In a nutshell, we should have done it ten years ago! It’s taught me a few things about being open to possibilities.
Surprise: People talk to you!
Seniors moving to a condo apartment will find that it’s much less anonymous than a free-standing house or townhouse.
We didn’t know this. Neither of us had ever lived in an apartment. Neither of had ever wanted to live in an apartment. We had bought all the cliches you can imagine: “You become a lab rat in a cage;” “You have no independence;” “You have to put up with rules;” “An underground garage is scary”. Name it, we fell for it – and we were wrong.
There we were – seniors moving in, and neighbours who had never seen us smiled and welcomed us as we were trundling in some of our stuff. We had lived ten years in a condo townhouse complex where our neighbors recognized and spoke to me because I was a director. But they pretty much ignored my wife.
Our new neighbors in the condo said, “Oh! You’re new. We hope you’ll love it here.” Every day, if you get into the elevator and somebody is there, you have a conversation. “Good morning.” Or, “How ya doin’?” Or, “Crazy weather.” Or, “We should get together for some tea.”
One day, I saw a neighbor in the elevator carrying a plate of something. “What’s that?” “Halwah.” “Oh,” I said, “We eat that too, but I’ve never seen it like that.” “Taste it. I’m just talking it to a friend.” We were still in the elevator. “I can’t. No fork.” “What number are you in? I’ll bring you some.” She did, about 7 o’clock that evening. She turned out to be a lovely person and we’ve maintained a casual friendship.
Of course seniors moving get stressed. But it’s worth it.
There’s no way to kid yourself. Once you’ve decided to move, you are downsizing.
No matter how large a condo you find, it still isn’t a house with an easily accessible basement where you can make things disappear until, one day, as we tell ourselves, you might need them. So you have to chuck things out. Give them away. Sell them. Dump them. They are not going to go with you.
Packing is far from easy when you’re a senior moving. If you have kids, and they’re thoughtful, it’s very helpful. Get perfect packing boxes free from the nearest Second Cup store. They just flatten their coffee boxes and scrap them, so they’re generally happy to give them to you. Each box holds 35 pounds – a perfect load. And they’re new and clean. Talk to the manager or the owner.
You can buy bubble wrap and newsprint at specialty stores. Be extravagant with it. The more you stuff your boxes, the less things inside will move and break and the more rigid the boxes will be. The movers will love you for this. The boxes will be easier to carry and stack.
In the new place, very little will be the way you’d put it together if you had started from scratch. Whether you’re buying or renting, you’ll have to decide how far to go with renovations.
You may want to demolish the kitchen and build a new one. Or you may just modify some cabinets. There’s at least one company that custom-makes pull-out drawers to fit existing cabinets. Another makes a new kind of very thin granite that fits over existing counter tops.
Now here is something my wife and I really had to choke down. Many of the walls in a condo are solid concrete. If you want a TV outlet where there isn’t one, you’ll just have to accept a cable running along your baseboards from an existing cable outlet to where you want the new one, in a room on the other side of the concrete. It takes a couple of months for that snake of a cable to disappear from your consciousness.
So, yeah, there are things that may not be exactly the way you’d like them to be, but don’t get stressed. Turn them into challenges, work your way through them and before you know it, they’ll become accomplishments. And boy, are there upsides to downsizing to a condo!
Neighbours and staff care about you.
Not all seniors moving are healthy. Some may be using a wheelchair. Some may experience a health emergency. To my great surprise – I’ve seen it and been on the receiving end of it – people in a condo watch out for each other. It’s not anything intrusive. People just know and are very willing to offer assistance when it’s needed.
You’ll enjoy a lot of interaction with others in the common areas, whether the pool or the party room or the lobby. More than on neighborhood streets when you live in a house, there are eyes on you. That’s reassuring for seniors moving.
Given our winters, indoor condo facilities are a blessing
Our condo is 25 years old or so. It has both outdoor and indoor swimming pools, a small gym, two squash courts (rarely used; one contains a ping-pong table), a billiard room with two tables, a reading lounge and a party room shared with the other building in our complex. That’s indoors. Outdoors, we have another swimming pool and tennis courts. There’s even a movie room. All of these amenities cost money to maintain, so make your decision about where to live based to some degree on what you want from condo life beyond a place to live. The choices are yours. And what you put in equates with what you get out of living in a condo.
These indoor facilities have been a revelation to my wife and me. She swims three times a week, doing strenuous water workouts. I use the gym. We started shooting pool until arthritis made it too painful for her. The point is, those grim winter months are far less difficult to get through than they used to be. But it’s not only the physical facilities that help.
If your condo has an active social committee – which ours does – you may find warm and neighbourly events such as monthly coffee klatches in the lobby or periodic theme dinners in the party room. These, too, can change your life. You’d be and feel far less isolated than you would living in a free-standing home or townhouse. Believe me, it works.
Seniors moving…many of our friends have found it a new beginning.
What more is there to say? Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or a necessary downsizing, making that move can exhilarate you.
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In summary: For many seniors, moving to a condo can open up opportunities for socializing and remaining active.