October 4, 2018

Making It Feel Like Home After a Move To a Retirement Community

Where to retire? From a few years ago, 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 worthwhile.




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, how to make it a happy retirement choice.

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.
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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 wrote this piece on behalf of Brookdale Senior Living.
Note: Satisfying Retirement  received no compensation for this post or the links included.


14 comments:

  1. Three of my friends who have moved to active adult communities have been enjoying it since almost day one. One friend (78) is a semi retired social worker who still does some on call work.She moved to Friendship Village into an independent casita (sold her condo to buy in) and enjoys the water aerobics, the rides they provide to downtown for concerts,plays, etc, the dining rooms and the pub, and more.I meet her for lunch there once a month. She's in bliss! Second friend and husband (67) moved to a 55+ community of manufactured homes in Mesa..from Moline,Ill. She and husband love it here, had been snowbirds a long time.Their community has 2 olympic sized pools they do not have to maintain, and many activities/clubhouse they are enjoying. Her husband loves his golf cart! We meet at her house and my house to do crafting together. Third friend and husband (52) moved to Trilogy, another 55+ community which is a lot like Disneyland in all it offers! They are VERY happy, both still work, are active in pickleball leagues, pool exercises, golf. It sure looks good to me! But we are settled where we are for now. I can see if we may need the life care ,down the road, we may look at Friendship Village. But I would not hesitate to move to an active adult community if we were in the market to move..especially here in Arizona!

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    1. Betty and I are committed to such a move to insure our children do not have to worry about our care. My parents made the move when dad was in his early 80s and mom in her late 70's...the timing was just right for them. We are thinking of a similar timetable...meaning about 10-12 years from now.

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  2. We moved across the country to be nearer to family and into a 55+ community (Leisure Village in Camarillo, CA) because it was near my elderly FIL and we were hoping for an easier transition to new activities and friendships. Because of the size of our community (over 3,000 residents) it has been a bit daunting but we have gotten the benefits described. I only would add that I think it is important to also explore and integrate into the larger community outside of your retirement one if you are moving to a new location.

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    1. That is an important point, Juhli. Staying within the "walls" of a retirement community does restrict one's exposure to all sorts of other events and opportunities in the community at large. Pickleball may be fun, but there is a limit!

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  3. Funny thing is when we moved to Southeast Phoenix 23 years ago our neighborhood was full of young families with kids. Now the kids are grown and gone and our whole street is now a 55+ community by default. Don't have the social aspects of a planned community but it is interesting to see how the demographics have changed.

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    1. Good point, Steve. Neighborhoods change over time, some getting younger, some seeing younger families grow up and move. Do you enjoy it now that it is without many kids, or do you miss the energy and noise from past days? If I were being totally honest, I am glad my neighborhood doesn't have many teenagers and their parties or small children and their habit of dashing into the street!

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  4. Good advice here. All I can add is, different strokes for different folks. You wouldn't catch B and me in a retirement community. Seems sterile and cut off to us. But good friends of ours couldn't wait to get to The Villages, the humongous retirement community in Florida ... and now they love it!

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    1. I have a friend who lives in the Villages in Florida and does like it. He moved from Honolulu so it took him awhile to adjust to "colder" weather in the winter (!), but now loves it. He has family nearby which is probably part of the reason.

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  5. Like Steve, our neighborhood of 20 years has grown with us. At our end of the street, children are grown and gone, but most of us (late fifties and up) have stayed in our homes. There really are not many over 55 retirement communities here in New England. Our home hosts all our kids in summer and holiday gatherings year round. I prefer an all ages neighborhood. We’ll need them around us in 20 years! If I were to move to an over 55 type community, i’d wait until my grandchildren are older.

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    1. If we were completely free to decide we would probably not pick a retirement community. But, with grown daughters nearby we have promised them that when we get older our care will not be their responsibility. Betty and I do not them to become our full time caregivers when we can make other arrangements. They would do it in a heartbeat, but that is a burden we don't want them to shoulder.

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  6. I have a question about active retirement communities: how do they compare with continuing care retirement communities. Are these the same thing? I would like to understand more about these options

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    1. Good question. The short answer is they are usually different in one important regard: the level of care offered. An active retirement community usually does not have assisted living and nursing care facilities on site. An active retirement community is really a marketing term to promote the idea of a living environment with lots of activities and amenities for retired folks.

      It is possible that an active retirement community could have arrangements with a nearby facility that provides the extra levels of care when needed. But, normally they would not be part of the actual retirement community.

      A CCRC, or continuing care retirement community, offers a full range of activities and amenities, too. But, it also includes assisted living facilities and a nursing care center for the time when we need 24 hour care.

      Think of an active retired community as a housing development for those over 55 who are healthy enough to want all the extras...pools, tennis courts, bridge clubs, woodworking, etc, but would prefer to live with people their same age.

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  7. Just a tip. Before going all in on something like a tiny house, make sure you check zoning and building codes. Some prescribe room or unit sizes well in excess of what is typically seen in a tiny house.

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