If you’re past 65 in the USA, the majority of your life has been marked by radical change. From industry and innovation to the space race, the digital age, big data and beyond, your generation has lived through what could be considered the most tumultuous period in human history.
In the early part of your life – what you might call your “first act” – you likely remember engaging with this rapid change with awe, curiosity and youthful exuberance. Then, during your second act, you likely adapted to many more innovations as you built and nurtured a career and family. Now, the third act of life offers you the chance to focus on self-actualization, personal well-being and leaving a legacy.
As you enter this third act of your life, there is a significant chance that the amount of energy and effort required to manage the full spectrum of everyday and personal care responsibilities may increase considerably.
Perhaps even more daunting, as life’s complexities increase, the impact and importance of your life decisions, as well as the costs of making poor ones, can multiply – not only for you but also for your loved ones.
Active older adults, living completely independent lives in their own home, may justifiably feel both nervous and overwhelmed when considering the next phase of life. The term “senior living” is used everywhere, so what, precisely, does it mean?
Senior living is an umbrella concept that covers a large range of different housing, lifestyle and support options for aging persons. It’s also terribly boring, so boring it’s worth a bit of redefining.
“Senior living is the process of creating a living environment and lifestyle that adapts to changes in your health, activity and lifestyle needs while supporting whole-person wellness, so you have the space to embrace the changes that come with aging while continuing to live your best life.” – Hawthorn Senior Living
Because this is such a critical transition point, it’s understandable why the term causes so much anxiety. No matter how active you may be now, age-related changes are inevitable. And changes in how we live and in how well we are able to live during our third act deserve our full attention and commitment as we are changing swiftly.
There’s good news for one simple reason: The way you adjust to senior living and how your life may shift is very similar to the kinds of life transitions you’ve already experienced.
You’ve mastered transitions your entire life. From school, perhaps college, military service, marriage and kids, each change has challenged you. You may have managed caring for elderly family members and witnessed their transition from independence to more specialized care. Perhaps that experience left you wanting something better for your own third act. You did, however, make it through.
And now you are facing another transition. This very important change deserves your full attention, because you and your loved ones deserve the best third act possible. That takes thoughtful planning and educating yourself. That’s why we are building and growing this library of tools, guides and other educational content, because it just isn’t enough to be active and healthy. This journey requires resources for the different possible futures you desire.
However you feel about facing your third act, the truth is that you’ve been steadily building the skills to navigate these changes just as you have skillfully navigated all the changes up to this point. This guide and the resources attached to it are created to help you explore senior living on your terms and at your own pace so the changes you choose are tailored to give you the kind of lifestyle worthy of the investment you’ve made in your life so far.
Is it Time? Am I Ready? The Most Important Questions.
Determining your Level-of-Care Needs.
Safety and Security in Senior Living Communities.
Selecting your ideal type of retirement community.
Managing Senior Living Costs.
Compassionate and crucial conversations about senior living.
The people and careers that support a great retirement.
Creating space for change and new opportunities.
Creating a vibrant and thriving lifestyle in your new home.
This resource library is organized to help you have fun exploring the many opportunities senior living offers for your third act. You can discover what suits your preferences and specific needs at this stage. Then, with those priorities in hand, you can easily compare what works for you with the offerings near you. This makes your search swift and easy, as you can identify which options best fit the way you want to live.
Planning for your next chapter should be both enjoyable and easy. You should be able to locate and follow up on the resources effortlessly. If this isn’t the case for you, please consider sharing your experience with us so we can improve it.
In this guide you will find introductions and links to the eight major components of senior living. They are:
A table of contents for each section can be found above, but it can also be accessed at any time by clicking the “Navigate This Article” button
You can also use the table of contents to get back to the top quickly when you are finished reading or want to return to a previous section.
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Considering senior living options for yourself or a loved one? We’re here to help at every step. And even though we specialize in Independent and Assisted Living communities our goal is for YOU to find your best path to gracious retirement living, and part of how we achieve that is by providing reliable information on all types of senior living, not just the ones we offer.
Wait! Don’t answer yet. These questions are the first ones to think about and the last ones to answer. Every time you learn something new about senior living, the answers to these questions become clearer.
Timing can be tricky, because it depends on several factors of your life. Changing health care needs or a financial situation can have real impacts on what you need going forward. As you research senior living options like cost, location, levels of care and quality of life, consider how your individual needs and your current circumstances inform what great timing means for you.
At this point, as you consider moving from where you live now to your next home, timing also involves your most precious and finite resource: time itself. We want to reduce wasted time and ensure that the time given to us is well spent. Much of this process is preparing us for the unexpected.
