In a recent blog post about our 2023 myLifeSite Consumer Survey results, we shared that lack of trust in the organization/staff (34.8%) and concerns about leaving the comfort and independence of a current home (37.3%) were common reasons people put off a retirement community move. The top reason people said they felt uncertain about such a move, however, was concern about cost and affordability, cited by 41.3% of survey respondents. But what about the flip side: What did people say were the most compelling reasons to move to a retirement community?
Insightful feedback on senior living decisions
Our 10-question consumer survey covered the key topics that play into to a person’s senior living decision including issues around:
- Social connection and community involvement
- Diversity and inclusion
- Location and lifestyle
- Family and relationships
- Financial concerns
- Health and independence
- Community/residence and amenities
- Downsizing and moving logistics
- Personal preferences and lifestyle
- Community management and governance
- Unique circumstances
While our survey sample size of 255 participants was fairly small, the responses still provide valuable intelligence to retirement communities and the broader senior living industry. Our overall findings show that the factors contributing to people’s senior living decisions are diverse as well as nuanced, with social, financial, health, and logistical elements coming into play.
Motivations to move to a retirement community
While studies consistently show that 3 out of 4 adults age 50 and older (77%) say they want to remain in their home for as long as possible, that obviously isn’t the preferred choice for everyone. There are a lot of reasons a person might feel that a move to a retirement community is right for them.
Our survey revealed that 47.5% of respondents feel that the social and wellness benefits are somewhat or very important deciding factors for moving to a retirement community. Indeed, many retirement communities offer an array of opportunities for residents to stay active and socialize with others — both of which are essential to healthy aging. Depending on the community, this may include on-site amenities like fitness centers, pools, golf courses, and clubhouses, as well as opportunities to enjoy time with other residents at mixers, happy hours, or other events.
A similar number of respondents — 51.4% — noted that moving to a retirement community was attractive because of the easy, maintenance-free lifestyle offered. This perk applies to nearly all 55-plus communities as most will provide exterior maintenance, including landscaping and snow removal. Depending on the community, some also include additional services to make life simpler like housekeeping, linen service, and meal plans.
The top reasons people move to a retirement community
A maintenance-free home with opportunities to stay active and engaged are attractive aspects of retirement communities, but there is something our respondents said was even more important. They said the top reason to move to a retirement community was having access to care, if needed, so as not to be a burden on their family. A whopping 75.3% said this was somewhat or very important to their senior living decision, including more than half — 54.6% — saying it was the most important reason to move to a retirement community.
Interestingly, this was the top reason cited by all age groups in our survey — from those under age 65 to those age 85+. This is likely a product of the fact that many of the people who visit our site and read our blog (and thus participated in our survey) are planners who prioritize access to care. But this also might suggest that retirement communities that do offer care services should make this one of their top talking points in their marketing.
Access to care/not wanting to be a burden to loved ones was also considered the most important reason for a retirement community move regardless of marital status. In fact, more than any other marital status demographic, people who are married or in a partnership said this was the most important reason (57.3%) for a retirement community move. The second highest group that said access to care was priority one was those who are divorced/separated (54.2%).
>> Related: The High Price of Family Caregiving
Seeking out access to care in senior living
The desire to have access to care and avoid burdening loved ones is a particularly notable response. If this is indeed a person’s top motivator when considering senior living options, it can help narrow down their retirement community search.
Many 55-plus communities, such as most active adult communities, do not offer on-site care services to their residents. Of course, a person could always pay for a private caregiver within their residence or rely on unpaid family caregivers, though this may not alleviate concerns about burdening loved ones.
Other types of retirement communities, like independent living communities (also known as rental retirement communities) may provide some on-site care services within residents’ homes if needed. If a resident’s needs are more complex or they require 24-hour care, then they would likely need to move to an assisted living community or a skilled nursing care facility (a.k.a., a nursing home).
A continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community), on the other hand, has independent living residences for those who need few if any care services. They also provide an array of events, services, and amenities to make life enjoyable and maintenance-free. If a CCRC resident does eventually need any level of care — from assistance with a few activities of daily living (ADLs) to full-time skilled nursing care — they typically will have priority access to these services, oftentimes on-site. This can provide tremendous peace of mind for residents, as well as their families, that if a care need arises, they will be covered. CCRCs can also help couples stay together, even if one has more advanced care needs than the other.
We appreciate your participation and insights!
People’s reasons to move to a retirement community — or not move to one — vary widely. When making your personal senior living decision, it is important to do your research and consider what factors are most important to you. myLifeSite offers a wide range of tools and resources, most of them free, that can help you make a well-informed choice.
We would like to thank all of the people who took the time to complete our survey. Your input is appreciated and highly insightful!
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