“I’m not ready yet.” Among prospective 55 plus community residents, it’s a refrain heard time and again. Sometimes it may be uttered while sitting with adult children at the kitchen table of a beloved house. Other times, it might be said in a heart-to-heart conversation with a spouse or partner while sitting in the family room or lying in bed. But it is also commonly stated to representatives at independent living retirement communities, such as continuing care retirement communities (CCRC or life plan community) and similar alternatives.
Before you read any further, be assured: This is not a post about trying to sell people on the idea of moving to a retirement community sooner, nor is it any kind of pitch for the senior living industry. We’ve always said at myLifeSite that no single retirement living choice is right for everyone.
We will, however, delve into some common reasons that people may not feel they are ready, but it’s important to focus on recognition of what’s driving this sentiment. When a person explores what’s really at the heart of not feeling ready yet, they then can begin planning for their future more effectively — whether they ultimately decide to remain in their current home or move to a CCRC or other type of senior housing option.
>> Related: CCRCs Need to Solve the “Not Ready Yet” Demographic Issue
Some common definitions of “I’m not ready yet”
When an older adult says they are not yet ready to live in a retirement community, it’s important to understand what that really means. Oftentimes, the key word here is “yet.” The person may think moving to a CCRC or other type of retirement community is in fact a good idea, they just aren’t ready to take that leap … yet.
But let’s dig deeper. There are a number of potential reasons why people don’t yet feel they are in a place in life where they want to relocate to a retirement community.
I don’t want to live only around other older adults.
By definition, moving to an age-restricted 55 and over community means you will be living predominantly among other older people. There are of course pros and cons to this scenario. It can create a carefree lifestyle when all of your neighbors are at a similar place in life with shared life experiences – but without the stresses that often come with careers and raising a family. For some people, however, this lack of age diversity can feel stifling.
Age restrictions also can create challenges in certain family scenarios. Yes, adult children and grandchildren are welcome to stay for short-term visits, but if an adult child under 55 or a grandchild needs more long-term/permanent housing, in most cases, it would not be permissible for them to live in the senior’s residence. In situations where the resident owns the senior living residence, there are added considerations about leaving the property to a person under age 55 as part of an inheritance.
I don’t feel like an “old person.”
This is a different twist on the previous sentiment. Many of today’s senior adults refuse to be defined by their chronological age and actually say they feel much younger than whatever number of candles are on their birthday cake.
Research backs up this discrepancy between chronological age (how old a person is) and subjective age (how old a person feels). Pew Research surveys found that among 65 to 74 year olds, a third say they feel between 10 and 19 years younger than their chronological age, and one out of six feels at least 20 years younger than their chronological age. It’s understandable that a person wouldn’t be inclined to move someplace for “old people” when they don’t feel “old” themselves.
>> Related: Are Today’s Seniors “Younger” Than Previous Generations?
I don’t want to leave the independence and comfort of my current home.
Some retirees have lived in the same home for many years — or even many decades. They have raised their family there and created countless memories with loved ones. In many cases, they have had the freedom to get their home and yard “just right” — exactly the way they want them to feel content and comfortable. It is hard to imagine giving up this special place you’ve created over the years, as well as the independence it represents.
Of course, with that independence comes certain responsibilities. The lawn must be mowed; the house must be painted periodically; if something breaks, it must be repaired; the floors must be swept or vacuumed. All of those maintenance tasks and chores can begin to take a toll on both your wallet and your body as you get older.
My spouse/partner doesn’t want to do it.
This is definitely an important consideration when making a senior living decision — it is a choice that impacts not only you but your spouse or partner, and arguably, the rest of your family as well. If one person in a committed partnership is not ready or willing to move to a retirement community, it can be a showstopper.
In some cases, this scenario can even create strife or resentment in a relationship, which can be difficult to overcome. Ultimately, neither partner should feel that they were forced into a senior living decision that they aren’t comfortable with, whether that be remaining in the current home or moving to a retirement community.
I don’t think I can afford it.
