Aging and future care considerations

By Jon Tagatz

With the holidays upon us and 2013 peeking around the corner, now is a time for reflecting on significant moments in 2012 and planning for future goals. This moment in the year is also unique because we can easily gather family and friends’ advice on big decisions.

We know, from meetings with hundreds of people throughout the year at The Heritage at Brentwood, that one of the most important transitions a family faces is that of a senior moving from an established home and neighborhood to a retirement community. Now, with one year ending and another soon to begin, is an apt moment to discuss possibilities and opportunities for this stage of life. But we must first answer some critical questions.

Is this the right time? And if it is, what are the critical points to consider in choosing a community?

Keeping in mind that every situation is different, we can still begin to answer these questions by focusing on five important lifestyle factors: nutrition, exercise, social life, comfort at home, and access to healthcare. If you notice yourself or a loved one struggling in one or more of these areas, now may be the right time to consider alternative residential and healthcare options.

1. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t want to do it all the time. I also want more variety in my diet.

Eating well and maintaining a diverse diet is important at all times in our lives, but especially as we age. When evaluating various retirement communities, take notice of flexibility in the dining plans and the meal options. Ideally seniors will have the ability to cook for themselves at home or “eat out” in restaurant-style dining rooms on campus, all the while achieving their health and nutrition goals.

2. My daily walk is great, and gardening is fun when the weather’s nice, but I’d really like to try yoga.

The value of staying healthy and feeling good cannot be understated. When researching options, look for communities that support seniors in pursuing their favorite activities but also expose them to new ideas. Be sure to examine the fitness, entertainment and educational opportunities that various communities offer.

3. I’d like to make some new friends. There’s no reason I should be this lonely.

It’s no secret that our social needs continue as we age. The thrill and joy of meeting new people and forming new friendships does not diminish as we get older. In fact, many seniors identify new relationships as one of the main benefits of joining a senior living community.

4. Once or twice a week I think my house might actually be growing larger! The thrill of home ownership (and maintenance) is gone.

Moving away from a familiar place may sound like sacrificing independence, but the truth is that the services and amenities residents receive at quality retirement communities, including maintenance inside and outside the home, weekly housekeeping and transportation, more than make up for the change. Seniors actually find more independence and time to pursue their hobbies, travel, and connect with family and friends.

5. I feel strong and healthy now, but I realize that may change. I’d really like to be closer to quality healthcare.”

Life is unpredictable, and not having a trusted health care provider makes the unknown harder to handle. Access to quality nursing care is one of the strongest reasons for considering a move to a continuing care retirement community. Seniors and their families should look for communities that have on-site health centers so that if they need assisted living or nursing care services, they’re already in the right place. They can enjoy their lives secure in the knowledge that future health care needs will be met in familiar surroundings with familiar faces.

Keeping these five lifestyle and wellness factors in mind this holiday season, you may learn that now is the right time to explore opportunities in senior living for yourself or a loved one. Take this time to review, reflect and plan positively for the future.

Jon Tagatz is the executive director of The Heritage at Brentwood, a LifeCare retirement community in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:26 am