The ads on television, the slick brochures and the finely-targeted websites for today’s retirement homes typically portray the same types of images: groups of seniors happily doing things together. They take bike trips together, they do wine tasting together, they go antiquing together. If all that advertising were to be believed, retirement living today is just one group activity after another.
Senior Introverts Don’t Always Fit In in a Highly Sociable Environment
That idea might appeal to the retiree who is an extrovert: indeed, it almost seems like senior living marketers assume everyone is an extrovert. But what if you, like a third or more of all adults, are actually an introvert? Chances are all those smiling faces in the tai chi class leave you cold, as does all that marketing hype showing active seniors (all extroverts) who are energized by sociability. For the introvert, the exact opposite is true: they are energized by quiet down time and find too much sociability emotionally and physically draining. Could it be that today’s senior living marketing professionals are missing the mark when it comes to introverts?
Because we at AgingOptions found this idea intriguing, we decided to revisit this article that was published this time last year on the NextAvenue website. It’s called, “An Introvert’s Guide to Senior Living Communities,” and the basic premise is simple. If you’re an introvert considering moving into a retirement community, or if you’re helping a loved one make that decision, make sure you get some essential answers to critical questions about privacy, sociability and expectations. An introvert can quickly begin to feel at home even in an activity-centered retirement residence so long as he or she can pick and choose the things they like and the things they prefer to skip – without being made to feel like an outcast or an oddball. This also applies to married couples. If you and your spouse are considering moving to a retirement community and one of you is an introvert, getting some of these answers ahead of time might put the introverted spouse’s fears to rest and help both of you get on the same page.
Senior Introverts Aren’t Aloof – They Just Need Down Time
“Are you or a loved one an introvert?” asks the NextAvenue article. “If so, you’re probably misunderstood on a regular basis.” The author, Deb Hipp, explains that “people often misjudge an introvert as being aloof or even rude, when really, all that person wants is some much-needed alone time to recharge.” This alone time can be hard to find in some retirement homes with a packed activity calendar, but the introvert will need to insist on getting time by himself. “Unlike extroverts, who gain energy from socializing, an introvert actually loses energy with too much social time,” Hipp writes. “You know how your drained cell phone starts making that bleeping sound when the battery has no bars left? That’s what an introvert feels like after three lunch dates and a movie in one week.”
In a large retirement residence, the sheer number of people and activities can feel overwhelming, especially to a senior used to living alone. But in fact, says author Hipp in NextAvenue, most senior residences will go out of their way to respect a resident’s privacy if asked. “People often have the misconception that the staff will force them to follow a regimented schedule,” says NextAvenue, but in fact “rigid schedules are typically not the norm.” In the words of author Joy Loverde, “This is your home, and these communities are very limited in what they can and cannot do when it comes to your privacy.” She adds, “People have this idea of everything being scheduled as though you’re going to camp, but that’s not how it is.” However, because every community is unique, “it’s up to the potential resident to ask plenty of questions upfront before making a selection,” the article recommends. “That’s true for anyone, but for an introvert, asking the right questions is especially important.”
Senior Introverts Should Ask These Four Questions
The NextAvenue article suggests residents considering a retirement residence start with these four general questions:
- How can staff ensure my privacy? Everyone cares about this issue but privacy may be of particular concern to an introvert, even if they don’t verbalize it. Find out if the staff will ever knock on someone’s door unannounced. See how they communicate with residents – do they rely on email, text, phone calls or personal notes? Make sure the staff is willing to accommodate your reasonable privacy concerns.
- Is there assigned seating in the dining area? If so, are you allowed to change your seat assignment if the arrangement isn’t working? Or can residents sit wherever they wish? Introverts need to know they have choices in who their table companions are.
- How flexible is the dining schedule? If you don’t feel like getting dressed for dinner, can you ever have meals delivered to your apartment? If so, is there an extra charge? Can you prepare your own meals as you wish? Are late night snacks available?
- What is the policy if I choose not to participate in activities? “No introvert wants to be hounded to take part in activities,” says NextAvenue. “Senior living communities offer many types of classes and outings but generally, nobody is going to force you to splash away your alone time in aquatics class or attend movie night. Find out just in case, though.”
Senior Introverts and Senior Extroverts Need a Retirement Plan
If you find a place that will respect your privacy and accommodate your wishes to be treated and respected as an individual, then even an extreme introvert can be very happy living in an active retirement residence – but you need to0 look past the marketing hype and ask the right questions! Actually, that’s good advice when it comes to retirement planning, because there’s no one plan that works for everyone. What’s more, having a good housing plan in place – whether remaining in your own home, choosing to rent, moving to a retirement community or living with loved ones – is important, but a housing plan alone is not sufficient. Unless your housing plans are linked to your medical needs, you’re going to face some very difficult unanticipated choices in the not-too-distant future. The same goes for financial planning, legal planning, even family planning: none of these essential elements in sound retirement planning can be considered in isolation. All the gears have to mesh.
To our knowledge, there’s just one retirement plan that accomplishes this level of interdependence: a LifePlan from AgingOptions. And there’s an easy, obligation-free way to find out more about this uniquely powerful approach to retirement planning: come join Rajiv Nagaich for a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. You’ll learn loads of timely, objective information, and you’ll discover that it really is possible to protect your assets in retirement while avoiding becoming a burden to those you love. There’s probably a LifePlanning Seminar coming soon that’s convenient for you. Click here for details and online registration, and then come join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming live event.
Meanwhile, whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between – age on!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)