Retirement Communities That Fit The Need

Boomers, on average, are less likely to acknowledge their age than the previous generations did.   According to an article By Del Webb, an active adult retirement community:

A recent survey from Del Webb revealed just how much older adults value their youth. Researchers found that about 80 percent of boomers feel younger than they actually are. Looking more closely, boomers in their 60s feel about 13 years younger while those in their 50s feel about 10 years younger.

One area that is already being influenced by the age wave of aging boomers and their changing attitudes towards aging is the retirement community.  Instead of passively accepting what is out there, the attitude of being younger has empowered this demographic to demand the environment that will best suit what they want to pursue at this stage in their lives.  In a previous article, I wrote that many individuals who are entering retirement communities today are demanding environments that reflect more a country club atmosphere than the traditional concept of a retirement community.  But it is more than that.  Besides the money factor, different people want different things out of their third season in life.  It seems that this factor is being acknowledged by our society.

More and more in different locales are what have been coined the Natural Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) in which a neighborhood becomes an aging one.  The neighbors pool their resources and services to help each other remain at home.  For those who wish to move into a more formalized setting, there are a variety of choices that, according to a report from ABC range….

From developments with a spiritual focus to resorts catering to gays and lesbians, the range of options for today’s retirees is wider than ever.

Quoting Elinor Ginzler from AARP, the report states that diversification is more important than climate for the aging boomer.  Being in a stimulating environment that offers exposure to education and entertainment, physical activity, and spiritual activities are getting larger demands than sunshine and warm weather.

The ABC report continues:

Another innovative model for retirement housing comes from Denmark: co-housing, where younger residents and retirees share responsibility for the design, maintenance and management of their community.

I personally like this arrangement.  I feel it is important to have an inter=generational community. There are so many benefits that each group can provide the other.  The youth have the energy and strength and the older the life-experience and nurture.  Also, i think it is important for young people to see the aging process in action so that they fully understand what will be occurring to them down the line.

Looking for communities that fulfill a spiritual need is another focus that is starting to gain ground in people’s search for a community.  ElderSpirit is a community developing in Abingdon, VA near the Appalachian mountains

“Our mission is a community of mutual support and late-life spirituality,” said Dene Peterson, executive director of the Trailview Development Corp., the nonprofit group building ElderSpirit.

“Spirituality is what people were really looking for,” said Peterson. But she emphasizes that this does not refer to organized religious services. “Spirituality doesn’t mean religion,” Peterson added.

ElderSpirit welcomes residents from a range of backgrounds and beliefs. “We’ve attracted Buddhists, and Hindus, and a Unitarian minister, as well as Presbyterians and Catholics,” Peterson said. The community is developing a small prayer room, but “we’re not going to call it a chapel because that usually denotes a Christian place,” she said.

And then there are the communities that are starting to form to meet the needs of the Gays, Lesbians, and Trans-genders.  Remember that it was only in the late ’60’s that Gays were allowed to come out into the open.  Those individuals are now reaching an age when they are needing what retirement homes have to offer, but may not feel comfortable being themselves or being open about themselves in a traditional home.  This then has opened the closet, so to speak, into retirement homes that expressly serve that population.

Another format that is coming into being is a retirement community for artists.  According to an article in Our Parents, one has started in Burbank, CA and is being exported to Arizona, Minnesota, and Oregon.  Artists living with other artists or individuals who always aspired to becoming an artist populate this community.

So a lot of changes on the horizon.  I think it is great that there are more choices out there.  Just because someone is becoming older does not mean that their life has to end early.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012


Aging in a Youth Focused Society

Last week, along with five other experts in the field of aging, I was invited to give a presentation to employees of the County of Roanoke in Virginia.  My presentation focused on aging in a youth-oriented society.

Aging Actress with Face Lift

Most people in our society dread the idea of aging and/or dying.  Either or both are inevitable parts of our life experience and the sooner we acknowledge this, the better prepared we will be when it catches up with us.  Because we do not want to confront our aging process or death, we enable the medical and beauty industries to make millions.   In the end, however, these two realities of life will triumph.

In my presentation last week, I covered the many different ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for the “twilight” years.  We need to face our aging and become friends with it.  This is not an easy thing to do in our youth focused society.  The first step to altering our feelings about aging is to recognize just how much society, through media, advertising, and Hollywood enhances a negative view of aging (I will write more extensively on this in a later blog).

During my presentation, I showed a favorite video (see below)in which a couple, Richard and Alice Matzkin, decided to confront their aging process.  I really love this video and their story.  I think I resonate with it so much because, just as all of us who are noticing more wrinkles on our face, or more aches in our joints or whatever aging indicators are starting to take over, their initial fear and upset may seem familiar.  Over and above the familiarity of their initial reaction, however, was the positive approach they decided to take in confronting their aging process.

I suggested to my audience that the time to plan for one’s later years should be when they have the energy and motivation to take the actions that are needed to establish an environment that will enable them to age gracefully.  This is when one can handle remodeling, if that is the decision.  A universally designed space can allow parents and children as well as couples who may have a disability to interact with their environment fully.  Not only should we be reflecting on our personal spaces, but also the larger areas in which we reside.

Liveable communities, the concept that neighborhoods have easy access to shopping, medical care, parks, entertainment, transportation, and safety, along with affordable housing, is another idea that can only benefit everyone across the generations, whether young professionals, parents, or the elderly.  But the time when we have the energy to solicit our local politicians is before we get to that point in our aging process.

If one has decided that they will go the retirement community route, one should take the time to visit several before making a decision.  Each community has its own personality.  Ask to see all levels of care since the assisted living and nursing care will be your environment in your more vulnerable stages.

Communes are familiar to the baby boomer generation and it might be worth exploring the idea of sharing home space, or at least share with neighbors expenses for those tasks that become more difficult for us to accomplish as we age.

My hope is that the audience came away with an understanding that we can be pro-active in how our older years will unroll before us and it does not have to be all negative.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2011