Golden Years

With an abundance of communities and assisted-living options, seniors have a variety of places to choose from when finding their next home. 

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The transition is often quite subtle. In fact, if one stays away for too long, he or she might miss it. It is when the parent and child switch roles. For many, it is the first time that the parent becomes dependent on the child. While the parent has spent decades caring for the child, the child must now look out for the parent.

Today, this transitional process has been simplified through an increase in living and care options. Long gone are the days of stuffy retirement homes and a frustrating lack of other alternatives. With the average woman who reaches 65 expected to live to 85 and the average man who reaches 65 expected to live to 83, there is a lot of living to do during retirement and post-retirement. *

Because many people who are entering retirement still have living parents, they are learning from older generations’ mistakes and trying to save their own children from future challenges.

“The trend that I have seen is that people are tending to look at their options at a younger age,” said Star Bradbury, director of life fulfillment at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida. “People are asking themselves questions sooner, younger.”

While there are many different retirement locations throughout Florida and the U.S., Gainesville is among the best of the best. In 2013, Forbes magazine named Gainesville one of the 25 best places to retire in the U.S. Forbes noted Gainesville’s low cost of living, lack of state income tax, excellent medical care and good weather as some of the deciding factors. Bradbury added that living in a college town is a huge draw for many seniors because of the culture and energy that it provides. But while these statistics certainly make the decision to retire in Gainesville quite easy, there are several factors to consider after one has settled on a location.

There are many different types of communities for seniors to choose from. Senior communities are designed for retirees who do not need much assistance and instead are looking for a safe, quiet place to call home with an age minimum for residents. In some cases, this is a short-term retirement living plan.

While these facilities offer privacy and serenity, should retirees need more assistance as they age, having at-home care or moving may be the only options.

For seniors, the thought of leaving their homes and losing independence can seem unimaginable. Especially after the loss of a spouse, normalcy and familiarity can become essential.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, only 3.1 percent of the 65 and older population live in skilled-nursing facilities. The majority of the population is choosing to take advantage of the other options. And the number and types of options are rising right alongside the 65 and older population.

At a variety of price points and with many à la carte options to choose from, at-home care can be a great alternative for those seeking to stay put. Medicare does not provide coverage for those needing basic errands run or other day-to-day services, so it can certainly be a more expensive choice.

Lynn Domenech, co-owner of Comfort Keepers, a local organization that provides at-home care, explained that many members of the 65 and older population have moved to Florida and their kids are scattered across the country. They may only need someone to take them to the grocery store or help them with their medications, or they may need around-the-clock care. Regardless of the need, organizations, like Comfort Keepers, provide solutions.

Jocelyn Holt, co-owner of Comfort Keepers, added that they receive a majority of their new clients after the holidays because that is when children come to visit their aging parents in Florida and they become aware of the state that their loved one is living in. It is easy to sound OK over the phone once or twice a week. Often the retirees have no desire to move back up North, and it can be challenging for children to relocate with jobs and families of their own.

Frequently, when one spouse has passed, the other is left with little to no daily human interaction. At-home caregivers can offer more than just a reminder to a client to take his or her medicine or a ride to the store. Instead, they can provide companionship and consistency —someone to look forward to seeing each day. This consistency can be carried through when or if the person needs to move. Holt explained that about 40 percent of their clients are actually in retirement facilities.

Holt recalled a client who had always hosted a special dinner for her family, but she hadn’t been able to cook for years. The client’s comfort keeper insisted that they would be able to cook the dinner together and the two were successful in having the family over. In that moment, the client had regained her normalcy and routine, and, more than anything, was proud of what she had accomplished.

“I think a lot of people when they think of home care they think of the actual tasks —the cooking, the cleaning, the errands,” Holt said. “But what they’re really looking for is that socialization that so many people are lacking as they get older.”

While different retirement communities provide different services, some offer what Bradbury explained as continuing care, where the amount of care grows as residents age. Oak Hammock at the University of Florida is the only facility in Gainesville to offer continuing care and is one of about 70 in Florida.

In addition to offering independence and a variety of cultural, athletic and social events, facilities, like Oak Hammock at UF, offer a variety of care for residents, too. This allows residents to stay in place should they ever need more care. Basic Medicare does not cover assisted living, nursing home or other retirement community fees if custodial needs, including bathing and eating, are the only reasons the person is in the facility.

For those needing around-the-clock care more rapidly, entering right into a standard assisted-living facility may be the right option.  Assisted-living communities provide care for those who need help with both simple and complex daily activities. Most facilities provide basic medical needs and 24/7 care. For more advanced needs, skilled-nursing facilities would be required. Skilled nursing facilities offer extensive nursing services, and a physician must admit patients.

While buying a new home on a golf course or living in a high-rise may be the perfect option for someone in his or her 60s or 70s, once 80 hits, it may become more challenging and more help may be needed.

“So many times our families say I just wish I would have called sooner,” Holt said. “You don’t have to be so far down the road for it to make a difference.”

*2010 U.S. Census Briefs