By Rachel Hemmingson, Consultant & Advocate for Aging Well

In this time of the pandemic life is bewildering. Two friends of mine have lost 90+-year-old aunts to the illness. A client of mine says her 90-year-old mom tested positive although she had no symptoms. What does all that mean? I don’t know. What we do know is, it’s a risk to be exposed when you are an older person.

So what if you were planning to sell and move into an independent living community just before the pandemic? Chances are you’ve chosen to wait. I have clients in this situation. If you, too are in this place, or know someone feeling stuck in this way, here are some ideas which I hope will be helpful.

A critical piece to know is that retirement facilities and nursing homes – the places where so many have caught the illness – are not the same as independent living communities. I know many employees at different independent living communities. No one I’ve talked with has had anyone become ill. Some communities have had one or two staff or residents test positive, but not be ill.

If you have been stopped by fear of what will happen if you move to the place you planned to, call them. Find out what’s really going on and what their safety measures are. Don’t let unbased fear stop you.

Another part of making the decision to move into an independent living community is assessing the safety where you currently are. Some questions to ask yourself follow:

How are you doing getting around your house? If there are stairs that you’ve become uncomfortable using, can you live on your main floor for now? Maybe you will need to have someone do your laundry so you needn’t go downstairs.

Are you feeling okay about what it’s taking to stay home? Are you eating well enough? Make sure you are not too stressed about doing your own grocery shopping or using a delivery service.

Are you moving around enough? The primary reason many elders stop being able to live at home is because they can no longer get up off the couch. Stay active and stay aware if your activity level has changed.

How is your mood in the face of being isolated? Monitor for depression sneaking in; it will weaken your immune system and lessen your vitality. Be sure to watch feel-good shows or things that make you laugh.

Do you need a Medi-alert button? These are intended to be worn in case you fall or become faint. You can have them set up such that, upon pushing your button, a real person calls you over a speaker in your house to talk with you and see if you’re okay.

They can call your choice of help, a neighbor, or friend/family member if they’re not reached. The last call would be for an ambulance. These devices allow you to have control and help, should you need it.

Here’s what we all need to remember: Generalized information on almost anything rarely takes into account that the later life years are not business as usual.

“Stay home and stay safe” may be excellent advice for the general public, but your current home may not be the safest place for you. If home doesn’t feel as safe as it once did, maybe it is time to put more consideration in a safer place.