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Talking It Out

Two women talking and laughing

Once research has started, with those important questions about what really matters in life, a realization might be showing up. That now might be the right time to look forward to enjoying each and every day, in a place that fits.

It makes sense; the senior years are a time for celebration and even health improvement. Seniors between the ages of 65 and 79 are the happiest of all age groups, according to a study by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics that surveyed more than 300,000 people. While this stage of life is often associated with a decline in well-being, including loneliness and dementia, science is showing that specific lifestyle changes – such as exercise, diet and socialization – can turn that story around. Retirement homes are a great place to find opportunities perfect for supporting this kind of retirement living.

A potential move could be something that’s been on the back burner for a long time, or other people are doing it and that’s been intriguing. Maybe living solo in a house or condo isn’t working out as well as it once did. Whatever the reason for considering senior living, an important step is talking it out with everyone involved – sharing thoughts, and getting input.

So, let’s dive into having “the talk.” There are lots of questions and feelings about this next stage, for everyone. Making everyone feel part of the process will make sure everyone is on the same page.

Shared Understanding: The Best Starting Point

This is a decision about a life, and if lots of people want to provide their input, it shows how loved and lucky someone is. Not only do they have the best intentions, but they’re willing to join in on the journey. Not everyone may be at the same stage, though, in terms of research and perceptions – or misperceptions – of what living in a retirement residence or long term care home really looks like. It’s essential to make sure everyone has accurate information on which to base your group conversation.

Remember, there are two main types of senior living communities – retirement homes and long term care homes. Let’s cover retirement residences first.

Retirement residences are designed around flexibility and independence. It’s a place where residents have their own suite, set their own schedule, and come and go as they please. There are a variety of dining services and menu choices, self-cooking, or a blend of the two. Whether someone is a certified (or family-declared) gourmet at-home chef or a lover of the local restaurant scene, you'll be impressed that there are so many restaurant-quality dining options.

Also choose from a broad range of amenities, including (depending on the residence) movie theatres, golf simulators, libraries, art studios, fitness centres, swimming pools and games rooms. Whether someone is fully independent or requires a range of minimal to daily personal care and support, or even dementia care, there are retirement home options available.

Long term care offers a different living environment than retirement residences do in a number of ways, but the most fundamental difference is the level of care offered. If someone requires around-the-clock care and supervision to reduce health risks and meet needs, and to help with the daily tasks of life such as dressing, bathing and toileting, long term care is a good option. Because long term care homes provide medical support, their admission is managed by the public health authorities. 

With a shared understanding of the choices ahead, everyone is in a good spot to really start talking about the future. Starting with a level playing field of knowledge helps make the emotional side of the conversation easier.

The Talk May be One of Many

This is about feeling good about future steps; be aware that there may be a few emotional reactions at first. It’s hard to accept vulnerability in any way, or leaving the home that’s been home for so long. That’s okay, and these feelings are normal. Prepare yourself for the fact that “the talk” may be one of many. 

This is the exploratory stage. Through conversations, everyone involved can help identify and express their feelings, while acknowledging the feelings of others. It is also the time when, through discussions, the value of making a life change becomes more apparent. It’s when people will land on what is trying to be achieved and what is wanted out of this next stage.

The exploratory stage takes time. Enjoy the process and don’t rush through it. But keep in mind, embracing change happens at different speeds and everyone needs time to process, and to express their own emotions.

Create a List of Needs and Nice-to-Haves

Now it’s time to nail down some practicalities. This is the evolution of the talk: the creation of a list of needs and nice-to-haves. As you explore the options and learn even more about the different types of care and support, it’s time to do some field research. Book a tour at a retirement home. It’s even possible to request to stay overnight or for a few days. Try a meal and just take in the atmosphere. Can you imagine yourself living there?

Everyone should join the tour – potential residents and their families. If a home needs to be sold or downsized, enlist help. Including everyone in the process not only makes the work easier, it makes people feel good too.

Above all, remember that every discussion is really about a life journey. By talking together, everyone will know that when the time comes, it’s the right decision.

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