For many of us, senior living isn’t a consideration until it becomes a necessity. So when senior care is no longer a matter of “if” but “when,” your loved ones may have trouble getting on board with the idea.
“I often hear, ‘I’m not ready to move to a retirement community,’” says Sarah Short, director of residency planning at Landis Homes in Lititz, Pennsylvania. “Some people think you have to be ready to die before you consider leaving your home.”
Short, who has been working at continuing care retirement communities for more than 25 years, is no stranger to seniors’ reluctance to move to assisted living. But she believes the move is a wise one.
“There are so many things to do in a retirement community that allow you to have a more active and richer life than if you stay in your home,” she says.
Here, Short highlights some of the most common objections to senior living, and offers tips to help your loved ones overcome their objections and accept the change.
Objection: Denial about age and mortality
It can be tough to accept the reality of aging when, in our minds, we feel like we’re still in our 20s or 30s. And, as Short points out, “looking at a retirement community can feel like admitting you’re getting older.”
Overcome it: Remind your loved ones that aging is a gift—it means they’re alive and they can continue to share their wealth of wisdom and experience. And moving to a senior living community isn’t a sign of defeat. Rather, they may actually be adding years to their life, says Short: “Studies have shown that individuals living in retirement communities tend to live longer.”
Objection: Negative perception of senior living communities
Today’s senior living communities offer so many opportunities to stay active, says Short. But if your loved ones have a mental picture of disengaged seniors parked in front of a TV all day long, of course they will want no part of that experience.
Overcome it: To challenge this misperception, Short recommends touring various communities. That way, you can get a good look at all the amenities available, such as fitness centers, wellness programs, continuing education classes, and more. She also suggests talking to residents during your visit. “Testimonials from happy residents can be more important than a community that looks nice,” she says.
Objection: Financial concerns
Some seniors don’t want to spend the money to move to assisted living, or they fear they can’t afford it. What they fail to consider, says Short, are the costs to maintain their current home, particularly when they have to pay others to perform the upkeep.
Overcome it: “For parents who don’t want to spend money on an entrance fee for a retirement community and would rather save that money for their children, you can emphasize that having your parents safe, happy, and healthy is the best gift they can give,” says Short.
Objection: Fear of change
Many of us, particularly seniors, have qualms about moving to an unfamiliar environment. “Even if we are struggling in our own home, we are familiar with where we live and all the challenges,” says Short. “Change becomes more difficult as we age.”
Overcome it: Short recommends asking your loved ones “what if” questions to help them take a realistic look at their situation. You might ask questions such as, What if you can’t take care of the house? and What if one of you passes away and the surviving spouse is left alone in the house? “Almost all couples would rather move to a retirement community together—neither wants to be left alone to care for the house if their spouse dies first,” she says.
Objection: Anxiety about downsizing
Paring down a lifetime of treasured things can be difficult and downright overwhelming. “Some people even become paralyzed by the thought of going through their belongings and getting rid of things,” says Short. Plus, your loved ones might not have the physical stamina required for the job.
Overcome it: If you’re available and your loved ones are willing, you can help them through the downsizing process. If not, consider hiring a professional organizer or senior move manager to lighten the load. Professionals can help with downsizing, packing, moving, unpacking, and more.
“Waiting to make a move to a retirement community when you are in the worst possible health of your life is not advisable,” says Short. Instead, start talking with your loved ones now to help them overcome objections and discover the value of senior living.
CHIME IN: What’s your best advice for handling loved ones’ objections to senior living?