woman in a swimming pool

In 2010 my daughter went to college out of state. Lindsay was 18. It was her first time sleeping outside her own bedroom. She is gregarious by nature – I didn’t have a lot of worries when I boarded the plane to leave, but I did tell her I would call regularly to make sure she was OK. And I did. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Each day Lindsay filled me in on all the “news”. New classes, new friends, new foods, new college experiences. Then she stopped answering as often. Days at a time would pass and except for an occasional text – I didn’t talk to her as often. When I could catch her our conversation would begin with an apology for the silence. “Mom, I’m so busy. Mom I was with (new friend). Mom, I was playing volleyball.” I told her that I knew she was OK when she stopped answering her phone. I knew that the silence meant she was off and living.

I remembered that when the adult daughter of one of my real estate clients told me a version of the same thing. We had just sold the family home and Sarah’s mother, Lorraine, was living in a comfortable apartment in a beautiful retirement facility. Lorraine had fought the move. For years Sarah (who lives in another state) had encouraged her Mom to move and for years Lorraine had said she didn’t want to leave her familiar home. As her mother’s health declined, Sarah and Lorraine knew that moving somewhere safe was a hard, but necessary decision. On that “drop off” day, Sarah told her Mom she would call every day to check in on her. And she did. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Every phone call Sarah would hear the “news”. New classes, new friends, new foods, new retirement experiences. And then Lorraine stopped answering. At one point Sarah got concerned and called the facility administrator. Is my Mom OK? I can’t get her on the phone. “I can see her right now…” said the administrator, she’s playing cards with friends and I saw her this morning in a water aerobics class. “ “Water aerobics!” said Sarah. “I didn’t know my Mom owned a bathing suit!” Her Mom was off and living.

The staff at retirement communities and condo communities will tell you that the only consistent regret they hear from their residents is that the move wasn’t made sooner. Downsizing is good for your health: mentally and physically. Some of the benefits of downsizing:

  • Less Stress!  “Stuff” is stressful. Having it. Looking at it. The knowledge that we have to get rid of it. The more we own, the more our possessions tend to own us. Taking care of “stuff” – including our home is stressful and expensive. Many homeowners agree that a larger home leads to more stress as well as upkeep, including more cleaning, maintenance, furnishing and higher costs, which lead to more stress.
  • Healthy Activities:  Downsizing means that you’ll have fewer daily chores and more time for healthy activities like sports and exercising as well as getting more rest. Many retirement-oriented communities encourage and provide resources for physical activities you can’t do at home… or alone. Pools, walking paths, fitness facilities (and friends to go with you) will put you on the way to a healthier life.
  • New Friends:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 28% of adults over the age of 65 live alone, and 46% of women age 75 and older live alone. This is hard. And dangerous. Loneliness is a daily battle for many seniors and being alone in a medical emergency is a very legitimate fear. Community living solves this. You can be as independent as you want; you can be as social as you want. A community of like-aged and like-minded people means you will certainly have friends close by when and if you need them.

So, when your son or daughter or friend or family member gently asks you to consider the move to a retirement community… listen. Know that the move to Over-55 living can mean a rewarding final chapter of a life well-lived. (And you don’t have to hear “I told you so…” You’re too busy to answer the phone!)