What Do You Gain from a Square Foot Loss: Moving to a Retirement Community
There’s no doubt that moving to a retirement community means losing some square footage. But giving up a house does not mean giving up the life you built while living there.
Most new residents feel that their world expands post-move. In addition to their current network of friends, community ties, and interests, many are surprised at how many new friends and opportunities they quickly gain to supplement that network.
When Ron Stevenson and Pam Parmer decided to move while still in their 70s, many of their friends said it was too soon. “Our response was, ‘Yes, until it’s too late,’” Ron says. “Physically, we can’t do what we once could and taking care of a house was becoming more of a chore. We had watched older friends becoming more restricted to their house, and it was just deteriorating around them. Aging in place sounds lovely as a concept, but we knew the reality could be very different.”
Pam assumed that their decision to move would be little more than a change of location and scenery, and that other than getting rid of home maintenance, their lives would change very little.
“I thought I would move here and I would live in my nice little villa and my life would stay the same. And it hasn’t stayed the same, it’s gotten better,” Pam says. “As time has gone on, I’ve met people and they’ve introduced me to things they do on campus, so my circle of friends and activities is so much larger now. This has enhanced our lifestyle pretty dramatically, actually,” she says. In 2019, Pam served as associate dean of Asbury’s resident-run Keese School of Continuing Education, recruiting lecturers and helping schedule the semester. New friends encouraged her to join the Asbury Clowns, which perform at Wilson Health Care Center, Kindley Assisted Living, and at some campus events.
The highly active couple, who compete in inline skating half marathons and work out five days a week at the community’s fitness center, are planning a hiking trip through Glacier National Park for Ron’s 80th birthday in 2020.
“Much to our surprise, our lives have expanded and been enriched by our retirement community,” said Ron in his 2019 Christmas letter to family and friends. “We expected our lives to slow down not speed up.”
Irene Petak’s move came at age 87, and was one of the many that come at the urging of an adult child who is concerned that their parent is aging out of their house. Irene did not drive, and could no longer maintain the gardens that were her pride and joy.
Daughter Debbie worried about her mother’s quality of life and safety, and was struggling to keep Irene’s house in order along with her own. “I remember walking into her house once and she was in there alone just sitting in her chair,” Debbie says. “I felt like she was wilting away. And if I called her and she didn’t answer, I would get in the car and drive over there. Now, when I call, she’s never home, and I’m thrilled.”
“There was a lot to do at home,” Irene points out, “but it was chores, not socializing.”
These days, Irene starts her morning with back-to-back fitness classes, and she has become an informal ambassador, introducing new residents to people and programs, and urging them to get involved.
“When you go from six bedrooms to two, it can be challenging, but you realize how much time you were spending taking care of all that,” Irene says. And now, she has friends to talk to instead of a big house and garden with no one in it, Irene says.
“Mom has a life that makes me want to pinch myself every single day,” Debbie says. “She didn’t know what she was missing. I feel like this move has extended her life. She looks 20 years younger.”