Resisting the Move to a Retirement Community, a very real dilemma…how is your new year
When is the right time for moving to a retirement community?Margaret is a 90-year-old, admittedly stubborn, patient of mine. I consider that she has a life expectancy of five years or less. Margaret has indicated that she has assets that would support moving to an independent living community but she has chosen to live alone in a community of mainly aging adults, a thousand miles from her nearest relative.

Margaret was in my office a few months ago for a routine visit. Because of recent experiences I have had with some of my patients who were reluctant to move into a retirement community, I brought up the subject of relocating. Margaret was very willing to discuss this subject, was articulate and had things well thought out. She had several friends who lived in a very prominent facility, and she visited them often. When I asked her when she planned to move in, she gave me a funny look. ” I don’t need to move into a place like that”, she said, adding, “That’s for old people”. I was perplexed. She told me there were people there who require wheelchairs and seeing that kind of thing bothered her. I figured that trying to change her mind would take some doing, and planned to circle back to discuss it later. Changing the subject, I asked if she would even contemplate such a move if she had the financial resources.
“I have plenty of money; I just don’t want to move!”
“Margaret, if you move to this facility, you won’t have to do your cooking, cleaning or shopping ever again,” I explained.
She countered by telling me she didn’t mind doing these things, adding, “… and besides, I will know when I’m ready”.
Margaret and I discussed the subject for at least 30 minutes without resolution. I told her that her position made no sense to me. She told me that she understood and said, “I just want to move on my own terms. I am too vibrant to move to a place like that with people who use walkers and wheelchairs.”
She just couldn’t see herself in a place like that.

I guess my last question gave me further insight. I indicated to her that I understood that she could afford such a move, but I did not understand why she was choosing not to. Then she said, “ I prefer to give the money to my children.”
I have discovered that an unprecedented transfer of wealth is taking place before our eyes. In a 1999 study, on Wealth Transfer,(click the following link for full article and additional resources- , researchers Paul Schervish and John Havens estimated a $41 trillion transfer of wealth would take place in the United States by 2052. Despite the recent financial downturn, further study has confirmed that the figure remains valid. It seems that individuals who grew up during the Depression feel compelled to leave money to their children, in many cases to their own detriment. Leaving her assets for her children and not spending it for her immediate needs is the scenario currently playing out with Margaret.

As I counsel my patients who are parents, I must take this mindset into consideration. I have given it a great deal of thought, and I do not know how to counter this logic. A good friend uses the expression “their logic is not our logic.” I am just glad that I am a physician and neither a professional negotiator, nor a geriatric case manager having to address this subject on a day-to-day basis.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Can it apply to you or someone in your family?

When is it time to take action?

When is it too late?

Let me know your thoughts!

To Living a Long and Healthy Life,

David Bernstein, MD

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