The Search for a Senior Living Community: Joan's Journey

My name is Joan London and I am writing a series of blogs chronicling my journey to find a senior living community. I hope you, my readers, will find my experiences both interesting and useful as you or someone you know travel the same path.

First Dear Readers, I have a confession to make: this is my first blog – ever! At 67, I hang mostly with the not-so-technical crowd. About a year ago, after feeling illiterate around my adult children and others, I went on the Internet and investigated the term, “to Blog.”

As a former full-time journalist, I became fascinated with blogging and have been reading blogs, especially those relating to seniors. The blog I am now going to write for you will honestly chronicle my emotional and real-life encounters along the road to relocating as an independent, female senior citizen. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Part 1: Westward Ho!

Surgery, hail storm, earthquake and monster hurricane — enough drama for me to say I’ve had it living alone! It’s time for a change. It’s time for a new journey to begin. It’s time for 55+ senior living. It’s time for me to relocate to the West Coast. I planned my trip, purchased tickets, and here I am about to land in Seattle. Reflection time is over. My search is on. Read more about Joan’s decision to search for senior housing

Part 2: Two Flights Forward, One Flight Back

About six weeks ago, I returned to Baltimore following my first hands-on search in the metropolitan areas of Seattle and San Francisco, two of the locations where I am considering relocation. The flights that took me to and down the West Coast were uneventful, but the visits to senior housing sites proved to be an adventure. Read more about Joan’s visit to Seattle and San Francisco

Part 3: Move West Stalled, But Not Stopped

I promised to give you the honest lowdown on my search for senior housing. The truth is the search is fun. Researching and exploring new places, meeting interesting, caring, helpful folks, and exploring my personal, social and financial needs, is challenging in a positive way. The downer is the depressed condo sales market. Read more about Joan’s challenge of selling her condo in a down market

Part 4: Southern California Reflections

The Valley is new territory for me, quite unfamiliar, with an urban but dry, desert feel. After exploring the area for a week, I learned that I like the Valley weather, culture and people. At each senior housing community I visited, I gathered materials, took pics on my cell phone and met with staff and residents. My Gemini personality thrived as I journeyed to each location, made new friends and came closer to identifying my new home. Read more about Joan’s trip to Southern California

Part 5: And the Winner Is…

“And the winner is …” closed the last senior housing blog for Joan’s Journey, so it’s only fair to lead with this phrase. Hang with me readers for a few hundred words. I will share insights of my two least favorite senior residences, my three favorite senior housing corporations, my second-favorite residence and “the winner.” Read more about the senior housing communities Joan visited

Part 6: Downsizing–A Trip Down Memory Lane

I’m a Gemini. I like to be social, hang with family and friends, and to celebrate my birthday with panache. However, this year the need to downsize my condo in preparation for senior housing overrode my inner call to party. Read more about Joan’s downsizing experience

Part 7: Lightning Strikes, Journey Jolted!

I’m back after several weeks of diversion from my senior housing search. A natural disaster struck my life, one I never expected to personally experience–lightning. In fact, natural disasters like lightning are an impetus of my seeking senior housing, with its professional staff and disaster plans in case of personal, man-made or natural disaster. Read more about Joan surviving a power outage

Part 8: Miracles Do Happen!

In late August, a lovely senior couple, referred by a neighbor, visited my condo and made a bid — in 45 minutes. The couple, apparently rapid decision-makers, had done their homework, knew the neighborhood and available condos for sale, and offered a contract. Nine months without a serious looker, then one buyer in 45 minutes! Yes, miracles do happen. Read more about Joan’s plans to sell her condo

Part 9: Technology Connects Coasts

From the comfort of my kitchen table, I viewed the entire live worship service from my temple in suburban Baltimore. Bloggers, technology has such a positive impact for senior living. Communications Expert Margaret Rouse of Unified Communications explains. Read more about  Joan’s experience with long-distance worship

Part 10: Locations Shift Like Sand

A funny thing happened on my way through Joan’s Journey 2012. My world, or I should say my adult children’s worlds, shifted like sand. My son Brian, who was settled in Seattle last December, is now commuting and working in Silicon Valley, CA. In LA, my son Mark and daughter-in-law Lindsay each changed jobs and moved to a new home in another area of the vast city. My daughter, Allison in San Francisco, talks about moving in the Bay Area — but who knows. So much for moving to senior housing close to my children. Read more about Joan’s experience with the changing locations

