Your Choice – Make it While You Can

In the modest flood of electronic mail wishing me well in my 94th year were one or two bright sparklers. Well, they were all bright sparklers really bringing joy to a nonagerian being remembered, but two or three were special because they came from old friends too long out of touch.

A brief one from Frank Rhodes, a deputy minister of considerable stature a few decades back when he was a frequent target in my daily columns: “Jim – I want you to keep a comprehensive daily log, such that those of us who are slowly folding into your slipstream can enjoy shortcuts and recorded solutions to all of life’s challenges at age 100. After that problems don’t matter.”

While it must be some kind of precedent for a former deputy minister to be soliciting advice from a long ago broken-crystal-ball reader, I shall try to answer; not with a “comprehensive daily log” but just a few brief, basic, advisories for older folk considering a downsize move from family home to retirement residence.

It’s a major decision demanding careful “due diligence” checks sooner rather than later. Visit either on-line or in the flesh a few of the “senior retirement residences” available in your city of residence. Ask a lot of questions, especially about “add ons” – piddly, seemingly inconsequential costs that can sneak up with surprising speed. Be sure you know the level of care you will be provided.Does the establishment you’re looking at offer increased care levels? To what level and at what extra cost?

Be sure, above all else, that YOU make the decision as to where you want to go while you can still make those decisions. If you wait too long others will be making the call for you – and it may not be a pleasing one.

The eventual transition can bring some anxious moments – not unlike your first day at a new school or on a new job decades earlier. But if you have chosen well trained staff will be on hand to soften the transition, long time residents will volunteer “guide” services at meal times and within a couple of weeks you will be feeling comfortably at home taking in lectures, concerts, joining discussion groups with amazing pools of career talents and meeting people whose lives have been much more adventurous than your own.

How much does it cost? Ah, yes, the always ugly money topic. The answer obviously lies in the quality of service provided by the residence chosen. Make sure you know exactly what it is. My costs at Berwick Royal Oak hover around $4,000 a month, including all meals, telephone, cable TV, the Internet, light, heat, underground parking, all the facilities a mini-kitchen needs, housekeeping once a week with change of bedding and towels, transportation to and from Life Labs and assorted “villages” such as Cook Street, James Bay, Broadmead. At extra cost there are “charter” trips to theatre in Chemainus or downtown Victoria.

Don’t be afraid to make comparisons and decisions while you can. And always YOUR choice as to where and how to travel the last, hopefully long, miles of life’s journey in reasonable comfort until it’s time to catch that last train to wherever.

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