“Ask Me About My Grandkids!” It's a bumper sticker you may have seen in the grocery store parking lot or out on the road. There is no denying that many seniors are downright crazy-in-love with their grandchildren (and the feeling is usually mutual). Indeed, the love between grandparent and child is like no other–pure and without judgment.
Time spent with the younger generation can keep seniors young at heart, plus giving them the added perk of some cardiovascular exercise if they are still able-bodied! And that grandparent/grandchild relationship has numerous benefits for the child too, showing them patience, teaching them about the past, and alleviating fears about aging and contraptions like walkers and wheelchairs. Plus, having adults in their lives who love them unconditionally is great for a child's self-esteem.
If you are considering a move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also known as a life plan community) or another senior living community, you may be concerned about the ramifications on your relationship with your grandchildren. Here are a few questions you may want to ask the retirement community (and yourself) before you make a selection:
Where will my grandchildren play at the retirement community?
Anyone who has been around an active child knows they need space to get their energy out. And more and more retirement and life plan communities are recognizing the value to residents of time spent with grandchildren and are making accommodations to nurture those relationships. Installing playground areas, duck ponds, and nature trails, many CCRCs are diligent about providing “play” spaces that are appealing to both senior residents and their young visitors.
Where will we eat?
If you are still able to live independently, mealtime with the grandkids should be more or less the same as it has always been (for better or for worse!) as you will likely have cooking capabilities in your unit. Alternately, your grandchildren may love to dine in the community’s dining room or café. In fact, just this past week I was visiting a CCRC in Austin, TX (Westminster) and as the staff showed me around I was delighted to see several young children and their parents dining with residents of the community.
Of course, it can be an enjoyable outing for all to dine at a nearby local restaurant when grandchildren are visiting.
How will I entertain them?
The move to a retirement community or age 55 and over neighborhood usually means less space, indoors and out, and some seniors worry about how they will keep a child entertained in their new abode. But there are a lot of kid-friendly activities that do not require much square-footage:
- Take a nature walk and bring along a digital camera to capture the flora and fauna.
- Get a bottle of bubbles and see who can blow the biggest one.
- Bake and decorate cookies to share with the neighbors.
- Have a game or movie night. Some senior living communities even have an on-site theatre and will show children’s movies from time to time!
- Get a birdfeeder and bird book so you can work together to identify winged visitors.
Will my grandchildren be able to sleepover at the retirement community?
Depending on the type of senior living community you are considering, grandchild sleepovers typically will be permissible if you are still living independently, either in a condo unit or private home. Many age 55 and older independent living communities will offer two and three bedroom options. Generally there is a requirement that the resident must be staying in the unit, thus prohibiting adult children from “borrowing” parents' units when the senior is not there (a consideration if your desired retirement community is also a prospective vacation destination and you intend to only live there part-time, e.g., “snow birds”). While quarters are often tighter than in your pre-retirement home, grandchildren may just find sleeping on a fold-out sofa or in sleeping bags to be an added benefit of visiting Grandma and Grandpa!
The bottom line: Ask. Be sure you understand the CCRC's specific rules and regulations for visits from your grandchildren; you will discover that some retirement communities are definitely more “grandchild-friendly” than others.
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