It’s never too early to plan holiday celebrations that take the needs of your senior loved ones into consideration. The holidays can be a tough time for many seniors as they may feel lonely, isolated, or extra aware of health issues that they didn’t have in years past. With a little preparedness, you can help them beat the winter blues and create a wonderful holiday season.

Make sure that you senior loved one has plenty to look forward to, even when you’re busy handling other aspects of holiday planning. Perhaps they can be in charge of special outings or activities with the grandkids, or can handle some meal prep or shopping. Elderly people, especially those with memory care issues, need to have plenty to anticipate and focus on. You may not be able to share quality time constantly during the hectic holidays, by try to schedule a little something as often as possible. One on one conversation might be less stressful, and there’s no better gift than your undivided attention.

You can also use this time together to ensure your loved one is doing well and that his or her needs are being met. Just as the comparing this holiday to previous years’ might be a point of sadness for seniors, it can also be a point of comparison for you to see how their health and mental wellness really are. If you see your loved one struggling with mobility or find you are having to make adjustments for him or her so they can get around, manage basic tasks, or remember things, you might want to consider a retirement community.

Senior housing and assisted living are great options for seniors who need a little extra help but don’t want to lose their independence. They can also help seniors avoid stress and depression by providing plenty to see, do and look forward to and plenty of social interaction. Retirement facilities also help residents stay healthy by providing well prepared, nutritious meals, exercise classes, and opportunities to garden, walk, and more.

This holiday season, celebrate the seniors in your life, and check in to ensure their quality of life is the best it can be as we say farewell to 2013 and begin a new year. By planning ahead for the holidays, you’ll better be able to anticipate your loved one’s needs both at family celebrations and in the months to come.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

blog1You might have, like many people, started planning for retirement a long time before you actually got to the finish line. There were accounts to open, financial planners to chat with, paperwork to navigate, and dreams to dream about hitting the golf course, traveling, and spoiling the grand kids. Just as you began planning retirement well in advance, you should also get a head start on the conversation with both yourself and loved ones about when you will be ready for a retirement community.

Many hear the words “retirement community” and assume they might be like the nursing homes from decades ago. It’s important, first, to recognize that retirement communities today are for all ages of retirees and many offer different levels of care tailored to your needs. Planning for when you might want to join a senior home isn’t a depressing bet on when you will fall ill or become frail, but instead a proactive process to decide when you will be ready to join a caring community of new friends, more opportunities to explore and enjoy yourself, and receive a little extra assistance as needed.

Just as you planned the first phase of your retirement and when you could stop working, go ahead and consider when in the future you might be ready for the retirement community phase. If you are already asking yourself if you’re ready for senior housing, that could be a sign you’re almost ready. Perhaps you’ve realized a big house is harder to maintain as an empty nest, and that you don’t need all the extra bedrooms. Perhaps you are wondering if you’d prefer to live in another city not that you aren’t tied there by your career. Perhaps you simply like the idea of being surrounded by peers who are in a similar place and enjoy similar pastimes, much as you might have in college.

Starting the conversation now can also make the emotional side of this decision easier. Both you and your friends and family might have feelings to take into account and navigate. It will be easier to do this slowly over time when everyone can be more objective and logical than in the emotionally heightened rush after a crisis like hospitalization. Especially if you are currently living with family, the emotions surrounding caretaking can be complicated for everyone involved. Time and open dialogue can make the transition easier.

Even if you don’t intend to move into a retirement community for some time, go ahead and talk to your family, loved ones, doctor, and financial planners now so you can strategize the best possible way to make your move when you are ready. Just as you learned with the first phase of retirement, it’s always best to plan ahead!

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

blog6There’s no denying that tastes in housing have changed in the past decade. The same young professionals who bought rambling suburban homes when they started families in the 80s are contemplating retirement, and often want something totally different for their next place to live. Forbes explains that “Boomers buying for the long haul are looking for good access to transit, medical care and recreation; for high-speed Internet access and security systems; and for energy-efficient appliances.”

That’s often very different, and more urban-oriented, than their needs to be near work, in a good school district, or to have plenty of room for the family during their professional years.  This is part of the reason so many retirees contemplate downsizing. It gives them some financial gains, fewer maintenance demands, and the opportunity to live somewhere in line with their new lifestyle needs.

If you are considering downsizing as part of your retirement plan, there’s a few things you can do to make it an easy process. For one, it helps to know where you will be downsizing to. Talk to your financial planners and take a look at your accounts—you might be surprised at what options net the biggest gains. Retirement communities can actually be less expensive when you look at the overall cost of your current home, including utilities, gas to commute to the things you like to do, groceries, and more. By deciding first where you will be living, you can then see how much space you will have to work with and what your actual needs will be. For example, if you’re moving to an apartment, townhome, or condo, you may not need the extra large gas grill or the leaf blower in your garage.

In fact, rooms like the garage can be a great place to begin downsizing. Attics, basements, and garages can accumulate a lot of junk over the years that you simply won’t need at your new home. Take old paint cans, oil, light bulbs, and other maintenance leftovers to hazardous materials recycling—your city website can tell you where the drop off for these items is. Then you can move on to things you rarely use—untouched clothes that no longer fit in the back of your closet, children’s games and clothes you no longer need, or extra dishes and kitchen things.

When you’re left with the things you use frequently or are deeply sentimental, you know you are well prepared to downsize! Think of how pleasant life will be when you are surrounded only with your favorite things in a home that’s perfectly suited to your new lifestyle and day to day activities! Get closer to friends, family, and all the fun outings you enjoy while shedding the stress and cost of so many belongings.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

blog5As wonderful as it is to be happily settled in a home you love, part of what makes your golden years so golden is the chance to see and do new things and get together with friends and family you care for. You’ll appreciate the convenience and community of your retirement facility even more after breaking your routine and cutting loose on a cruise, a train trip to a niece’s graduation, or simply visiting a new state for a change of scenery.  We have some travel planning pointers that will help you have the best time possible:

· The older we get, the more easily our immune systems are stressed. If you are flying, be sure to stay hydrated to help avoid a travel cold. You can also take a decongestant or chew gum to keep your ears from hurting as the altitude changes. Before travel, take vitamins and eat extra vegetables and fruits to help your immune system amp up for the extra stress.

· Call your bank ahead of time to be sure they know where you are traveling. It would be very frustrating to arrive only to have your credit and debit cards shut down for suspicious activity!

· Plan around your limits. Just because you have health or mobility issues, or simply don’t have as much energy as you did in your 20s, doesn’t mean you can’t travel and have a great time. Plan your itinerary around when you have the most energy, or if you know one day will be strenuous, try to make the next luxurious and relaxing.

· Make special arrangements as far ahead of time as possible. The more information you have on travel days the better. For example, it would be nice to know in advance how the stewardesses on your airline will store your cane or walker. Some medical items like oxygen need to be approved or verified with official notice from your physician. Best to not let these details wait until the last minute.

· Purchase luggage of a size and design you are comfortable handling. There have been many new styles in the past several years, including some with multiple wheels on the bottom than can roll from any direction at the touch of a finger. Nothing simplifies travel like luggage you can handle yourself without strain.

Don’t forget one of the very best parts of travel—getting to come home! When you’ve had a wonderful time with friends and family, or even on your own, it can be lovely to come back to a place equally as welcoming, with many friendly faces. It’s not discussed as often, but homecoming is a great perk of the retirement community life.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living