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Photo by Broadmead resident Erroll Hay

"I'm Not Ready Yet": Younger Can Be Better for a Life Plan Community Move

Courtesy of myLifeSite

We've covered two common reasons people delay a move to a Life Plan retirement community (also known as a continuing care retirement community or CCRC) or other senior living community: putting off downsizing and having to decide what goes in the "Keep" pile, and concerns around affordability and the fear of running out of money. But another common refrain we hear from people who say they aren't yet ready to make a Life Plan Community move is that they feel that they are "not old enough" to live in a Life Plan Community.

The relativity of "old"

In surveys we've conducted of prospective residents of Life Plan Communities, we have found that roughly half of respondents say a top reason they've not moved to a Life Plan Community is that they don't feel like they are old enough to live in a retirement community. It's probably fair to say that some people will never feel like they are! This may be in part due to the widening gap between older people's chronological age (their age based on the number of years they've been alive) and subjective age, which is how old they feel on the inside.

Researchers from the Pew Research Center asked a group of adult survey participants how old they feel, in years. For respondents aged 65 and older, 60 percent reported feeling younger than their chronological age, and a third said they felt exactly their age. But what was perhaps most interesting was that only 3 percent of those age 65+ said they felt older than their chronological age.

Interestingly, this Pew study found that the difference between chronological (actual) age and subjective (felt) age actually increases as people get older. Nearly half of survey respondents age 50+ said they felt at least 10 years younger than their chronological age. For those 65 to 74 years old, a third responded that they felt between 10 and 19 years younger than their chronological age. But what's more, one out of six study participants in the 65 to 74 age group said they felt at least 20 years younger than their actual age!

If these statistics hold true across the broader population, it's not surprising that many people in their 70s and even 80s may say that they don't feel like they are old enough to move to a Life Plan Community or other senior living community.

Overcoming ageist stereotypes

When a person feels 10 to 20 years younger than their chronological age, they may resist what they think of as things "old people" do, like move to a retirement community. But these ageist stereotypes help no one. And more and more research is finding that having a positive view of aging and what it means to be "old" can actually lengthen people's lives.

A 2002 study by Yale University's department of epidemiology and public health analyzed the self-perception and lived experience of 660 seniors aged 50 and older. The researchers found that seniors who held more positive views about the aging process actually lived 7.5 years longer than people who perceive aging as a negative experience.

The Yale team also found that seniors who commonly encountered positive stereotypes about the aging process had notably better memory and balance than their peers. It therefore may not surprise you that the researchers also found that seniors with negative self-perceptions about getting older had worse memories and often experienced feelings of worthlessness.

Of course, having a negative self-worth likely cannot be attributed solely to age discrimination, but it appears to at least play a role. This is among the reasons that all people must raise our awareness of the hurtful nature of ageism and work to combat it. This includes people who are chronologically older but may not feel like what they subjectively think "old people" feel like.

Not an either-or situation

For those who don't feel "old enough" to move to a Life Plan Community or other senior living community, there is another key point to consider: It isn't an either-or decision. Moving to a Life Plan Community may mean that most of your neighbors are also seniors, but it by no means precludes you from associating with other age demographics. In some cases, quite the opposite.

Many Life Plan Communities offer intergenerational programs, which encourage residents to interact with younger people. Studies have found that such programs are beneficial to both the seniors and the younger people who participate. These programs may include volunteer opportunities (such as mentoring or tutoring programs), social/entertainment opportunities (like outings to a local college's athletic events or performances), or even educational programs, which allow Life Plan Community residents to take courses on a nearby college's campus.

Some Life Plan Communities and other senior living communities also are opening their doors to members of the surrounding neighborhood, encouraging the locals to enjoy some of the amenities available on the Life Plan Community campus.

Sooner can be better

One final point I would add for those who may still be considering delaying their Life Plan Community move because they think they are "too young" for a senior living community…

We've talked with hundreds of Life Plan Community residents over the years, and I don't think we've ever had one say, "I wish I'd waited longer to move here." In fact, quite the contrary: Many residents have told us they wish they had made the move sooner.

There are many advantages to making a Life Plan Community move sooner rather than later — when you are younger rather than older. Some of these benefits may not become clear to the senior until after they actually make their Life Plan Community move, but opting to move to a Life Plan Community at a younger age:

These benefits ultimately distill down to the things that many people aspire to during their retirement years: comfort, peace of mind, and enjoyment of life. If you can achieve these retirement goals at a younger age by moving to a Life Plan Community sooner rather than later, why would you wait?

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