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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Better living independently

Jun 26, 2020 09:40AM ● By Diana Barnett

Suzanne and Jim Batten relocated to The Cottages at Hilltop to be closer to their son and his family.

Navigating the transition into independent living

For years, Jody Nestler lived in a condo she loved surrounded by trees and good neighbors. It was the perfect place except for one thing: It was an upstairs unit.

Since there was no elevator, she had to carry groceries up the stairs. Cleaning and upkeep were becoming more difficult, and Nestler knew she would eventually have to pay someone to do such things for her. She found a ground-level duplex in another part of town, but she never grew to love it or the location. When the owners announced a rent increase, she explored other options.

Independent living

Like Nestler, now 88, many seniors eventually reach a point where they realize they can no longer remain in the homes. Health issues, loss of a partner and regular maintenance may make living alone difficult. Or, they may simply tire of the upkeep.

Independent living is best for people who want conveniences such as meal preparation, housekeeping or security, but don’t require any specific medical care. On the Western Slope, options abound for seniors capable of living on their own.

Senior apartment communities consist of self-contained rooms, apartments and cottages in single or multiple buildings. What sets them apart is that many units are fully accessible, well lit and conveniently located to grocery stores, churches, hospitals, parks and medical offices. Some also have common spaces and clubhouses where neighbors can gather for potlucks and other activities.

Continuing care retirement communities offer different levels of care so residents can age in place without moving facilities.

Age-restricted communities offer homes for purchase or rent, and often include group amenities such as a golf course, pool or clubhouse.

Senior cohousing, a newer option, consists of smaller private homes within a community planned especially for seniors. Residents manage property and community resources jointly.

Nestler visited several local facilities before choosing Grand Junction’s Solstice Mesa View as her next home.

“I have a good friend who lives [here],” she said. “It just seemed very homey and comfortable. When I came to look at a large studio that became available, I could see myself living here. I signed the papers that day.”

Choosing the best independent living residence depends on your interests and preferences.

While Nestler misses having coffee and reading the newspaper in her pajamas, her new home takes care of the cooking and serves meals in the dining room. Now she just has to get dressed and be there on time.

“An independent living facility is just that—you’re supposed to be able to take care of yourself. You have to get yourself to meals and activities, and do your laundry,” Nestler added. “Many of us still drive.”

When Suzanne and Jim Batten relocated to Grand Junction from Philadelphia nine years ago, they moved into The Cottages at Hilltop so they could be closer to their son and his family in Telluride.

“We knew we couldn’t just keep flying out here all the time, and our grandson needed his grandparents,” said Suzanne, 75.

Spacious rooms, a full kitchen, covered patio and a garage made The Cottages the perfect option for them, in addition to maintenance-free living with paid utilities, weekly housekeeping, a flexible meal plan and a 24-hour emergency response system. A former piano teacher, Jim, 77, had plenty of space to bring his baby grand with him to Colorado.

“Many who live here are from other parts of the country, so we feel very comfortable,” he said. “You have your own community right here.”

Beautifully landscaped outdoor spaces and walking trails encourage neighbors to get to know one another, which the Battens wasted no time doing.

A former event planner in Philadelphia, Suzanne started knocking on everyone’s door, setting up lunch gatherings and planning transportation.

She did such a great job at bringing the communities together that The Cottages’ sales director, Raquel Gustafson, hired her for a part-time position.

Ready to make the move?

Start by downsizing. Even if you’re not ready to make the move yet, it’s never too early to start getting rid of things you don’t plan on bringing with you. Downsizing can take time.

“This is one of the most difficult things about moving to a smaller place,” said Gustafson. “Research organizations in your area that can help with this.”

Nestler found a local company whose staff walked through her apartment with her, wrapped and boxed everything, moved it to her new apartment and put it away.

The Battens had to sell their big house and many of their belongings before moving.

Don’t rush to a decision. Think long and hard before choosing a new residence. At some facilities, you can rent an apartment for a few days or a month or two to determine whether it’s a good fit.

While you’re there, observe the facilities’ cleanliness and the hygiene of the other residents. Taste the food at different meal times. Visit with residents, and join in activities.

“These are all things you can’t really get from a brief tour,” Nestler said. “It’s important to take your time and make the right decision for you.”

10 questions to ask before moving in

1. What kinds of dwellings are available: rooms, apartments, cottages?

2. How much will it cost? What’s included? What additional charges apply?

3. How old are the residents?

4. Are pets allowed?

5. What about meals? Are they provided? Is there a kitchen where residents can cook their own?

6. What transportation is available?

7. To what extent do residents engage with one another, as well as the wider community?

8. What is the access to medical assistance if needed?

9. What security and emergency measures are in place?

10. Does the facility offer services/care options so residents can age in place?

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