By Elissa Gargone
Experts on aging agree. What’s most important for a long and healthy retirement is having a continuing sense of purpose and social engagement.
Retirement gives people freedom from the constraints of the workplace, but it also changes what for many is a significant part of their social lives—being around others in a shared mission. No matter how young or old we are, it’s important to maintain and pursue friendships and activities. It’s this engagement that gives us a sense of purpose and growth.
As a retiree, you may want to move away from or closer to a city, seek warmer or colder weather, or relocate to be near your children or grandchildren. Many retirees downsize to an apartment or condo, freeing themselves from upkeep for a home and yard.
Finding the right retirement lifestyle that will stimulate and reward you with a sense of purpose is about asking the right questions. That process starts with a thoughtful assessment of your individual needs and desires. While this exercise can present its challenges, it can be mighty stimulating to imagine a new phase of life that isn’t dictated by a workday.
Planning is critical
The ideal time to begin this process is while you’re still working. It can take some time to figure out just where you’ll want to be, and what you’ll do there. Too many people approaching retirement fall into some version of a failure to plan, whether it’s having no plan, waiting too long to plan, or thinking that they don’t need a plan.
There are plenty of lifestyle choices out there. The more you learn about those options, the easier that decision will be. You don’t want to be pressed to make a choice when you unexpectedly have a need.
Understandably, while this hesitation may stem from denial or uncertainty about the future, one thing that is certain is that our needs will change over time, so it’s important to set to the task and make a plan. It’s not unlike starting a business—you’re setting yourself up for success.
Questions to consider
1. What do I want my future to look like?
2. What do I want to keep doing?
3. What don’t I want to do?
4. What can and can’t I do physically now?
5. What will I not be physically able to do down the road?
6. What kinds of activities interest me?
7. Where do I want to be — near family, in my familiar community? City, country, suburbs?
8. What kind of people do I want to be with?
9. What amenities would I like?
10. How much space do I really need?
11.Will my finances comfortably cover my healthcare costs, should my health change?
It’s critical to be realistic with your answers. For example, if you have physical issues now, it’s likely you’ll be more challenged physically in ten years. You have to be honest about the existing barriers to things you want to do now, and strategize as to how you will manage these challenges later in life. Then look around the house and ask; what is really important for me to keep, and what can I do without?
Look for more than real estate
If you’re considering buying a retirement home, make sure to consider the services that come with it or are close by. These services will gain importance as time passes. A 55-plus community that suits your lifestyle at age 60 or 65 may not be able to comfortably support you after age 75 or 80. You’ll want access to a range of people and activities, various transportation options, shopping, quality health services, and other support systems in place.
Options include: Life plan retirement communities like Jefferson’s Ferry, which enable residents to age in place with independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services available on one site; assisted living facilities that help you manage the tasks of daily living in a community setting with apartments and shared or private rooms; independent living 55+ communities; condominiums, and shared space with family members.
Most of us need people around us to thrive. That’s not limited to those who’ll provide care, but others who will engage our interests as our friends and companions. Having more time to do the things you like, trying new things and enjoying the company of friends and family is the key to a long and happy life.
Elissa Gargone is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket.
This article originally appeared in Prime Times, TBR News Media’s senior supplement, on July 20.