A senior couple living in a retirement community sits and chats in their personal apartment.

Expectation vs. Reality: Living in a Retirement Community

Bethesda Health | September 24, 2019

Moving from a home that you have lived in for decades, full of memories and familiar in its every detail, can challenge anyone’s ability to be open to something new and different.

Unfortunately, many people have formed incorrect perceptions and expectations when it comes to being part of and living in a retirement community. No fear, however — help is on the way!

Marie Bartels, Sales Counselor at Bethesda Terrace, an independent retirement living community in South St. Louis County, has graciously shared her top four “expectations vs. reality” points of reference.

Expectation: Living in an “Institution”

When many senior adults begin thinking about leaving their personal homes for a senior community, they envision a nursing home, with images of a cold, sterile building where people sit for hours on end and are neglected.

Reality: It’s Your Home!

The reality of an independent living apartment is quite different, with the resident’s own pictures on the walls, and furnished with their own furniture and treasured mementos. In addition, dogs and cats often are welcome! In other words, it is your home, not an institution. You’ll enjoy planned activities, meals, maintenance and housekeeping, and new friends are practically right outside your apartment door.

Expectation: Boredom

When leaving their long-time home, a senior adult may wonder what he or she will do when everything is different at the new community. They often don’t realize that their personal experiences in their home have become more isolating, and their level of inactivity has increased.

Reality: Socialization and Fun!

When moving into an independent living community, one of the key words is options — because you have lots of options! You can do as little or as much as you want, but there are plenty of things from which to choose.

There are day trips to explore, community attractions to visit, shopping, or visits to new restaurants. Within the community, you eat your meals restaurant-style in an attractive dining room, and you can enjoy in-house movies, games, and regular Happy Hour with your peers. Marie adds that, surprisingly often, residents reconnect with other people in the community they haven’t seen for years.

Expectation: Living in a Retirement Community Is the “Beginning of the End”

For some senior adults, making the decision to enter a senior living community means giving in to the end of your life, as it signifies the “final step” of their journey.

Reality: It’s the Beginning of a New Life!

Independent living provides many seniors with a new level of freedom.

For example, Marie knows of a couple who live in Bethesda Terrace who love to travel. When living in their own home, they would have had to worry about who would cut the grass, or if a pipe broke while they were gone. Now, they are comforted knowing that all of that is taken care of, and they can travel worry-free.

She believes many residents didn’t know how lonely and isolated they were until they became independent living residents. She has watched those residents get stronger physically and become more vibrant and social after they arrived and acclimated to their new home.

Expectation: “I’ll do it when I have to.”

The urge to stay in the home they have lived in for decades is strong. Many seniors choose to delay the thought of moving into a senior living community until they are no longer physically or cognitively able to live safely in their home.

Reality: “Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Marie strongly advises senior adults to begin exploring independent living communities earlier rather than later, and before there is a “need.” These communities regularly put on programs and seminars for the public to learn what they have to offer. Many current residents at Bethesda Terrace have told Marie that they wish they had made the move much earlier, and this sentiment is echoed among Bethesda’s five other independent senior living communities across the St. Louis area.

Marie suggests attending some seminars and touring some communities to see which ones are a good fit. If you have never been to one, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Bethesda’s Independent Retirement Living Communities offer a worry-free retirement and an active lifestyle. We have communities in Clayton, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Florissant, Oakland and South County. Schedule a tour at a community near you to learn more.

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