By Ann Burnside Love
My friend Marjorie and I, during the same month, signed onto the waiting list for the retirement community I now live in, two and a half years before our names came up on the list for our apartments. When I got the call that a residence was reserved for me, I was definitely ready. I’d made my choice. My children had been concerned about me after some health issues, though I still considered myself independent. So I was stunned to discover that my friend had no intention of moving. Ever. She truly caught me off guard when she said: “I’m not leaving this house until I’m carried out feet first.”
Many people expect they will be independent all their lives, “doing for themselves” forever. And some do. Others expect their families to take care of them, also forever. Many people during their early years as a senior are in good health and having a fine time doing things they’ve always looked forward to doing. And that may work immediately after retirement, and for a few years afterward; some seniors expect that to last perpetually.
Well, I moved and have been what I describe as a “happy camper.” I was ever so much more comfortable after settling in, with far fewer time-consuming domestic responsibilities as I continued my lifetime career as a writer. Marjorie, however, was dealing with stress, largely caused by her children — while she still taught college English at 80 to help finance these grown children and their spouses.
As my family and I anticipated, she began having more frequent heart-related trips to the emergency room, taken there by me, my children or ambulance. My daughter and her husband were increasingly doing her grocery shopping. They were particularly fond of her and considered her family as we all did. They walked her dog for the last six months of her life. She was my children’s guest, as was I, at a beautiful, warm and close Christmas Eve supper. That night at midnight she called my daughter for what was her last trip to the hospital.
Now, I’m not suggesting that not living in a community like this contributed to her death. (Although it has crossed my mind….) What I am suggesting is, that for countless reasons, living in a retirement community would have offered her a barrier to the everyday strain, as well as all the simplifications. At the community she declined, there is instant and endless access to health care. Retirees who do live in such communities find a calm and pleasant way of life, or as much excitement as they can manage, depending on their choices. It’s a healthy life. Statistics really do show that those who live in retirement communities live longer than their contemporaries who choose to live out their days alone or isolated in their longtime homes.
So I’m suggesting that interested seniors carefully consider retirement community living as an option to all the responsibilities that “outsiders” continue to juggle, while we “insiders” continue to flourish. Carry on!