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Stay at Home or Move

Live Comfortably - November 15, 2019

Aging in Place or a Senior Living Community?

How to Decide Which is Right for You

Deciding whether to age in place or move to a senior living community is rarely straightforward. As the traveler in the Robert Frost poem discovers, when two roads diverge, we frequently yearn to take both. But a difficult decision needn’t be a traumatic one. By making a clear-eyed assessment of your needs, desires and resources, you can maximize your chances of living your best life. Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones make that assessment:

Determining Your Needs

For those who don’t need help with their daily routine (dressing, bathing, meal prep and so on), the decision to age in place may seem like an easy one. Life simply goes on. Or does it? It’s important to look at the full picture, which means assessing both physical and emotional needs. Loneliness and isolation can affect anyone at any time, but are a particular risk for older adults. Family and friends may have moved away. Attending clubs, meetings and reunions can become more challenging as we age. A senior living community offers a ready-made solution, nearby neighbors and a community with easy access to everything from book clubs to religious services. For someone looking for companionship and a vibrant social scene, it can be a life-enhancing move.

It’s also important to remember that our needs are not fixed, but constantly evolving. If you choose to age in place, this can present a range of challenges, from minor (extra help with shopping or gardening) to major (nursing care or at-home dietary support). For ongoing, professional assessment of needs, you can join a continuing care at home program, or CCAH. As your needs evolve, so will the care and support assigned to you. Goodwin Living At Home, a CCAH program, allows you to transition from aging in place to an affiliated community if and when you need to.

Crunching the Numbers

Older adults with minimal care needs often discount the idea of moving to a senior living community on the grounds of cost alone. You’ve paid off your mortgage. Why pay a monthly fee to live somewhere else? Even if aging in place is the right decision for now, it’s worth sitting down with your family (and perhaps a financial advisor) to consider scenarios in which costs may rise.

Factors to consider include:

  • Everyday Tasks. From shoveling snow to changing the battery on a smoke alarm, it’s easy to take everyday chores for granted. But as our physical capabilities change, we may find ourselves hiring outside help for even the simplest of tasks. At a senior living community, a helping hand from a trusted professional is usually just a phone call away, and it’s free!
  • Home Modifications. Older homes and older adults are not always a good match. Over time, you may need to make adaptations to the space, such as installing grab bars or remodeling the kitchen. Sketching out a budget for upgrades before they become urgent can help you decide whether those investments are worthwhile.
  • Hidden Costs & Benefits Costs. In-home care and retirement community monthly fees are relatively easy to add up and compare. Dig a little deeper, however, and you will often find hidden costs. For example, consider the family member who works reduced hours in order to help out an older relative with their daily chores. If the latter were to move to a senior living community, their costs would rise. But so would the income of the family member, who could now work more hours. A comprehensive cost analysis should take into account costs carried by your support network.

Deciding What’s Best For You

If after assessing your needs and resources you still feel undecided, consider yourself normal. This is a personal decision, and you are weighing priorities and emotions known only to you.

One trap that’s easy to fall into is to confuse pros and cons with possibilities and impossibilities. For example, many people would list “loss of independence” in the “cons” column for senior living communities. But if getting out and about is an important part of your lifestyle, it could be you simply need to look for a community that facilitates that. At Goodwin Living, for example, many residents are active in voluntary and charitable work across Northern Virginia, something we encourage through our resident engagement program.

As for aging in place, we already discussed how it can lead to increased isolation and a declining social life. But again, these negative consequences can be mitigated with the right plan. A continuing care at home program might offer you access to events and activities at an affiliated senior living community. That way, you can experience some of the benefits of the community without moving there permanently.

Ultimately, this decision is yours. But regardless of whether you choose to become a member of the Goodwin Living family, we’d be happy to help you make it. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 703.578.7201 for an informal discussion about your options. We would also love to have you visit our communities, where you can meet with a senior living counselor.


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