Don't wait too long to pursue senior retirement option

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"If you can't walk in unassisted - no cane, walker or wheelchair - no need to apply for membership."

Fifteen to 20 years ago, the simple "litmus test" of individual mobility (without aides) was a major qualifier, along with meeting financial requirements, for a senior to be accepted into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).

Everyone moving into an "independent living" environment was expected to be uncompromised physically, and unless obvious after a short conversation, assumed to be cognitively fit.

Times have changed since the late 1990s. People are living longer and staying in their homes longer for a couple of reasons: eating healthier, exercising more and beneficiaries of better health care.

And, in a number of cases, people don't want to move - not only because they love their home and all its fond memories, but the thought of moving (it's not a four-letter word) is so scary and intimidating they just stay where they are. It's understandable, but sometimes a bad idea.

The downside to staying in your home too long is the fact that the aging process is not slowing down but marching fast-forward. Mobility is slowing, and memory and mental processing begin to deteriorate, showing signs of confusion and the need for help.

There have been times when I've had to explain to folks who want to live at our community that their overall health needs require the services of an assisted living community.

In one example, a couple approaching their 90s had been living in their home for 30-plus years. The wife had advanced dementia, and her husband could not physically take care of her. Fortunately, the couple's daughter lived in the area and agreed to be her mom's full-time caregiver. But after two years, she could not help any longer. These folks waited too long to make their move.

Another example was a couple in their early 90s who were having health care services come to their home. One spouse had had a stroke and the other has limited mobility (and didn't leave the house).

If you are already receiving health care services in your home, you're most likely to be an assisted living candidate, in that those communities are designed to minimize mobility needs, provide three meals a day, weekly housekeeping, etc. Independent living would not be the best fit.

If you or your spouse uses a cane or walker, don't sweat it. You're invited with open arms to pursue a senior retirement community. Just don't wait too long.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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