people you know and love. Precipitously we become more and more isolated and alone, isolated from the very things we stayed in our own home to have.

And of course the house doesn’t shrink to match our shrinking physical ability to do housework. The snowfall that needs shoveling requires a kind neighbor.

Grown kids may continue to come home for the holidays, or for a longer stay to get “re-grounded.” Wow, we love it! But the work and maybe the worry it imposes get heavier as we get older.

So how does a person decide when to make the move to a senior community? It can be simple enough, contends Dr. Erskine Caperton, an arthritis specialist who tracks my own case of the affliction. “I’ll move when I become unable to take care of myself,” says the St. Paul physician. Not there yet, he still sees a full load of patients daily in spite of his 79 years.

As for myself, now 89 and in relatively good health, I made the move to senior housing three years ago when my wife needed skilled nursing care. Augustana in downtown Minneapolis, a major senior complex, met the widely different needs of us both. My one-bedroom independent living apartment was only a five-minute indoor walk to my wife’s maximum care room. Since we’re far from wealthy, the expanding care she needed around the clock would have been impossible at home.

The responsibility of keeping dad and/or mom safe and content in their own home often falls on the shoulders of their grown offspring. Steve Sandberg and his three siblings made it possible for their dad, Maynard Sandberg, to live in his own house until he died recently in at 96. “We helped a lot,” explains Steve. “Dad wanted strongly to sleep in his own bed, relax on his own sofa, and eat at his own kitchen table. I supported that. At the end I was staying overnight with him.”

A brief study of the choices made by the 350 residents in the assisted living apartments where I live, shows that 63% of us are receiving no assistance. In other words, we do our own housework, laundry and perhaps our own meal preparation. So why did we move before those needs became actual? I haven’t yet asked, but my guess is that one reason is realization of our upcoming need for assistance without having to move at an older age.

Jim Unglaube, 78, of Bloomington, MN, and his wife LaRue, although still active and in their own home, visited senior facilities that would provide the opportunity to live in community with other seniors. “We’re still physically able to travel, and do,” said Jim, “But as we get older and are less able to be out and about, we want to have neighbors that we know and care about and who know and care about us. So we’ve put our names on the waiting list of a community that we feel will meet those needs.” 

Makes one wonder then, if living in shared community of like-minded seniors is the ultimate goal to keep in mind—starting early enough in our senior years.