Just because a couple has been together for 40, 50 or even 60 years doesn’t mean that individual spouses see things the same way. It would be unusual, indeed, if a long-term relationship never experienced differences of opinion or perspective.
So, when it comes time to consider a retirement community, it is fairly typical for one spouse to be totally ready and positive about the move and the other spouse to be reluctant.
“One individual realizes senior living communities offer all sorts of benefits such as more socializing,” observes Marla Becker, executive director of Aljoya (Mercer Island) located near Seattle. “A slow down occurs when the other half of the couple is not ready.”
Resisting the Move to a Retirement Community
The most common reasons one half of a couple is reluctant to make the transition to a retirement community are based on old myths. For starters, many people think that today’s independent living or assisted living communities are smelly, creepy old nursing homes.
Of course, says Becker, the remedy for that fear is to visit several retirement communities to witness firsthand the atmosphere, as well as dining and activity opportunities. “We make visits as non-threatening as possible,” says Becker. “We invite couples to join us for a wine and cheese social, dinner at Lily’s, watch a movie or visit with other couples.”
Myth One: I’m Too Young for a Retirement Community
Other times the holdout partner throws out the rationalization that they are too young to consider a retirement community. No matter a community’s minimum age requirements (age 62 for Aljoya), it usually only takes a tour around the property to see a full range of active individuals both junior and senior to the reluctant resident.
Myth Two: Retirement Communities Have No Privacy
Another myth that often clouds an open perspective, reports Becker, is the belief that a retirement community is like a giant cruise ship and that residents never experience any independence or privacy. Again, sensitive staff waylay these fears with an explanation that residents are welcome to socialize and participate as much or as little as they desire.
Myth Three: I Can’t Possibly Downsize
When all else fails, the reluctant spouse typically hauls out the I-can’t-possibly-downsize argument. Aljoya staff, for example, are so ready for this roadblock to change that they employ an “At Your Service Manager,” who offers move-in coordination services and provides seminars to prospective residents called “Downsize to Right Size.”
Even with professional help, couples may feel overwhelmed. But they don’t have to move tomorrow, making this sort of transition is all about baby steps.
Becker says that residents often stop senior living prospects and offer an opinion that sounds scripted, “I keep wondering, why didn’t I move sooner.” Or “Don’t wait until a crisis.”
This sort of comment opens the door for consideration, notes Becker, “We suggest that couples have a choice and they will want to make choices together. Most couples do not want the kids to make these decisions.”
How to Reach a Consensus on Joining a Retirement Community
When prospective residents dismantle the myths and let go of their fears, they can begin to see the many benefits of a senior living community. “Sometimes it helps the reluctant individual if we ask him or her to look at why their partner wants to move,” says Becker. “Often they realize that they have been selfish.”
Probably the most successful way for couples to discover that a senior living community offers great benefits and, ultimately, become part of the scene, is to meet other couples. As with so many changes in life, once a couple of 40, 50 or even 60 years meets other couples with similar interests and experiences, it is fun to reactivate the social skills and maybe even do a little double dating.
Written by senior care writer Leslee Jaquette.