Many things can affect our lives this way:
The truth about aging is that we experience changes that can be both predictable and unpredictable. The easiest way to make this feel more enjoyable is to plan thoughtfully. When we take both knowns and unknowns into account, we reduce worry and increase our confidence and sense of security as we shift into a new place with the right amenities and benefits that work best for us.
So as you look into senior living, take stock of your lifestyle. Look for the things you depend on or that support your preferred lifestyle, and ask yourself:
Exploring these questions can help you discover how senior living can support the life you want to live. It’s an opportunity to focus on your own personal care needs and preferences and to make sure they are properly represented in your search.
By taking the time to look at your life, what’s important to you and why, and what you’re likely to need, you’ll develop a baseline to start looking for the right fit. It also helps prevent surprises down the road. If you have close friends who have either already made this shift, or some who are also considering it, it can be very helpful to discuss your plans. They may have ideas and suggestions that you’ve not considered, and your plans may spark interest for them.
Few of us are ever really ready to admit that “I’m ready for senior living.” However, it’s realistic to embrace the notion that no matter how active we may be, at some point the wrong injury or a bit of bad luck may sideline us in a way that puts us at risk. Instead of being forced to make a decision once that happens, the better plan is to be in a place that can accommodate us so that we aren’t saddled with responsibilities that require too much time or energy to maintain.
You’re active, which means there is always the chance of injury or strain – not because you’re old, but because you’re active. Especially for those of us who live alone, a bigger home or apartment, especially one with stairs, isn’t the best place to manage a knee replacement or a lengthy recovery after a skiing accident. Those happen to all of us at any age, but as we age, some of our support systems may be less reliable. And being clear on your risks and support needs allows you to flex into unexpected change with confidence.
“Am I ready?” seems like a simple question, but the stress and overwhelm we feel when contemplating a major life change can be debilitating. Some people avoid the question for so long that their answer becomes irrelevant, as changes to their environment or health forces a decision.
Just as you’ve done through all your previous transitions, you will need to face hard facts. We all have fears, worries and misgivings about aging, often based on false narratives. Doing this work right now allows you to parse through fact and fiction and to make solid plans for a lifestyle that supports both your ambitions and your wellness.
Avoiding this question, or answering it too quickly, causes many people to keep living a lifestyle that is more work, less joy and less feasible as time goes on. Too many people default to staying in place, ignoring developments that become detrimental until someone who cares starts seeking out senior living solutions on their behalf.
And while it’s good to know someone cares enough to help us when we need it, no one can pretend that making an informed decision for yourself isn’t a better path.
“Am I ready?” Is a question that asks us to be willing to look inside ourselves and look at our lifestyles and evaluate how well that’s really working for us.
According to the American Time Use Survey, aging adults spend less and less time around each other and their families. They end up spending nearly all of their time alone trying to cope with a growing pile of unexpected life changes. This overwhelming reality causes too many seniors to pull away and shrink into themselves at a time when quality of life is most important.
So ask yourself: Is your home, neighborhood and belongings supporting the lifestyle you really want for yourself? Do your current activities energize you? Is your life filled with meaningful moments?
How would you feel if:
Keep the answers close as you do your own research on senior living and start to understand what your ideal future may look like. Becoming ready means finding your willingness to engage new and sometimes intimidating changes. It’s about embracing the “why” behind your motivations for considering change in the first place. And even if the answer you come to is that you’re not ready, you will be able to say so with confidence and be able to joyfully tackle the changes you are ready for.
Explore and compare the different types of senior living options available. You will learn about the full range of senior housing options, from active aging communities to the many supportive services communities that offer some type of medical care services or support based on need.
Each of these options has pros and cons you’ll want to consider so that you can make an informed decision about what type of senior housing will best meet your needs and fit your budget.
Discover the costs and protect your wallet when investigating senior living communities. Find tools and resources to help you collect pricing estimates, find hidden fees and research the financial stability of a senior living community to ensure the investment in your retirement lifestyle is safe and protected.
Dive into this resource library and learn how to save money when exploring senior housing options, such as asking about incentives, payment plans, or other financing options. Learn how to calculate a senior living budget and look into potential income sources to cover the cost of care. Make sure you understand what’s covered by Medicare and Medicaid so you can plan accordingly.
Finally, look for expert tips and interviews to help you make informed decisions about choosing a senior living community that fits both your needs and your budget.
When researching retirement community options, one of the most important steps is to determine the level of care requirements. This may involve assessing physical needs, mental health needs and activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating. Knowing your level of care can help you narrow down senior living communities to the ones that will best suit you.
If possible, your first resource should always be a medical professional. After that, you can use this resource library to help get a clear understanding of how you can retain your independence by personally managing your care needs using community resources.
