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As our lives change over time, our desires for a certain type of living situation may also change. When you are young, an apartment close to the “action” can seem like the ideal situation. Once you marry and have children, a big single-family home may work best. Once the kids have moved out and you are retired or approaching retirement, that big house may require much more of your time than you are willing to give!

Types of Senior Living Communities

There are several types of senior living communities, depending on your needs. The most common include:

  1. Independent living, often referred to as “55+” or “active adult” communities, may range from traditional homes to villas or apartments.
  2. Assisted living communities are aimed at people who need help with the activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and taking medications.
  3. Long-term care facilities (nursing homes) provide care for individuals who cannot live alone or care for themselves any longer.
  4. Memory care units may be standalone facilities or part of other communities. These units take care of individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s or similar memory issues.

There are also hybrid facilities that might include independent living and assisted living, but not nursing care, or continuing care communities, which offer the option of starting in independent living and receiving care in the community through your lifetime. As you investigate communities, it is important to understand what each offers and read the fine print in their agreements.

Are You Ready to Move to a Senior Living Community?

There is no right answer that applies to everyone. For some, moving to a community where they no longer must deal with ongoing home repairs or yard work is an easy choice, one that frees them to pursue hobbies or travel. Others want to remain in their family homes for as long as possible. Many seniors choose to move to be closer to their grandchildren. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide if you might be ready to move:

  • How safe is your home? Stairs, poor lighting, loose carpeting, crowded bathrooms, tubs (versus a walk-in shower), steep inclines or gravel driveways may make your home more dangerous as you age.
  • Are you able (and willing) to care for the house and property? This can take time away from things you might prefer to be doing.
  • Are you able to get to the grocery store easily? Do you prepare and eat healthy meals?
  • Do you have friends and family nearby to spend time with? Do they check in on you?
  • Are your children or family members concerned about you living alone or driving?

Many senior living communities have waiting lists, so if you are thinking about moving but are not immediately ready to go, ask about being added to the waiting list.

Make it Your Choice

Moving to a senior living community is a big decision. We recommend you begin considering your options earlier rather than later. Beginning the process while you are of sound mind and body will ensure it is your choice. Talking with your family about the decision and addressing everyone’s concerns is generally a good idea. You may wish to bring your family members with you as you tour communities. Ultimately, you must make the decision that is right for you.

Legal Considerations

If you do decide to move, remember to update your legal documents to reflect the property changes. You will also want to verify your agent(s) named in your power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney are still able and willing to act on your behalf. The same is true for the executor named in your will. Laws differ by state, so if you have moved to another state, all documents will need to be updated. If your family is out of state, you may wish to consider setting up a trust to make it easier for your agent to manage. It may also be helpful to schedule a meeting with an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney.