Last month I had my second Moderna vaccination. How lucky I am to benefit from this potential life saver! Even though I’m over 80 years old and have underlying health conditions, because of the fierce competition for vaccination I’m one of the small proportion of that group to have actually received it. If I were not living in a retirement community that includes a skilled nursing facility, I might have to wait months for even the first shot. (Correction: Recently the rules for prioritizing elderly people for vaccination have relaxed, and now I think anyone in an independent living facility is eligible. Hurrah!)
Being vaccinated is only the latest advantage of life here. Yes, it’s expensive, and I had to sell my house to have enough money to move in. (Whether the money will last until I die is another question. I am cautiously optimistic.) However, having a safe, reasonably comfortable old age is the best use I can think of for my money. Not having any children waiting anxiously to inherit my home or money, I can be selfish about this.
I can understand people who want to continue living in their own homes as long as possible, but that way of life may be overrated. Those who live alone may have very little social life. Transportation is a frequent problem. Planning and cooking meals may no longer be enjoyable. Medical problems such as arthritis can make even simple housework very difficult. For me, all these drawbacks outweighed the positive aspects.
Deciding what items to take to an independent living facility can be difficult. Many people have children who are willing to store some items, and that can help greatly. Being childless, I had to make final decisions when I sold my house and had a series of moving sales. From what I’ve seen, the most common mistake is taking too much. A writer friend of mine insisted on taking boxes of books, unpublished manuscripts, and other writers’ paraphernalia, and could scarcely move in her small apartment. The living space may look large in a floor plan, but it’s limited. Just as if you’re packing for travel, you need to concentrate on the items you really will use. For me, that meant taking electronics such as a laptop computer and printer; my old desk (which has a lot of drawer space) and other basic items of furniture; a few books and a Kindle; the basic wardrobe that had served me well during years of RV travel; financial files; simple kitchen equipment; some pictures and photo albums. It was a little like packing for dormitory life when I went to college. Now as then, the most important places where I spend time are common areas—activity rooms, a gym, the dining room, the library, and so on--rather than my own apartment. This game room is across the hallway from my apartment.
This may sound very Spartan, and it is. However, the dirty little secret of this life is that people leave continually, deciding to move in with their children or dying. The contents of their apartments are often sold to residents at very low prices. If you find that you actually need or want some item you didn’t bring, you can probably replace it. I had an old, small TV when I moved in, but soon bought a large, nearly new one to replace it for $40. A friend bought a lovely designer purse for a few dollars.
Selling my large collection of books was traumatic but necessary, and it forced me to pack only the books I would actually open again or couldn’t bear to give away. If I want to reread a book that I no longer own, the local library will deliver it, or I can order a digital or printed copy. As my vision deteriorates with age, I find it much easier to read books on my Kindle reader than as traditional printed books. In addition, the Kindle’s built-in dictionary and links to other sources are very helpful. Altogether, I have been pleasantly surprised to find I’m no longer clinging to hardbound books. When I do succumb and buy one, I may pass it on to another resident after finishing it.
Most facilities provide transportation to medical appointments and other places. I sometimes miss having my own car, but can always rent one if necessary. (During the pandemic, I feel a little uncomfortable about using ride services.) A friend sometimes gives me a ride. Not having expenses associated with owning a car help greatly with paying my monthly rent.
Altogether, this is a good life. Even five years ago, I might have felt too restricted. Today, I am grateful not to have to worry about home ownership. Aging itself presents problems enough, and I can concentrate on them rather than on trimming shrubs or paying high home-insurance premiums.
Copyright © February 24, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)