Why I decided to live in a retirement community

After living for years on an old farmhouse in rural Massachusetts, I decided it was time to free myself from the burden of full ownership to live in a retirement community.

Our planned move to a retirement community requires a few must-haves – maintenance-free living, plenty of space for three people (my husband, my mom, and me), and a vibrant community spirit. With a few people who would be nice to have around, we set out to find the perfect retirement community.

I won’t keep you in suspense; we found a beautiful and brand new community of 55+ retirees close to our grandchildren. It offers everything we were looking for. Now we just have to declutter, downsize, spruce up and sell our current home – it’s not a task for the faint-hearted.

1. Living without maintenance

Maintenance-free living is one of the top items on our priority list. Like many seniors, none of us have the time, energy, or desire to go around the house fixing, painting, and updating anything that needs our care and attention. As I approach my third act, I want to enjoy every selfish minute and not be tied down by a to-do list.

Snow removal is a backbreaking task; I live in New England and snow removal is a winter activity that I would rather have someone else do.

Garden work is another important commitment. I love my large vegetable and flower gardens, however, I can get fresh flowers and vegetables at the farmers market for much less effort! Plus, mowing and trimming more than an acre of land is a compulsory chore that I abhor. When I consider fitness routines, a salsa dance class seems more appealing than mowing the lawn.

Pro tip: Have a lawyer review the co-ownership covenants and restrictions. You must be fully aware of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to planting around your retirement condo.

2. Space for everyone

We all need our own personal space, whether it’s an office for me, a TV room for my husband or a loft for mom. Finding a condo in a retirement community that provides space for each of us to spread out was a key requirement in our search. Coming to terms with living in a smaller space requires a mental shift in how much stuff you really need.

Downsizing is a daunting task. Navigating through years of endless collections of hidden treasures in small corners of the attic, basement, and garage is a monumental task. Personally, I don’t want to impose this cleanup on my kids, so paring our stuff down to the essentials will help clear out all the trash, getting us closer to the available storage space we’ll have for community living in retirement.

Pro tip: When browsing stored items, take photos for memories – they take up less space on your phone than in real life.

3. Vibrant senior community

Retirement communities are everywhere, however, they are not all created equal. A row of multiple townhouses doesn’t make it easy to make new friends or have a sense of community. A 50+ condo complex with a community center, pool, fitness center, and scheduled active adult activities increases the sense of community.

It can be difficult to make the transition to an older community, but when there is an opportunity to forge new friendships, it can ease the transition.

Seasonal parties, outings, game nights, pool parties and other social gatherings are important for leading an active life. Making new friends and learning new skills are key to improving your physical and cognitive health. My goal is to live a long and healthy life, and being surrounded by a vibrant and active community will improve my daily life. I agree with all of that.

Pro tip: Investigate the social structure of your desired community. Talk to your potential neighbors about how the neighborhood comes together socially.

4. New construction

I don’t know about you, but a brand new condo is important to me. There’s come that point in my life where I want to completely revamp my decor into something clean and uncluttered – a hip, fresh and vibrant living space makes me feel younger and more energetic.

Whatever your current style, even a refreshing facelift — like a new sofa or an unexpected piece of art — can just make you feel good. It is important to feel young and happy in retirement; we deserved it.

Pro tip: Choosing new construction can give you time to sort out your current housing situation while you wait for your new home to be completed.

5. Social activities

A study published in Medical News Today states that “numerous findings suggest that frequent social contact may protect the brain, either by helping to build cognitive reserve or by reducing stress and promoting healthier behaviors.”

Organize clubhouse events, group trips, parties, spontaneous gatherings and just chat with neighbors while walking around the grounds. If it helps keep my mind active, then I’m ready to go out and party.

Pro tip: Go out and enjoy someone’s company; it’s the key to staying healthy in retirement.

6. Active adults

As seniors, we need to stay active and fit; it is important for our health. FamilyDoctor.org lists six reasons to exercise as you age.

  • It improves strength.
  • It improves balance.
  • It gives you more energy.
  • It prevents or delays diseases.
  • It can improve mood and fight depression.
  • It can improve cognitive function.

A swimming pool and pavilion were high on the list of priorities when selecting the right retirement community for us. Swimming, exercise classes, and a compound with sidewalks can form the basis of an exercise program for seniors. Enjoying the company of other residents of your community while being active should be part of our daily lives.

Pro tip: Of course, you must consult your doctor before you start walking around the block.

7. Security

Many retirees worry about their personal safety. As we age, we are more vulnerable to falls or other medical emergencies. When you are part of a tight-knit community, there are friends and neighbors who care about your well-being.

Additionally, the compact layout of community housing, especially with townhouses, provides a sense of security. With an active retirement community, there are people outside during the day and nearby at night. Living in a bonded community adds a feeling of being safe in your own home.

Pro tip: Arrange a daily check-in regimen with friends or family members. Failure to register may trigger an alert to activate a wellness check.

8. Extended social circle

When you’re a young professional, your social network revolves around work associates. If you have children, you bond with their friends’ families. As we age, our social circles can shrink as we move and lose touch. Neighborhoods shift and change, our lives bustle, and soon we find we have a handful of close friends and a large number of acquaintances.

The benefits of moving to a retirement community that has a clubhouse, swimming pool, and social gatherings is that we have the wonderful opportunity to forge new relationships. Everyone is at the same stage in their life and quickly absorbing new friendships. You’re sure to find golf buddies, card players, shopaholics and barbecue buddies to share in your day – an important consideration if you’re retired and have plenty of free time.

Your new friendships will help you put an end to the endless trail of books or TV shows and get out there and discover new experiences.

Pro tip: Trying something new outside of your comfort zone is a great way to make new friends.

9. Live alone independently

At some point during our third act, half of the couples will live as celibates. Removing the burden of maintaining the private house will take a huge burden off you.

Additionally, I want my living situation to be filled with friends and neighbors I can count on, thereby reducing the burden of parental care for my children. Living independently and in my own space for as long as possible is an important part of my retirement plan. I don’t want this room with a view until absolutely necessary; never is the best option.

Pro tip: Assisted living and living an active retirement are separate considerations. Have a plan to transition to assisted living and hope you never need to execute it.

10. Peace of mind

Retired community living, for me, provides the peace of mind that I can live in my own home for as long as I can live independently. Hopefully it will be for a very long time!

I decided to live in a retirement community that has a strong social network, engaging activities, and a home that has enough space for everyone but isn’t overwhelming to maintain. This way, I’m freed from the work of private property and can experience my best third act on my terms. These terms include many new friends living our best senior lives.

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