Part 11: Plants and Seniors On the Move

For many seniors, including me, gardening is a cherished hobby, providing fresh air, fine and gross motor skill exercise, mental and sensory stimulation, and a sense of accomplishment. Seniors who plant herbs and vegetables enjoy fresh and nutritious produce at valuable cost-savings. Nurturing flowers and flowering plants brings creativity and beauty to our lives. Read more about Joan’s experience with the her plants

Part 12: Enter Organizers

On a recent sunny Saturday, two “Professional Organizers,” Mary Cate Claudias and Annie Powell, entered my condo. Before they arrived, I had no idea what to expect. The closest I’ve come to professional organizers are my impressions from the cable television show, “Hoarders.” Would the organizers arrive with a therapist, a Hazmat crew, and a 1-800-JUNK truck? Read more about Joan’s organizing adventure

Part 13: Moving Forward

Downsizing slowly for the past year has not been difficult. Using a professional organizer was interesting and useful. Based upon experience with only one company, here are my pros and cons to using a professional organizing service for senior living downsizing. Read more of Joan’s tips for hiring a professional organizer

Part 14: Packing & Moving 101

Whether you’re moving into senior housing, as I am, sending your grandchild a package or returning an item that needs repacking, selecting the correct packaging and method of shipment is critical. Read Joan’s tips for choosing a packing and moving company

Part 15: Packing and Moving - It’s a Wrap

It’s been nearly a year-long journey of downsizing clothing, collectibles, books, furniture, kitchenware and items of my adult children. This really tough task is about over, and I’m looking forward to moving to senior housing as soon as my condo is sold. Read more about Joan’s options for packing and moving items

Part 16: Baltimore Bucket List Begins With Unexpected Twist

Recently, a very dear, longtime friend, Sheldon Sherman, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. On our last visit, as his strength was waning, he took my hand, his sparkling, dark brown eyes looked straight into mine, and he unexpectedly said, “Take care of yourself.” Which leads us to Baltimore Bucket List Item #1: Take care of yourself. Read more about Joan’s final visit with her dear friend

Part 17: Life’s Lessons Expand Baltimore Bucket List

I feel good! I feel really good! Since my return from the West Coast and senior house-hunting, I’ve had two life-altering experiences that have changed my frame of reference on the second item of my Baltimore Bucket List from “appreciate family and friends” to “appreciate family, friends and strangers.” Read more about Joan’s life lesson learned

Part 18: Senior Living Begins

Welcome Joan’s Journeyers. I apologize, sort of, for the cliffhanger or “teaser,” as I ended our last blog with “Wam!Oliver - 052314 Boom! Whoosh through the air — like a cartoon character, I flew from the floor, my body in the air, landing face down on the platform. Read more about Joan’s new chapter in Santa Monica

Part 19: Settling-in to Senior Housing

Welcome Joan’s Journeyers. On a trip to Los Angeles last fall, my dear friend Sondra Katz and I went to the trendy Rockwell Comedy Club, where tables and chairs form a circle around the stage. As we approached the reservation desk, we were handed placards with our table number. Under the table number read, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” Read more about Joan settling into her new home

Part 20: Unexpected Events Lead to CAT

Welcome Joan’s Journeyers. Geriatric experts talk about adjustments to senior living. I suggest “Climate Change” be added to the list. On the calm, clear night of March 17, 2014, at 6:25 am, I was asleep in my bed at Holiday Villa East (HVE) in Santa Monica. Read more about how Joan learns to live in earthquake country

Part 21: Senior Living Lights Up Life

This installment of Joan’s Journey begins with a riddle: How many seniors does it take to hang a wall lamp? The answer may be a surprise, and gives another glimpse into life at a senior living community. Read more about Joan and her lamp, and get a glimpse inside her apartment

Part 22: Senior Communities Embrace Life, Even at the End

Just before 8 p.m. on a beautiful fall night in Santa Monica, the enchanting quiet of my “senior hotel” room was blasted with high-pitched sirens, annoying loud beeps and screeching tires. Unfortunately, in senior living, these sounds are all too familiar. Read more about what caused such a response, and how Joan and her community reacted

Part 23: Famous 1873 Poem Describes Senior Living

“Like ships passing in the night,” three good friends touched my heart, and memories of them still bring a smile to my face. Read more about Joan’s friends Ron, Harriette and Jerry

