After years of living in an old farmhouse in a rural area of Massachusetts, I have decided it’s time to release myself from the burden of complete home 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 mother, and me), and a vibrant community spirit. Along with a few would-be-nice-to-haves, we went in search of the perfect retirement community.
I won’t keep you in suspense; we found a beautiful, brand new 55+ retirement community close to our grandchildren. It offers everything we were looking for. Now we just need to declutter, downsize, spiff up, and sell our current home — not a task for the faint of heart.
1. Maintenance-Free Living
Maintenance-free living is one of the items high on our priority list. Like many seniors, neither of us have the time, energy, or desire to putt around the house fixing, painting, and updating everything 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 honey-do list.
Snow removal is a back-breaking task; I live in New England, and snow removal is one winter activity I would prefer to pass along to someone else.
Yard work is another big time commitment. I love my large vegetable and flower gardens, however, I can get fresh flowers and veggies at the farmers market for a lot less effort! Additionally, mowing and edging over an acre of land is a required chore I abhor. When I am considering fitness programs, a salsa dancing class sounds more appealing than mowing the lawn.
Pro Tip: Have a lawyer read over your condo covenants and restrictions. You need to be completely aware of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to planting around your retirement condo.
2. Space For Everyone
We all need a personal space to call our own, whether it’s an office for me, a television room for hubby, or a loft space for mom. Finding a retirement community condo that offers each of us a space to spread was a key requirement in our search. Coming to terms with living in a smaller space requires a mental shift about how much stuff you really need.
Downsizing is a considerable task. Wading through years of endless collections of treasures tucked away in small corners of the attic, basement, and garage is a monumental task. Personally, I don’t want to foist this clean-out on my children, so whittling our stuff down to just the essentials will help eliminate all the detritus, getting us closer to the available storage space we will have available for retirement community living.
Pro Tip: When sifting through stored items, snap photos for keepsakes — they take up less space on your phone than in real life.
3. Vibrant Senior Living Community
Retirement communities are everywhere, however, they are not all created equal. A row of several townhouses does not make it easy to make new friends or have a sense of community. A 50+ condo complex that has a community center, pool, fitness center, and scheduled active adult activities increases a sense of community.
It can be difficult transitioning to a senior living community, but when there is an opportunity to forge new friendships, it can make for a smoother transition.
Seasonal parties, outings, game nights, pool parties, and other social gatherings are important to living an active lifestyle. 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’m on board 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. Brand New Construction
I don’t know about you, but a brand new condo is important to me. It has come that time in my life when I want to completely revamp my decor to something clean and streamlined — a hip, fresh, and vibrant living space makes me feel younger and more energetic.
Whatever your current style, even a refreshing face lift — like a new sofa or unexpected art piece — can simply make you feel good. It is important to feel young and happy during retirement; we have earned it.
Pro Tip: Choosing new construction can allow you time to settle your current housing situation as you wait for your new home to be completed.
5. Social Activities
A study in Medical News Today states, “numerous findings have suggested that frequent social contact can protect the brain, either by helping to build a cognitive reserve, or by reducing stress and promoting more healthful behaviors.”
Bring on the clubhouse events, group trips, parties, spontaneous gatherings, and simply chatting with neighbors while out for a stroll around the compound. If it can help keep my mind active, then I’m ready to get out and party.
Pro Tip: Get out and enjoy someone’s company; it’s 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 we age.
- It improves strength.
- It improves balance.
- It gives you more energy.
- It prevents or delays diseases.
- It can improve mood and fight off depression.
- It may improve cognitive function.
A pool and clubhouse were high on the list of priorities for selecting the right retirement community for us. Swimming, exercise classes, and a compound with sidewalks can be the foundation of a senior exercise program. Enjoying the company of other residents in your community while being active needs to be part of our daily living.
Pro Tip: Of course, you need to consult your physician before you start running laps around the block.
Many retirees worry about 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 looking out for your well-being.
Also, the compact community housing layout, particularly with townhouses, imparts a feeling of security. With an active retirement community, there are people out and about during the day, and close by at night. Living in a bonded community adds a feeling of being safe in your own home.
Pro Tip: Organize a daily check-in regimen with friends or family members. If you don’t check in, it can trigger an alert to activate a well-being check.
8. Expanded Social Circle
When you are a young professional, your social network revolves around work associates. If you have children, you bond with their friend’s families. As we age, our social circles can shrink as we move and lose touch. Neighborhoods shift and change, our lives get busy, and soon we find we have a handful of close friendships and a large pool of acquaintances.
The benefits of moving to a retirement community that has a clubhouse, pool, and social gatherings, is we have the wonderful opportunity to forge new relationships. Everyone is in the same stage of their life and quickly absorbs new friendships. You are sure to find golfing buddies, card players, shop-a-holics, and backyard barbeque buddies to share your day — an important consideration if you are fully retired and have lots and lots of free time.
Your new friendships will help you put down the endless trail of books or TV shows and get out and enjoy discovering new experiences.
Pro Tip: Trying something new that is out of your comfort zone is a great way to make new friends.
9. Living Single Independently
At some point during our third act, half of couples will experience living as single. Removing the burden of private home maintenance will take a huge weight off your shoulders.
Additionally, I want my living situation to be filled with friends and neighbors I can count on, thereby reducing the burden of parental care on 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 that room with a view until it is 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 while hoping you never need to execute it.
10. Peace Of Mind
Retirement community living, for me, offers the peace of mind that I can live in my own home for as long as I can live independently. Hopefully, that will be for a very long time!
I have decided to live in a retirement community that has a strong social network, engaging activities, and a home that has enough space for everyone yet isn’t overwhelming to maintain. This way, I am released from the work associated with private home ownership and can live my best third act on my terms. Those terms include lots of new friends living our best senior life.