Thinking of moving? A lot of older folks are doing it. They want to be near their children. Or they are suddenly overwhelmed by the large yard where they have tended flowers for years. Or they want a walkable neighborhood. Or they just crave a bit of adventure.
About 14 percent of the American population moves each year, or about 40 million people. Older Americans who are downsizing are often deciding between whether to move to a condo or a senior living community.
There’s no right answer because everyone’s circumstances are different (health, relationship status, income, interests), and most people don’t let age control their lives. They figure out what they can afford, make a list of what they want, and go for it.
About a year ago, Anna Marshall moved into an apartment in the Meadow, an active lifestyle community on the Masonic Homes of Kentucky campus, and she couldn’t be happier.
Anna, a retired registered nurse, had moved several times in her lifetime, including downsizing with husband Robert from a large home with a steep driveway in Riverwood to a ranch in Northfield.
The Northfield ranch was more manageable, but after her husband’s passing, even the ranch and the smaller yard were too much to keep up.
“After three years living by myself , I said, ‘This house is too big for me, this yard is too big for me.’ I had had back surgery and I couldn’t do yard work anymore,” says Anna, 84, who has three sons. “I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore.”
Before she and her daughter-in-law, Raenell Schroering, went out looking for a condo, she had made an important decision. “ I told her, ‘If I go to a condo, it will be an intermediate move, and I will have to move again. I want this to be my last move.’” So they lined up appointments for apartments at senior communities with multiple levels of care.
“We started at the Masonic Homes,” she says. “The Meadow was brand new, a beautiful building. Just strikingly beautiful. We walked through, and she said, ‘If you don’t move in, I think I will.’ I said, ‘You are too young.’”
Senior communities “are a whole lot different than they were years ago,” Anna says about the upscale setting. While she toured other communities, she was smitten by the Meadow and its amenities — the fountains, the landscaping. “There was no contest,” she says. “Having my own chef, a theatre, a swimming pool. I was ready to quit cooking. They serve meals in a beautiful dining room. I said, ‘OK, I think I can handle that.’
“I have a beautiful apartment,” Anna says. It’s a spacious one bedroom with a large bathroom, a den, a living room-kitchen combo, and a back door that opens onto a patio. “I woke up one morning, and six azaleas around my patio were in bloom. And I didn’t have to do a thing.”
She points out that shuttle transportation on campus and car transportation off campus make her car nearly obsolete.
“The concierge calls the shuttle to take me to the pool across campus,” she says. “Then, the shuttle brings me back to the apartment after I swim.
“I kept my car as a symbol of independence, but it’s not necessary. I’ve reached the point now of thinking of letting the car go.”
She loves the social activities. “We have book club and bridge club and exercise classes. We have an exercise room that has current equipment. And we have a huge ballroom, where we do the exercises. And we have instructors that come in and teach us. A man from the Louisville Ballet teaches us dance.
“We have a magnificent art studio with lots of natural light. I’m an artist also. I paint. They offer art classes here. They also offer trips, like to the Speed Museum.”
Before she made the move, Anna made a pros and cons list and also tallied up all the yearly expenses for living in her ranch and compared them to the cost of living at the Meadow. “It’s pretty comparable,” Anna says. “On the front end, it appears very expensive, but I had never looked at my total costs for a year. I didn’t realize how much it was costing me to live in the house.