Part 24: An Unexpected Lesson in Comfort Zones

Recently, we’ve been exploring comfort zones with one’s senior community and the surrounding geographic location—whether a new area or lifelong location. And a recent story taught me a valuable lesson about these comfort zones. Read Joan’s story and what she learned from it

Part 25: Homeward Bound

In a recent trip “Home” to Baltimore, relationships were the focus of my visit. I relocated from Baltimore to Los Angeles in January 2014, with the expressed intent to be close to my children and grandchildren. On the plane eastbound, I contemplated my emotions visiting the city, family and friends I have known all my life. Read more about Joan’s trip, and the realizations it provided

Part 26: The Value of Being Prepared

I awoke with a massive headache above my right eye and extreme pressure in my eye. Soon, a sharper pain hit my eye. Suddenly, the pain subsided, but my eye felt extremely teary. “This is so weird,” I thought as I walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror. To my horror, my right eye looked like the worst Halloween monster eye one can imagine. Find out what happened to Joan, and how the incident taught an important lesson

Part 27: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

One of my favorite radio stations, Oldies, recently played Cynid Lauper’s song, Girls Just Want to Have Fun. As I listened to the song, I thought, “That’s what I want to do with senior living. I want to have fun. It’s my time to have fun.” Find out how Joan is having fun in senior living

Part 28: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I enjoy hunting for a bargain but one of my trips reminded me of the dangers that awaited Dorothy when she and her friends ventured off the yellow brick road. Find out how Joan was lured off the safe road, not by fragrant poppies, but by intoxicating alleged bargain-price designer merchandise.

Part 29: Conservation and Change Describe Senior Living

Earth Day wasn’t an event on my radar screen, nor were green practices, but becoming familiar with the month-long and worldwide celebration has raised my awareness to advocate for advances in hunger, illness, poverty and conservation of natural resources. Learn more about the eco-friendly practices that Joan discovered her senior living community does every day…

Part 30: Small Expenses Impact Senior Lifestyles

The monthly charges at senior living communities generally include rent, meals, housekeeping, planned activities and other amenities. However, personal items like toothpaste are usually not provided. Learn more about why Joan says that seniors need to consider having cash on hand when joining a retirement community…

Part 31: As Famous Lyrics Predict, World War II Veterans Meet Again

Statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Population Projection Model estimates that less than 1 million American WWII veterans are alive, and several of these veterans call Holiday Villa East their home. Learn more about the veterans who live alongside Joan and how her community recognizes its veterans…

Part 32: A Senior’s Quandary—To Move or Not to Move Near Loved Ones

Moving and living closer to relatives is not a one-way decision; it is a decision that a senior and one adult, and in most cases, many more folks make. Whether moving across town, across counties or across the country, as I did, moving closer to family or significant others is a shared, life-changing experience. Learn more about how the Hierarchy of Needs plays a role in successful senior living…

Part 33: How to Find Harmony in Senior Living

As I age, simple pleasures have more meaning and are ever so cherished. Learn more about how Joan has achieved harmony in senior living as per Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory…

Part 34: Planning is Key to Senior-Pet Ownership

Since moving to a senior living community, I am aware of unintentional pet neglect that can happen if a senior becomes ill and there are no arrangements in place to ensure his/her pet will be care for.  Learn more about why Joan says it’s important for senior pet owners to plan ahead for the unexpected…

Part 35: Successful Senior-Pet Ownership Part II: Caring and Sharing

When seniors reach out for help to care for their pets, the result can be happy tales for all involved, even if sometimes that help involves re-homing pets.  Learn more about why Joan decided to re-home her beloved cat Mia and why she adopted another cat instead…

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Part 36: The Results of My Driving Ms. Joan Experiment

In my opinion, giving up one’s car and agreeing to no longer drive, belongs on the stress scale with death of a loved one, divorce and moving. Each of these events is life changing. For me, handing over my car keys to the friendly dealership representative was like cutting off a body part. My keys, and the life they represented, have been a part of me since age 16. Learn more about the results of the driving Ms. Joan experiment

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“The Search for Senior Housing: Joan’s Journey” is written by Joan London, a freelance writer from Baltimore, MD, who lives in a 55+ condominium with Mia, a sweet Russian Blue rescue cat. Blogging about her search for the just-right-fit senior living facility on the West Coast is London’s latest freelance endeavor. Her blog will explore the pros and cons, ups and downs, whys and why-nots of this 67-year-old single woman’s new life journey. Join the discussion the SeniorHomes.com blog or email your questions to joan@seniorhomes.com.