The cost of a retirement community can vary widely, depending on factors like location, on-site services and amenities, fees (entry fees, monthly service fees, homeowners dues, etc.), and the size of the residence. The reality is that certain communities will be cost-prohibitive to certain people. In other cases, a community may simply not seem like it is worth the price tag, even if a person can technically afford it.
It’s crucial to consider what you are getting for your money when you look at different 55 plus communities. While most will include things like exterior maintenance, and many provide amenities like a pool and fitness center, a big factor impacting cost is what levels of care (if any) are available if needed. If care services are offered, how will making use of those services impact your monthly costs?
It’s important to do the math based on your individual situation to really understand senior living costs and affordability. For some people, when they actually crunch the numbers, the month-to-month cost of moving to an independent living retirement community, including a CCRC, isn’t vastly more expensive than remaining in their current home, and in some cases can even be less expensive.
>> Related: The Pain of Paying for Long-Term Care is Real; A CCRC Can Help
I don’t want to deal with the hassle of downsizing and moving.
This one is relatable no matter your age! Just thinking of having to pack up all of your possessions and move can be stressful. Then add to the equation that most people will be downsizing when they move to a retirement community, necessitating going through a lifetime of possessions and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.
There is a flip side to consider, however. The reality is that at some point, someone WILL have to go through all of your “stuff” and make those decisions, the only question is whether that someone will be you or your loved ones.
Another reality is that in many cases, if and when a person’s health and/or mobility declines, they will have to move to either assisted living or even skilled nursing care. Here, the question becomes, do you want to move to a retirement community on your own terms, or because deteriorating health leaves you with no other choice?
>> Related: Overcoming the Mental & Emotional Barriers of Downsizing
I am not comfortable with the “finality” of a “last move.”
For some people, moving to a CCRC or other type of 55 community is emotionally charged as it forces them to confront their mortality. In many cases, the retirement community will be a person’s final home. This is often a selling point for CCRCs with a full continuum of care; you don’t ever have to move again (at least not to a completely new community across town, for example). But even if every logical reason points to this move being a good idea, it can sometimes be difficult to overcome this emotional hurdle.
I’m not sure I trust the organization/management of this community.
This is a critical point when considering a retirement community of any type. People who move to a CCRC or other 55 plus community are making a financial investment in their future. You want to be certain you feel confident that the organization is going to be able to uphold its contractual commitments to you in the long run.
This is why it is crucial to not only understand the specifics of your contract but also to do your due diligence when considering any senior living move. Ask to see the community’s financial statements and have a qualified financial professional or accountant review them. Talk to current residents. Check with your state’s long-term care ombudsmen for any complaints about the community. In short, if something seems off or too good to be true, trust your gut.
>> Related: For Senior Living Decisions, Are You a Planner, Procrastinator, or Crasher?
The complexities of making a senior living decision
When a potential resident of a retirement community says, “I’m not ready yet,” it can mean any one of these things, or a combination of several of them. Ultimately, all of this is about making a major life decision, and there isn’t a right answer and a wrong answer. It is a choice that must be carefully considered and made by each person, based on their own personal finances, feelings, and future goals.
Make no mistake: Choosing to move to a retirement community, such as a CCRC, is a big decision, and big decisions should always be analyzed thoroughly and precisely. Afterall, a senior living decision includes aspects of finances, lifestyle, healthcare, and housing — all things that can substantially impact your quality of life.
Whether you are a senior adult wrestling with not feeling ready for a move to a retirement community, an adult child whose parent has voiced this sentiment, or a retirement community salesperson who often hears this phrase from prospects, it is important to get to the bottom of what “I’m not ready yet” really means for a person. Only then can you begin to address that particular issue in the retirement planning and senior living decision-making process. And ultimately, the answer may not always be moving to a retirement community.
But as noted above, putting off making a decision about senior living and planning accordingly can be a mistake as well. Too often, people delay and end up in a situation where their options become more limited because of a chronic degenerative health issue or an acute health crisis. Some would argue that it is preferable to take control of your own destiny by making a senior living decision – be it moving to a retirement community or opting to remain in your home – when you are still relatively young and healthy.