Tips for Settling Into a Senior Community

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four older adults playing chess

Settling into a senior living community can be an emotional time—it’s a new environment filled with new faces and new activities. That’s a whole lot of new. No matter your age, you might feel a little anxious, sad, or awkward being the “new kid,” but it’s also important to remember that change can be exciting. Think about the many possibilities for new adventures and friends, think about the ease of a maintenance-free lifestyle, think about how safe you’ll feel in a secure environment. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, we suggest the following:

Get to know the staff. You’ll likely see at least some of the staff every day, so try to create a healthy relationship with them. They can support you more effectively when they really know you and your needs.

Get to know the expectations. You might have set meal times, set times for activities, and set schedules you weren’t held to before. Know the expectations in advance so you’re not surprised.

Create a comfortable space. It can be necessary to downsize when you or a loved one moves into a senior living community, meaning there are fewer ways to personalize the space. The trick to making it feel like home is to decorate with familiar artwork, hang many family photos, display beloved keepsakes, and bring (at the very least) a favorite chair and comfortable pillows and bedding. For tips on downsizing, click here.

Get involved. You won’t get to know your neighbors if you don’t share coffee and meals or participate in fun social activities. Warmly introduce yourself and ask questions. Take it one cup of coffee, one hello, one smile at a time. Once you discover common ground, you’ll find your place in the community. If you’re more of an introvert, try to find your way to the commons area where you can spend time by yourself, in the company of others.

Be patient. Remember that every person in your senior living community was in your shoes at one point. If they can adjust to a new environment, so can you. Negative thoughts can hold you back from fully experiencing life. According to Psychology Today, “Don’t get stuck in the past. Acknowledging that a door is closed is psychologically healthy; spending your time staring at it is not.” You’ve made transitions before—you can do this again. Rather than think about what you’re losing, think about what you’re gaining: new friends, more freedom, and peace of mind. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling right at home.

Vista Prairie offers assisted living, memory care, care suites, and respite care, with senior communities in South St. Paul, Willmar, Fairmont, Redwood Falls, N. Mankato, and Alexandria, Minn.; Spirit Lake and Sheldon, Iowa; and North Olmsted, Ohio. For more information, call 952-837-0540. 

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