This Ain’t Your Grandmother’s Old Age Home!

by Kassandra Lamb

My husband and I are starting to look into retirement communities. Now wait, before those of you under 50 freak out and click away to some other post… we’re not talking your grandmother’s old age home here.

birthday cake

You get to a certain point where some of the candles represent a decade, not just a year. (cake for an 87-yr-old, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Seniors today have lots of options. And that’s a darn good thing, because people are living longer and living healthier for longer.

“Old age is not for sissies,” is one of my brother’s favorite lines. This is true, but aging isn’t all bad.

Retirement brings the freedom to do the things for which there just wasn’t time and energy when one had to make a living (for me, that was writing fiction!) And there are a variety of places we can live while doing those things.

The concept that old age means either living with one’s children (still an option) or deteriorating rapidly in a dehumanizing nursing home is – for lack of a better term – old-fashioned.

We’ve got 55+ communities and retirement communities and assisted living and multi-level care and…

A 55+ community is basically a housing development that is limited to those over age 55. Children under 18 aren’t allowed. These typically have community centers that offer activities ranging from cards to rumba lessons to monthly parties or shows. They have clubs and pools and fitness centers and shuffleboard and tennis courts, etc. – all right there.

My 68-year-old brother recently moved into a 55+ community. He had lived in the country, about 45 minutes from our home in a medium-sized city. He loved his house and his neighbors, but it got to be too quiet out there in the boonies. He was lonely and bored.

He is loving his new home, and all the activities available, including lots of clubs and an on-campus golf course and restaurant.

For us, the issue that will eventually prompt us to move is taking care of a house. Maintenance, cleaning, yard work gets harder as you age. For me, it’s not so much that I can’t do it, but rather that it takes so much out of me. I’m exhausted afterwards, which makes it hard to enjoy the glow of satisfaction of getting the task done.

me and bro in front of house

My brother and I love projects!  Just a little over a year ago, we painted our house. It took several months. We were glad we did it, but we knew it was our last hurrah!  Big projects now get hired out.

Hubs and I are back and forth between a 55+ community or a retirement community. The latter have apartments and cottages you rent (you own your house in a 55+), with more services such as housekeeping, and all maintenance, grounds upkeep, etc. is taken care of, plus there are many of the same amenities as 55+ communities. Retirement communities often, but not always, offer assisted living and hospice services as the residents’ needs change.

Assisted living is a step above the old-fashioned nursing home. Here the residents often can have some of their own belongings with them and retain a certain amount of autonomy. But professional nurses are available to administer medications and such.

I should pause and comment that these services are not free. Those who have a decent retirement plan–whether it be a pension, private IRAs or other savings, Social Security or some combination of these–have options. (For the working poor, retirement is not nearly so lovely.)

Another thing that has brought these options to mind recently has been my sister misterio author, Vinnie Hansen’s re-release of her book Squeezed and Juiced (previously titled Tang® Is Not Juice — see below). A subplot of this story is the protagonist’s mother’s search for the right retirement community. And the protagonist, Carol Sabala, is struggling with the fact that her mother is old.

It kind of tickles me when younger people freak out over aging. Often I got that reaction from students when I was teaching human development classes. I’d try to point out the positives that come with age – wisdom, more self-confidence, no longer caring all that much about what others think, more time and freedom to do what you really want. But I could tell by the expressions on their faces that all they wanted to do was stick their fingers in their ears and sing, “lalalalala.”

old woman

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

So what’s the take-away message here – old age is not necessarily a bad thing! As a good friend of mine likes to say, “It sure beats the alternative.”

Old age may mean wrinkles and moving slower, but most old people are actually pretty happy. It’s the young who fear aging.

And if you’ve got a decent retirement income (something to give serious thought to if you’re pre-retirement age. Those who stick their heads in the sand on the subject are called…wait for it…still working in their 70’s), there are lots of housing and lifestyle options.

Old age doesn’t have to mean boring, lonely or decrepit. It can be lots of fun actually!

How about you? Where are you in the “adjustment to the reality of aging” process? And where do you think you’ll want to live out your senior years?

Squeezed and Juiced, A Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen

book cover

Her first real P.I. case, an ailing mother, and a stalled relationship. As Carol Sabala attempts to juggle the components of her life, they all threaten to crash.

Training to be a private eye, Carol wrangles a job to investigate a woman’s will. The more Carol probes the retirement home where the woman died, the more she grasps how easily one could kill an elderly person in such a facility. It is, after all, an expected last address.

