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Downsizing

Downsizing

At some point after late middle age most adults begin re-evaluating the importance of the “things” they have acquired throughout their lives. They will most likely also be re-assessing their living space requirements and the nature and importance of their relationships. Many will want to downsize their lives in these aspects. This will require planning.

One may undertake a number of approaches to reducing the material possessions which are no longer needed or wanted. Family should generally be given first option to these things. In my own case I have come to realize, however, that, like others I know, someone’s prized collections of things or even family nostalgia may be of little interest to their children. In this event, there are many organizations such as The Salvation Army which are happy to accept a large majority of these items. The main thing is building the will to just let go.

Reducing living space can be more complicated, and is not really an option for many. Those individuals who have neither the means nor the desire to relocate to retirement communities will have to age in place unless they are willing to live with their children or other family members, something many don’t want to do. One might then decide to reduce the amount of space being utilized within one’s current residence by closing off unused rooms or reconfiguring the space actually needed. One might also opt to share the residence and the costs of its maintenance with a willing friend or relative.

Finally, as to re-assessing relationships, I have observed that most seniors in late life have come to value old, good friends more than other relationships, even family. The coterie of “casual” friends has been reduced and socializing in groups as well as entertaining have become less important. It is critical then for seniors to maintain, however they can, the relationships with the people who really matter to them.

 

 

Aging in Place

Aging in Place

A majority of Americans either cannot afford Continuing Care or Assisted Care Communities, or they don’t want to spend their last years in this type of institution.  For some, cultural traditions promote the forming of family compounds to provide for the caring of their elders, but for most the options are either aging in place or moving in with their children. Most of the elderly I visited with regularly during my research were determined to develop strategies that would allow them to keep living where they were. These were long retired middle and working class individuals of modest means living in a semi-rural community, probably representative of a significant number of similar communities throughout the country. The majority of the group were determined not to move in with their children because they did not want to be a burden to them.

Aging in place in these circumstances is not easy and requires planning and strategies for survival. Individuals should learn what local services for the aging are available to them through federal, state agencies and local agencies such as human resource centers. One of the most critical issues for these elderly is the lack of available public transportation for day to day errands and medical appointments. Another issue is the high cost of in-home care which is not adequately covered by either Medicare or Medicaid. With both of these issues, seniors have to develop their own resources through prevailing on friends, neighbors and family in addition to use of formal institutional help.

Again though, planning in advance for the inevitable difficulties of advancing age, particularly for those with modest means and a desire to maintain their independence is key.

The CCRC as a Late in Life Living Choice

The CCRC as a Late in Life Living Choice

For many senior citizens who have the means, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is the right choice. This type of community, as opposed to the strictly Assisted Care Community, offers both a gracious lifestyle and the availability of on-premises medical and nursing care. There are downsides to this choice, however, one of them being the high cost. The majority of these facilities require a substantial down payment for admission in addition to the monthly fees for meals, maid service, a base level of assisted care, and other al la cart amenities. Most offer a range of residence options ranging from studio apartments to two or three-bedroom units. Unlike condominiums and co-ops, residents do not “own” their living accommodations, they only acquire the lifetime use of them.

Having lived in this type of community as a guest resident and researcher for a period of several months, I learned a number of things about day-to-day living in this environment. One of these was that most of the residents had entered the facility after a series of residence downsizing, moving from comfortable suburban homes or spacious city apartments, through assisted care and finally to the CCRC option. The main objectives of these individuals seemed to be the downsizing of living space, the ridding of the responsibility of property maintenance, and the ready access to medical and nursing care. Many came on the recommendations of friends who had entered before them, and many formed friendship groups with others from similar backgrounds once there.

Because of the complexity of CCRC contracts, it is highly recommended that potential residents seek legal advice before committing. It is also wise to actually spend several nights as a guest of the community to attain a feel for its environment; most CCRC’s offer this option.