What to do in retirement header

    It’s official, you think, sitting on the couch. My career is over, I’m a retiree! It’s immediately followed by a slightly panicked brainstorm on what to do in retirement, which is celebratory or a bit frightening, depending on what motivates the question.

    Are you excited about finally having enough time to pursue what you’re most passionate about? Looking for entertainment on a boring Saturday afternoon? Or is it a deeper, more significant hope to find purpose in this new phase of life?

    The emotion behind why someone wonders what to do can have a powerful impact on the direction retirement takes, leading them to find new passions or purpose.

    Passion keeps us young. It motivates us off the couch and out of the house, rather than remaining isolated at home watching television or playing games. Plus, it gives us a way to connect with others over common interests.

    Even more importantly, it brings happiness by giving us a sense of purpose, and can help us remain sharp mentally if that passion includes learning complex new skills.

    Unanswered, finding nothing to do and the continued long-term boredom that comes with the lack of purpose and meaning can lead to depression, triggering isolation and even declining health.

    For some, an ideal way to discover interesting things to do in retirement, meet new people and boost their socializing is to find a retirement community with the right level of activities. It effortlessly answers the questions, “what should I do today” and “who can I do it with?”

    Moving to an energized retirement community is a powerful motivator to explore a different, more active lifestyle, and insert you directly into a vibrant community.

    It’s also a safe, comforting solution for spouses who worry about what might happen to their significant other once they’re gone, or if children live far away. They won’t be left alone.


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    Once the decision to move has been made, it makes sense to start looking at locations and communities of interest. If activities and purpose are motivating the move, then comparing like-communities to like-communities is important.


    To Understand the Activities, First Understand the Type of Community

    There are many different types of retirement communities, but looking at it from a broad perspective, they can generally be lumped into independent living communities, assisted living communities and long-term care communities (sometimes called nursing homes).

    Events and activities offered by a community directly relates to the abilities of its residents, which is defined by the type of community.

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    Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

    Independent living communities can vary drastically in the amenities and activities they provide, each depending on the resources available within the community, but all of them target older adults able to care for themselves.

    One community might be an age-restricted “senior living” apartment community designed for those able to live on their own, but offering minimal or no activities. Another might be a life plan community (like Sun Health communities) based on a lifestyle of health, wellness and activity that includes dozens of choices each month, including full-time staff coordination.

    Quick facts to be aware of:

    • Life plan communities were formerly called continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).
    • Life care communities are a subcategory of life plan communities that offer a care and housing guarantee regulated by the Arizona Department of Insurance.
    • Both are considered independent living communities and both offer resources for long-term care, memory care, assisted living and skilled care if needed by the resident, but these must not necessary when the resident moves into the community.

    Because residents of independent living communities are able-bodied and able to participate in events on- and off-campus, their event calendar may range from clubs and crafts to concerts.

    Communities with less active seniors are a sharp contrast to this, with activities that also vary tremendously based on the services they provide. An assisted living community offers activities that residents with restricted mobility, cognition or vitality are likely to be interested in, since their residents are often in wheelchairs or bedridden.

    If it’s intended for short-term stays and quick recovery, rather than short- and long-term, it should be considered an assisted living center rather than an assisted living community due to the lack of residences, and might offer no activities beyond television, leaving the temporary residents to their own devices for entertainment.

    In contrast to assisted living, a memory care community provides activities specifically designed to help those with declining memory and other cognitive skills. Even though it’s still considered a long-term care community and a form of assisted living, the activities and events are customized to the memory care needs and capabilities of its residents. All residents have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or other brain-related conditions. Someone with these conditions would look for an assisted living community with a memory care unit, or a memory care community, but not independent living if they’ve already been diagnosed.

    Activities offered by an assisted living or less active community are unlikely to appeal to those who meet the criteria for an independent living community, and communities of any type that include care are more expensive that those that do not. Likewise, the cost of an independent living community depends on the housing, care, amenities and other resources at a specific community.

    We all need entertainment, and matching the activities and lifestyle you want to the right community begins with comparing like-communities to like-communities. Retirement communities have come a long, long way in the last decade, and there’s far more to most retirement communities than bingo.


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    If you’re looking for what to do in retirement, and might consider moving to an independent living community focused on a healthy aging, active lifestyle, then focusing efforts on the options for independent living is a smart place to begin.

    If you’re already having challenges taking care of yourself, looking at assisted living and long-term care communities would be a better choice. Some medical diagnoses may also prevent qualifying for certain types of independent living communities that have medical and financial criteria to join.

    Regardless of where you are at in your health and wellness journey, matching the type of community to your own preferences and abilities will ensure you’re comparing like-communities to like-communities. It makes the selection process easier, and narrows down the lifestyle and related activities to be in alignment with your physical and mental capabilities.

    Sun Health Senior Living offers three Masterpiece Living life plan retirement communities in Arizona, and a lifestyle focused on good health, wellbeing and independence. Each community includes the Life Care guarantee to protect you against potential costs of long-term care down the road, with options ranging from ala carte discounts to all-inclusive care.

    To learn more, we invite you to explore our website or attend an upcoming workshop near you.

    To speak to someone immediately, please contact Jackie Lusson, our corporate director of sales, at 623-236-3767.


    (Originally published Oct. 24, 2018; last updated Jan. 6, 2019.)

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