As you think about retirement, there’s so much to take into account—including when to start planning. “It’s important to plan for retirement, not at age 65, but earlier in life, especially because we are living longer,” says Roni Lang, a geriatric social worker in Greenwich Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry.
And while many people consider the financial implication of retirement, there are other aspects that they often don’t give much thought to until later. Instead, Lang, who also teaches courses on aging at the University of Connecticut, recommends people start planning in their 20s. “It’s not just a money issue,” says Lang, “Think about where you want to live, financing health care, and how you want to spend your time.”
To that end, we asked experts more about this and what to keep in mind as you look to the future.
TALK EARLY ABOUT YOUR LIVING SITUATION
While you’ve likely heard the advice about starting early before, it’s something almost every expert we spoke with pointed out. “Plan and do your research. Seniors and their families are good about planning for major life events, but many wait until an emergency strikes before they set a plan for their retirement years,” explains Wendy Kaufman, executive director of Waterstone on High Ridge, a luxury rental community for seniors in Stamford, CT. “Visiting and researching senior living
communities is an important part of future planning. Savvy seniors make a move to a community while they are still healthy and able to enjoy all the benefits of senior living. Waiting too long to make a move can limit the options available to seniors and can potentially take them out of the decision-making process if an urgent situation or health crisis occurs.”
Terry Henry is chief sales and marketing officer at Waveny LifeCare Network in New Canaan, CT, which offers a continuum of healthcare services ranging from independent, memory and dementia assisted living to long-term care and more. HE observes, “A common initial challenge in retirement planning is being able to recognize whether a transition from a senior’s current home is needed and what the timing should be.” For instance, if a senior’s housing is unsafe or they’re experiencing things like social isolation or under-stimulation, it might be time for a transition, he says. “Unfortunately, sometimes even the most highly organized, well-intentioned families find themselves putting off this major decision to transition their loved ones from home, waiting instead until a crisis arises, touched off by an accidental fall, news of wandering or indications of poor eating or self-care habits,” Henry explains. “This can be avoided by getting key decision-makers together early, to plan options or interventions well in advance of a potential crisis.”
PLAN FOR FUTURE CARE SERVICES AS WELL
If you’re looking into a senior care facility for your retirement years, financial planning is key, of course, but beyond that, it’s also smart to consider how your health needs might change over time—and whether the facility you’re choosing is equipped to handle that. For example, at Waveny, which has a wide-range of continuum of care services, Henry explains, “It’s not unusual for one of our independent living or memory care residents, or a home care client to require and receive short-term rehabilitation at our skilled nursing facility, and return to their apartment or home feeling much improved. We seamlessly provide the right level of care at the right time to our clients as they need it, across our ‘closed loop’ continuum, providing everyone in the family more peace of mind.”
CONSIDER LIFESTYLE AND ACTIVITIES
“Most retirees are not bored, unhappy or just playing bingo at the senior center— although there is nothing wrong with play- ing bingo,” says Lang. “Many retirees find new interests, new outlets and discover
how to play again. Some go on to new part- time jobs or volunteer activities.” Some tap into their creativity: “For example, a former psychologist became a stand-up comic at age 78. Another man learned to play guitar—something he had wanted to do in high school but never did,” he says.
Along with activities offered in the community, be sure to consider the type of amenities and activities offered at the senior care facilities you are researching. At Waterstone, for instance, amenities range from an indoor heated pool, fitness center and mind-body studio to lectures and events. And Waveny has volunteer and community outreach programs, an on- campus spa and transportation service, among other amenities.
“Everyone is looking for something different when it comes to a senior living community,” says Elizabeth Dupree, Director of Sales and Marketing at Edge hill, a continuing care community in Stamford that offers amenities ranging from an indoor pool, movie room and billiards room. “Someone who is an avid swimmer may require an indoor pool, an artist might look for an art studio or painting group. A resident into soapstone or woodwork might look for a woodshop to practice their craft.”
TRUST YOUR GUT
Overall, weigh your options and then go with your instinct. “As you’re looking at senior living communities, if you find a community that feels right to you then it is the right community for you,” says Dupree. “There are a lot of factors to consider and you want to make sure you’re making the best decision for you.”