“Staycation” at a retirement community

One of the pioneers in Senior Move Management, Margit Novak, President of Moving Solutions, (pictured below far left) shared the following personal story that integrates the importance of “purpose” and the concept of “staycations” in retirement communities which presents another great way to explore the hotel/retirement community concept.

Several months ago, I participated in a program on the emotions of downsizing.  Held at a nearby retirement community, the program included a panel of three community residents:  a resident of many years who had become widowed while living at the community, a wife who had moved with her husband a few years earlier, and a widow who had moved in a few months earlier.  Two of the panel members had lived nearby; one moved from another state to be near family.
One by one, the panel members described their experience of living in the community, what they had expected and what they found.  They described what a typical day was like, what they valued in the community, and how they felt about their decision to move.  They talked about a sense of purpose, of meeting new friends, of learning new things.
No one on the panel talked about the home they had left, about missing a 2-car garage, a large kitchen or a formal dining room.  No one said that closet space at their new apartment was inadequate, that they lacked privacy or felt they were “over-programmed.”

Then members of the audience spoke about what brought them to the program on downsizing.  They described their concerns about leaving their home and living in a community setting.  They talked about their reluctance to give up their garden, formal dining room or extra bedrooms for when grandchildren visit.  They talked about their concern that they would move and then be unhappy.

No one in the audience said their life had become smaller as friends moved, became ill or passed away.  No one talked about what it was like to eat meals alone, or the things they didn’t do because they lacked transportation, inclination or company.  No one talked about boredom, or depression or a sense of fatigue from the demands of maintaining a large home.

And then it struck me, that these people weren’t speaking the same language.  The things that made life in the retirement community meaningful, that gave residents a sense of purpose, weren’t even on the radar screen of the people who still lived in their homes.          I wondered how to connect their vocabulary, so they could understand what each was saying.  I wasn’t sure words could even suffice. Perhaps it is something that must be experienced.

I got a partial answer when a Marketing Director at a community described a “Staycation” program she had recently hosted.  Prospective residents were invited to spend three days at the community.  The Marketing Director surveyed each guest to learn about their interests, and custom-designed an itinerary for each person that included busy days and the company of resident-hosts.  At the end of the three days, more than half of the guests became serious prospects and initiated the move-in process.  “I thought I would be giving things up,” one woman commented.  “Instead, our lives would be fuller.”

As someone who spends time both in people’s homes and in retirement communities, I admit, I have a bias.  Virtually every client I meet after their move to a retirement community says, “I should have done this years ago.”  But they don’t chat for long.  They are busy going somewhere, doing something. They are busy thriving.

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