With Carol’s mother intent on moving to the same retirement home, the stakes are high. Will Carol prevent this facility from being her mother’s final address? Can she keep all the pieces of her life in the air as she enters a world of drug addicts and murder?

For those of you who enjoy the grittier female protagonists like Kinsey Milhone or Aimée Leduc, discover how Carol Sabala reacts when squeezed.

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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10 thoughts on “This Ain’t Your Grandmother’s Old Age Home!

  1. Barb Taub

    As a professor, the Hub sees no reason to consider retirement. Ever. And I retired years ago. So every time one of the kids brings up our golden years, we just say we are having fun now. In fact, we just made an offer for a 150-year-old cottage on a Scottish island. But you are right about what is not possible any more. Where I once would have been the one stripping wallpaper and painting walls, now those projects are all paid jobs for local tradespeople. Where I once would have done all the gardening and housekeeping, I will now hire people to help. My kids were very impressed–“finally growing up” was how one actually put it–until I told them the time saved would be spent working on the old boat we are buying. (I think this is a family blog, so I can’t record the response TAHAT one got!)

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      LOL It was probably something similar to my son’s comments when I told him his uncle and I had painted our house.

      What younger people don’t get is that we have to be more selective about where we expend our energy as we age. We only do what truly tuns us on!

      Reply
  2. Shannon Esposito

    Housekeeping???? I’m in! Where do I sign??? Yeah, living in Venice, I see all the many options retirees have and they are living the good life for sure. I am no longer afraid of getting older. And they say that having friends is very important to your health so I can see where being in a close community would be beneficial.

    Congrats on the new release, Vinnie!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Yeah, housekeeping may be the amenity that makes the decision for me. I hate cleaning with a passion!

      And I forgot to say congrats, Vinnie! It’s a great story!

      Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    Thanks, Shannon.

    Even though my husband and I are vigorous sixty-somethings, we already know the retirement community we want when the house gets to be too much for us and/or our health declines. My mom didn’t go to an assisted living community until she was 90. No doubt she missed her home, but once she was in the community, she relished the activities. It’s nice to have others on hand to play a game of cards or to trounce at pool.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      The activities is a big draw for me, Vinnie. What I’m not looking forward to is downsizing my belongings. Again! But we’re probably at least 5 years from actually doing anything, so I can put off thinking about that for now.

      Reply
  4. Karen McFarland

    There are a lot of options today when retiring. We live in Arizona. So like Florida, we have a ton of retirement communities. And lots of golf. Lots and lots of golf. For some, this may be a difficult decision. I think it depends on your retirement fund, personal taste, and how involved you want to be within a community. My mother is 81 and very independent and will not live in a retirement community. She hires out the gardening, pool cleaning and housecleaning. She is quite happy where she is and has no plans to downsize (She lives in a 3,000 sq. ft. home alone). That is, until she is forced into making a decision to change her address, which will someday happen, because of deterioration of her health. We don’t grow younger, do we? As far as my husband and I are concerned? We joke about being Walmart greeters. We’ll probably work until the day we die. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      I’m realizing, Karen, that I should have included staying in one’s own home and hiring the help you need on the original list of options. But sadly there may come a point when one can’t safely handle living on one’s own. And since the retirement communities won’t take you unless you are in reasonably good health coming in, we are seriously considering that set up, but not for another 5 to 10 years, most likely.

      But then again, the 55+ community where my brother lives now is really nice… Thankfully, we don’t have to decide yet. 🙂

      The biggie for us is activities and having things like a pool and fitness center and such nearby. Once hubs stops teaching completely (something he threatens to do every semester…lol), we’re thinking that we may find ourselves getting bored where we are now.

      Reply
  5. Jennifer Jensen

    We bought the house we’re in so we could stay in it for retirement if we want – main level master with extra rooms upstairs. Not sure it’s really what we want, but …

    Other than that, retirement won’t happen until Hubs is 70 and we really haven’t thought about it much. Planning concerns have been more about my mom, who we convinced at 79 that she didn’t need to be up fixing the roof anymore. Instead, at 80 she was trimming trees and tumbled down the hill with a chain saw in hand – electric, thank goodness, with auto shut off! At 81, she’s still going strong despite some hip pain, but is mostly limiting herself to basic gardening, mowing & weed-whacking in her two-acre garden.

    Me? I’m already hiring stuff out! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Wow, your mom is awesome! I’m with you. I’m hiring out as much as I can these days. The stuff that used to be fun, or at least I didn’t mind, is now just hard work!

      Reply

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