What is your personality style when it comes to making decisions or changes in life? Are you a planner, methodically charting your strategy well in advance of implementation? Maybe you’re a procrastinator, who waits until the very last minute to enact anything new. Or perhaps you’re a crasher, dropping into events or life changes unannounced and without many (or any) plans to guide your way.

Colleen Ryan Mallon, vice president of marketing and advancement at Frasier Meadows, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Boulder, astutely identified three main customer “segments” in her work with CCRC prospects and residents. Colleen recognized that people who ultimately make a move to a senior living community move either early, in time, or late (in certain cases, really too late). Put another way, they are planners, procrastinators, or crashers.

>> Related: 6 Key Considerations for Your CCRC Decision Process

What’s your senior living decision personality style?

Morrison Living (formerly Morrison Senior Living), known for their dining and nutrition support services at many senior living communities across the country, did a multi-part study on the voice of the so-called “Silent Generation” (those born between 1928 and 1945), examining their beliefs, motivations, and priorities — in short, what makes them tick.

In the third part of this study, published in 2012, Morrison delved into what drives seniors to ultimately move to a senior living community — be it an independent living community, CCRC, assisted living community, or nursing home. As part of this report, they explored the mindset and motivations of those planners, procrastinators, and crashers that Mallon identified.

The planner

You’ve looked up the menu online and chosen what you will order before you arrive at the restaurant. You’re done with your holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. You have a reminder on your calendar and diligently change the air filter in your HVAC system every six months. You have a detailed itinerary mapped out for each day of your vacation. 

When it comes to making a senior living decision, planners are often the early movers — that is to say, making a move while they are still relatively young and healthy. They see such a move as a practical matter: It’s about logic, not emotion. After all, aging is just a part of life, and planners want to be well-situated should their health deteriorate down the road. A proactive senior living move is a practical matter that ensures the planner’s health, safety, and long-term peace of mind.

But perhaps just as important: Planners want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions about when and where they will move. Maybe their own parents lived in a senior living community, so they saw the mental and physical health benefits that these communities can foster. They are eager to move to such a community earlier so as to form and nurture their own support system well in advance of any potential health crises.

In other cases, planners may have learned first-hand how difficult it can be on a family to have to make decisions about an aging loved one’s housing and care. They may have been forced to deal with the emotionally, physically, and financially draining ramifications of their own parents’ decline. They do not want to burden their own family with a similar situation, so they make and enact their plan to move before such a situation arises.

>> Related: Senior Living Communities Must Appeal to Data-Focused Decision-Makers

The procrastinator

To you, a deadline means that is when you will have the work completed, and not a minute before. The check engine light that has been on for weeks is a suggestion, not a mandate. Maybe you could hit that snooze button just one more time and still get there on time. You’re hoping they have anniversary cards at the convenience store that’s on your way home from work.

Procrastinators often put off making a senior living decision for as long as possible. It’s not that they don’t understand and appreciate the many benefits of moving to a senior living community — things like maintenance-free living, services and amenities for an enjoyable, relaxing lifestyle, and if they choose a CCRC, access to a continuum of care services.

But the common refrain from procrastinators is, “I’m not ready yet.” That sentiment may be based on financial preparedness, fear (of aging, of feeling that they are losing independence, or of their own mortality), or simply feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of having to downsize and move — all of which are normal and understandable emotions when it comes to a senior living move.

For procrastinators, the decision to make their eventual senior living move is usually more gradual. Thus, the impetus may not be a sudden health crisis but rather a steady decline in their health and vitality, and the acknowledgement that they need to live in a safer, more secure situation. Or maybe they realize that they are growing more and more tired of dealing with the hassles of home maintenance. Or it could be they just needed to get over the mental and emotional barriers that were holding them back from making a decision to move.

The irony of the procrastinator who once said, “I’m not ready yet,” is the frequency with which many come to feel, “I should have done this a long time ago!” once they are settled into their new home within a senior living community.

>> Related: “The Last Move”: Confronting Mortality with Your CCRC Decision

The crasher

You never RSVP’d for the party, but hopefully the hosts won’t mind if you just show up. “Maybe I should have gotten the trip insurance,” you think as you are standing in the long TSA line and hear your flight’s final boarding call. Your cell phone battery is dead, so hopefully someone with a gas can will stop soon to help you on the side of the road.

In some cases, the crasher may be a procrastinator who simply waited a little too long to make a senior living decision. But more often, it is someone who is not emotionally prepared to confront the realities of their age and thus ends up in a healthcare crisis situation that necessitates an unplanned and urgent senior living decision. Events like a stroke or a serious fall make it no longer safe or feasible for the person to live on their own and/or care for themselves, so the senior living issue is essentially forced on them and their loved ones.

Many times, crashers who wait too long to make a senior living move will have to bypass independent living and move straight into assisted living or skilled nursing care (a nursing home). They thus forfeit the opportunity to acclimate to a new home in a senior living community, make new friends, and create a solid support system in advance of their healthcare crisis.

Oftentimes, the root cause of a crasher refusing an early or in-time senior living move (instead waiting until it is really too late and there is no other choice) is denial, and its close compatriot, fear. These folks may have an “it won’t happen to me” mindset, or perhaps proactively moving to a senior living community forces them to acknowledge their age and their eventual mortality.

Whatever the specifics of the crasher’s situation, the sometimes-difficult decisions surrounding senior living, and especially long-term care, will often fall upon their loved ones’ shoulders. In a scenario like this, the crasher may have an even stronger feeling of being out of control of their own destiny, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and even resentment of loved ones.

>> Related: Family Caregiving Can Present an Array of Stressful Challenges

Playing the odds

Somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of people over age of 65 will require fairly significant long-term care services at some point in their life. That could be anything from assistance with a couple of activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing, etc.), all the way up to full-time skilled nursing care. As we discussed in last week’s blog post, in the U.S., the vast majority of that care (83 percent) is provided by unpaid caregivers — typically family members or other loved ones.

Whether you are a planner, a procrastinator, or end up being a crasher when it comes to making a senior living decision, it is worth bearing these statistics in mind. Would you prefer to take the bull by the horns and choose your own senior living timing and location? Or are you willing to relegate that responsibility to your loved ones?

If you are interested in exploring CCRCs in your area, our free online CCRC search tool is a great place to start.

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