Safety and security are an often overlooked but vital part of finding your ideal retirement community. Use this resource library to learn how to evaluate safety systems, both preventative and responsive. Does the community you’re considering have safety features like grab bars, nonslip floor mats and secure stairways? How safe are your belongings? Getting clarity on what safety and security features are provided by the community versus what you need to bring with you is vital to ensuring your peace of mind.
It’s also important to stay up to date on the community disease and pandemic response procedures. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, these types of events can greatly affect older adults who may have pre-existing health conditions. You’ll also want to know how to protect your belongings and evaluate the basic security of the senior apartments and communities you are considering. Finally, in today’s world, it’s crucial to consider digital safety. If you aren’t very tech savvy, be sure to look for a senior living community that offers technology and continuing education resources so you can stay safe online.
From lifestyle and amenities to medical care and financial considerations, embracing senior living can be a difficult decision for anyone. But it’s not a decision that happens in a vacuum.
A good life – even an independent life – is a one fed and supported by the people you care about. So when you decide to explore senior living, you may need to have important conversations with your adult children, doctors, pastors, financial advisors and any others that you rely on for support in this process.
This resource library is filled with guides and articles about how to have these conversations in ways that keep your loved ones close and enthusiastic while you transition into your third act lifestyle.
Or maybe you are exploring senior living community options on behalf of a spouse, aging parent or loved one. It can be challenging when someone we care about needs increased support well before they are ready to admit such need.
So these resources are here for you too. The sandwich generation knows how hard it can be when an elderly parent refuses help from loved ones, so having tools and examples to help you manage difficult but important conversations can make the difference. Having these talks early on is key to giving loved ones the ability to make well informed decisions about their future care.
Moving into a senior living community is an exciting transition and a chance to make positive life changes. Though this can be challenging because of the emotions it can generate, taking time to make space for change will help make the transition easier. Whether it’s freeing up closet space or getting rid of things that don’t make you feel good anymore, making deliberate choices about what things and what activities to keep in your life allows you to make room for new possibilities. Looking forward rather than back will make it easier for you to let go of how you used to live and open up your life pathways to new experiences, companionship and activities.
Use this resource library to find help and tools as you prepare to downsize parts of your life to fit into your new independent living or retirement community, from packing lists and moving guides to emotional inventories and stories about releasing your past and embracing the journey.
Senior living can be a great rite of passage in retirement, but it can also be daunting. Living the “good life” is more than just three meals a day and a bed to sleep in. Living vibrantly is something done with intention.
These resources are here to help you prepare and create a senior living experience that gets you excited to greet each new day. Learn why whole-person wellness should always be the primary goal. This means taking advantage of activities, fitness classes and amenities offered in retirement communities to stay active, enjoy social interaction with peers and partake in lifelong learning opportunities.
Getting started in a senior living community also involves being open-minded about change and trying new things. Activities that may have seemed intimidating or inaccessible prior to moving in are suddenly available. All of these elements come together to form vibrant and meaningful retirement living experiences. With retirement happiness within reach, this guide is here to help you start your journey toward successful independent senior living!
Retirement communities provide an incredible support system for their residents. Understanding the different organizational roles that comprise that system is key to having an outstanding retirement home experience. From housekeepers and executive chefs to drivers, activity coordinators and management teams, each professional takes part in creating a comfortable home where you can relax and enjoy life in your later years.
Not only will familiarizing yourself with their roles help you appreciate the work they do, but it also allows you to build relationships with them and make sure your needs are taken care of — something that should be central to having a positive time in a senior living community.
While we can’t reveal the backstage of every senior living community, we offer this section as a way to show you the professional culture and positions we manage at Hawthorn Senior Living. This resource library includes current openings for senior living careers, articles on how and why we choose to lead with our hearts, and what choosing one of our locations as your independent living community means for you and your future neighbors.
So take a look! We are excited to share our own journey, how we make senior housing special, and why long-term friendships with our residents are so vital to our business and our future.
Exploring senior living options can feel like an intimidating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to take things one step at a time. Start by asking the questions most important to you. Break down your research process into manageable parts and avoid trying to answer all your questions at once. Talk to your family and others who support you. These are big decisions and big changes. The support of your loved ones is crucial to making any major life change a smooth experience.
Consider bookmarking this page so you can return easily to explore different topics when it’s convenient. Most of all, stay curious and be kind to yourself. Change is hard, and these changes are only worth it if they improve your quality of life.
By doing all of these things, you will be able to make a positive and informed decision and feel confident developing a readiness plan, so you can start your senior living journey at the perfect time.
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