Retirement living isn’t what it used to be, which is a good thing. A lock-and-leave lifestyle, chef-prepared meals all day long, concierge service, and luxury homes with views of the Dallas skyline…senior living in Dallas has never looked this good.
In fact, retirement living communities have changed so much that many of the people who live there aren’t even retired yet. Today’s senior living communities are designed to meet a variety of needs for active, independent, working adults who want a more convenient, carefree lifestyle. And should their healthcare needs change, a continuum of care is available on site. “Seniors aren’t the only ones who are downsizing these days,” says Brooke Evans, owner of Senior Focused Relocation, a company that handles downsizing and moves for seniors from start to finish. “There is an entire movement of people changing their lifestyle to one of simplicity.”
“Retirement looks so much different than it did even a decade ago. Options are important.”Christina Christie, Highland Springs
According the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030, one in five Americans is projected to be 65 or older. This segment of the population represents about one in every seven Americans. There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history, and those reaching age 65 now have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years—something to consider when making plans about where and when to anticipate the need for a senior living community. When this group is ready to leave their longtime homes for a simpler, more convenient lifestyle, they don’t want to feel like they are giving something up, but instead, adding to their life.
The idea of retirement can lose its luster once you realize you’re still tied down to the cost and hard work of maintaining a larger home. Lawn care, cooking, cleaning, and household repairs are still on the to-do list, even if you no longer go to work every day. It’s no wonder today’s older adults are looking at other living arrangements to make the most out of their retirement years. Whether it’s high-rise living in Uptown Dallas with skyline views and a concierge on call or a tight-knit community with home-like amenities in the suburbs, new senior living communities are popping up throughout the area, all offering amenities, comfort, and convenience that rival what you’ll find at luxurious hotels and resorts. For most seniors, downsizing and moving may seem overwhelming at first, but find the payoff is worth it.
Evans says the average age of her clients gets younger each year. Some are moving to retirement communities and others to smaller homes and condos. The perks of a simpler life can become addictive. “If a client has downsized once, they usually downsize the second time much easier,” she says. “Don’t let the thought of moving and downsizing scare you. Doing nothing can also cause a lot of stress and angst as well.”
Christina Christie, director of sales at Highland Springs, an Erickson senior living community in Dallas, says most seniors she meets want assurance they have access to continuing care in case they need it. Many seniors are active and independent adults when they begin their search and are drawn to communities with a scope of services and amenities. However, they know this may not always be the case and want peace of mind that their healthcare needs will be met at any stage. “Sometimes the sales cycle for a retirement community can be up to three years,” she says. “That’s a smart thing because it means people are planning and being realistic about their future. I think the key to enjoying, rather than avoiding, this decision is to find a community with a wide variety of amenities and services. Retirement looks so much different than it did even a decade ago—options are important.”
Christie recommends asking about what is and isn’t included in the price. There are communities that are more all-inclusive, and others that allow you to pick and choose any additional services which help better control monthly expenses. Make sure you observe both the residents and staff. “When both residents and staff are happy at a community, it says a lot about it,” she says. “The community should make you feel like you are getting more from life, not giving up your life.”
For aging adults who want options that include residential communities, seeking the help of a REALTOR® with a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Senior Housing Professional designation will add value. This means the agent has passed a challenging national exam over issues related to aging and has agreed to live up to high ethical and professional standards. They are committed to partnering with families, serving as a professional partner throughout the consultative process of their move. Angela McCants, a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Senior Housing Professional with Dave Perry Miller Real Estate, specializes in helping seniors and their families make the transition of moving from and selling a longtime home to a smaller “right-sized” home which may not always be smaller. She says the biggest mistake she sees clients make is waiting until a crisis occurs before a decision to move is made. “It’s nice when the parents or parent have designed their own late-in-life move to a lifestyle of their choice,” she says. “Often, the children of aging parents have no choice but to make the decisions. The parent has more choices if he or she has researched and decided when, where, and how they want to live before a crisis occurs.”
According to McCants, right-sizing means moving to a more manageable living situation. This differs from one individual to another. “Right-sizing is helpful because it allows senior adults to enjoy their retirement years,” she says. “Right-sizing means maintenance of a home is under control, sedentary lifestyles are avoided, and safety measures are put in place. However, for those who prefer to age in place, choosing your next home thoughtfully in your empty-nester phase is key.”
McCants often shows her senior clients Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, NORCs. These are homes that have transformed with support systems in place that allow for healthy aging. “There are many condos, townhomes, garden homes—and single-family homes—that are transformed to become NORCs,” she says. “Builders in the Dallas area are also finally seeing the need to build with the aging community in mind.”
Once the decision has been made to make the big move—whether it’s to a community designed for senior adults, a retirement community that offers a continuum of care, or right-sizing into a fully-equipped townhome or condo, the goal of downsizing in later-in-life senior years should be to find a place that offers a better quality of life. Says McCants, “We should all plan to live to be 100-plus years old and consider what may come with that. Living a happy lifestyle is living a healthy lifestyle.”