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Senior Living: To move or not to move?

Autonomous living is more complicated when age is a factor.

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“Would you consider moving to a retirement home?” my friend asked over the phone.

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“No,” I said.

“Now that was a definite answer,” my friend chuckled.

But, on second thought, I am not so sure. In my circle of friends, I see many examples of people who have taken the big step, gave up their domicile and moved to a “residence.” There is Betty who suffered various illnesses, brought on mostly by loneliness, getting a new lease on life in a retirement home setting. Another friend’s mother, in her nineties, loves her apartment and her new surroundings in a senior residence.

Friend Mona, having had a knee replacement, decided to sell her house and move into a retirement home, looking for a more secure, stress-free environment. Giving things away, selling a few things, she now lives in one room, reduced to “a bed, a table and three chairs,” as she told me.

While Mona and all the others enjoyed being looked after, entertained and being served delicious meals, COVID-19 brought a big change to their lives. Instead of companionship, unexpected loneliness descended on the residents. Restrictions are now gradually eased with the advent of vaccines and “bubbles” being formed for shared activities.

One thing all the above friends had in common was the need to “downsize” before moving. But help is available, as more and more companies advertise that they would help you “downsize,” they also offer “transition” services from your home to a retirement residence.

While I am at present not planning to make the move, I am quite conscious of the need to “downsize,” if only to make my life more clutter-free. I must have been thinking of this for some time now, because a while back I even took a Feng Shui course with that objective in mind.

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But downsizing is not an easy task. I found I am not alone in my predicament when I read an article whose author lamented not being able to part with many prized possessions. Experts advise us to have those three bins, labelled, respectively, “keep” “sell or donate” and “recycle” to sort articles. But I, too, find this task difficult. There are those photo albums my father so carefully assembled to record the story of our lives. The slides taken during my voyages and shown on the slide projector and screen, now gathering dust in the corner. Letters and mementoes reminding me of people and events I treasure. Right or wrong, I am not ready yet to go all the way decluttering.

Doing some “residence research” some years ago, I was shown around a newly opened facility called “Vista “which is still functioning here in Montreal. My guide explained that the building was divided into several levels, from floors for the completely autonomous to a floor for those needing full care, making it easy to switch floors and remain in the same building as your needs change. The apartments, the carpeted halls looked lovely.

But what really impressed me were the facilities, which included a restaurant, on-site convenience store, library, entertainment centre, pharmacy and hair salon. There was even a spa section with a lovely indoor swimming pool and a state-of-the art gym. Weekly activities like yoga, movies and concerts were on offer. Living here, I thought, would be like being on a year-round holiday or living in a luxury hotel. All this, of course, came at a cost. On a less expensive level, I also visited a government-subsidized residence that offered nice surroundings, good meals and excellent care.

But I decided to stay, and whenever I think of moving, a strange memory comes to mind. Some time ago, my friend Mary visited from Toronto with a friend of hers whom I met for the first time. This friend walked into the apartment and exclaimed,

“You will die here.”

I never forgot those words. Did she have a gift for predicting the future? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I am carrying on right here where I am, the Good Lord willing.

— Alice Lukacs writes the Life in the 90s column

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