March 5, 2013

Adapting to a Retirement Community

This is a guest post from Sarah Jennings on the steps one can take to make the move to a retirement community as stress-free as possible. Whether a retirement community is in your future or maybe for a parent or relative, I find her suggestions and ideas wothwhile.


After retiring, many people choose to live in active retirement communities. Unlike assisted living homes, retirement communities are designed to keep newly retired individuals living independently but with an array of activities, hobbies, and social events to choose from.
However, as appealing as those services are, it can be hard to adjust to living in a different place than the one where you made memories in raising children, developing your career, and forming the person you are today. It’s often difficult at first to really feel at peace with the decision, but just like any major life change, it’s normal to experience cold feet and second thoughts. Chances are you made the right choice, but just like any species on the planet, being in a new environment is all about learning how to adapt.

Make it Feel Like Home

As obvious as this tip is, it’s normal for new residents to not decorate and adorn their new home right away, if at all. Remember, your new apartment is your home; it’s not a dorm room where you’ll be moving out it nine months. Don’t be afraid to go all out and really get creative with it as bare walls and naked rooms can make it hard to truly feel at ease.  Making it feel like a safe, relaxing, and comfortable place you can retreat will really speed up the adjusting process. Hang up pictures of friends and family, set and decorate the table, and get all your old, familiar mementos out and ready to display. However, try to avoid making it look exactly like your old home; let this be a new chapter in your life, and it’s important to let your new home be just that: your new home, not a replica of your old one.

Be a Neighbor

This doesn’t mean a quick wave to the person who lives across from you or an occasional, “How are you?” This is one circumstance where it’s good to be old fashioned; introduce yourself, offer your neighbors some baked goods or a glass of wine, and really get to know them. This is what the term “community” is all about. Getting to know the people who live around you allows for friendships to flourish, and the feeling of familiarity will make easing into your new home go much smoother.

Get Involved

Your retirement community most likely offers a large variety of events and activities to choose from. Avoid being a homebody, and get active. The sooner you start taking advantage of the available activities, the sooner you will warm up to the facility. Getting involved is the best way to meet other residents with similar interests, and making new friends is the key to feeling at home in a new place. Even just taking a good book down to the lobby to read is a simple way to surround yourself with others. Keeping yourself isolated does nothing but prevent you from experiencing your new life to the fullest, and a large percent of your rent goes to the amenities offered. You might as well take advantage of them and have a good time.

Keep in Contact with Friends and Family

One of the biggest arguments against living in an active retirement community stems from the fear of losing contact with close friends and family. However, it’s all about how you personally make an effort to keep in touch, and most facilities are more than happy to allow your guests to visit and even stay overnight. Minimizing your contact with friends and family can contribute to resenting your decision later on, but remember you’re not on a desert island; you just changed locations. Have your family over frequently to share meals or attend events, or schedule a coffee date with an old friend or neighbor. Sometimes, nothing is quite as comforting and enjoyable than spending time with a familiar face.

Talk with the Staff

It’s just as important to get to know the staff as it is other residents. It’s a good idea to build a friendly relationship with any them as they’re the ones responsible for taking care of any issues you have with the facility. Also, the employees see new residents move in all the time, so they most likely have some tips and ideas that would be helpful in getting you better acquainted with the place.

Moving into a retirement community is a major life decision, and it can take some time to fully adjust. However, by making your new place comfortable, actively reaching out to connect with others, and keeping old ties close, the initial hesitation will ease into a feeling of satisfaction and excitement about your future. It’s a brand new phase of your life; you might as well do all you can do make it one of the best ones yet.

Sarah Jennings has been taking care of others her whole life. In 2005, she moved her mother into her family home. She uses her personal experience to share with others about caring for the elderly. She currently writes on behalf of Brookdale Senior Living.
Note: I received no compsensation for this post or the links included.


  1. Sarah, you offer outstanding tips on making this living transition. The methods you describe are real life habits often difficult to initiate if you've not done so before. So much is getting out of the chair and doing something, anything.

    I enjoyed your post.


  2. I must face the fact that my wife is 73 years old and that I am seven years younger. Since we have no children of any relatives around for that matter I will likely spend part of my life alone. Thanks, Sarah for making a retirement living community look like an attractive option for my future...

  3. Michael-Thank you for the kind words, and I'm glad you enjoyed my article!

    rjscorner-I sincerely wish you the best, and I hope my advice helps you out! :]

  4. Interesting post! I've been looking into this for awhile now and am having trouble finding sites for what I'd call empty nester housing. Not actual assisted living, but more along the line of what might be interesting to newer retirees.
    The neighborhood I currently live in is such, but in looking at other states I seem to end up at sites for assisted living rentals.
    My own neighborhood is not officially and over 55 place, so it wouldn't be on any sites listed as such either. Any ideas?

  5. Nice article (someone shared it on Google+). I think getting involved in whatever way possible is one of the best things someone can do to acclimated to a new facility, community or surroundings. Helps if there's a good activities and social calendar offered.
    Nice writeup Sarah!

  6. Taking a loved one to a retirement home is never easy. My family has had to do it three times, and all three times were pretty hard. When you think about the care and help they will get though, it makes it all worth it.


Inappropriate comments will be deleted