Making the decision to move into a senior residence can be daunting, partly because of the amount of housing options that are available. Most senior supportive and assisted living residences offer a basic range of core services, such as meals, security, housekeeping, recreation and home care. However, the variances between each residence are apparent in the room size, affordability and location, level of extravagance, the quality of meals, and the recreation opportunities. Gord Bibby, General Manager of Oak Tree Manor in Nanaimo, points out that for many seniors, “this choice [of a residence] may be the last voluntary move of their life,” so it’s important to research and narrow down the options before settling on one.
Before you begin your search, consider how big of a suite is required and at what cost. Bibby suggests you decide on a firm budget by determining what you’re able to afford and for how long – the best-case scenario in terms of the amount of years you have left. Many seniors can over-extend their finances because they don’t believe they will live as long as they actually do; you don’t want the worry or stress of home ownership by living beyond your means in anticipation of a shorter stay in a residence.
If you’re planning to rent, be sure to ask how often rent is raised and at what level, Bibby advises. Many residences raise their rent once a year as a matter of policy. If you have a lower budget, visit lower-priced buildings or publicly funded residences. Don’t let limited finances discourage you: if a facility is a registered assisted living residence, then it’s overseen by the Ministry of Health (and should therefore be safe, clean and offer great value). An extravagant residence can be tempting, but if you have lived a modest lifestyle thus far, the novelty of a fancy atmosphere can wear off quickly and then you’re stuck paying for amenities you don’t utilize.
As with any real estate investment, location should be a high priority. Candy Ho, Director and Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Relations at Element Lifestyle Retirement in Vancouver, says that most seniors move to a residence within their local community. She’s found that about 80 per cent of Element Lifestyle’s residents come from a two-km radius. This is usually decided by nearness to children or grandchildren. It’s important to note that just because a transition is necessary, it doesn’t mean the greater environment has to change (including how often you see your family). Another location factor to assess is the proximity to shopping centres or other neighbourhood amenities (medical facilities, for example). Most residences have vans or buses for transportation, but they are usually run on a strict schedule. If this limitation is an inconvenience to your independence, shops or services that are a short walk away is optimal.
However, Bibby says seniors must be prepared to give up a certain degree of independence. Most residences have schedules (for meals or laundry, for instance) or other set rules that can affect curfew or the use of your suite (for a home-based business or hobbies). Bibby adds that seniors should keep in mind that once they have moved in, they may be required to move from that suite to another wing or building should their health falter or if they require more support. It’s also unlikely that the majority of one’s possessions will fit into a suite, so residents have to be ready to downsize their inventory.
Although these considerations may seem like a sacrifice at an age when change is harder to reconcile, a residence offers freedom from chores and upkeep that comes with maintaining a household. Residences are designed to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, or those dealing with particular health issues. Instead of isolation (often an inevitability as family or friends pass on), a residence offers a sense of community and a rotation of engaging activities.
It’s imperative to set realistic priorities to narrow down options and save time and effort. Touring properties can be an extensive process and, after a while, they can blur together instead of the right option standing out. Ho suggests that when you visit a residence, pay attention to the morale of the residents and staff: Is there low participation or engagement in recreational activities? Is the staff sincere? Does the food look appealing or cater to your specific needs (if you have an allergy, for instance)? These details can make the difference. The residence you choose is one you could be in for more than a decade, so it’s important that it’s tailored to your individual needs, allowing you to advance into the next chapter with ease.
august 2016 INSPIRED senior living magazine
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