You’ve Got Questions, They’ve Got Answers: Residents Answer Key Questions on Deciding to Make the Move to Senior Living
Whether you’ve been thinking about making the move into senior living for a while or it has just begun to become a more frequent conversation, we understand getting started can be both overwhelming and intimidating. The decision to make the transition is a big one — there’s a lot of information to sift through and options to weigh. The good news is, there are a number of resources and people to help you navigate it all. We invited a group of Holland Home residents to answer some questions and hopefully address some of your concerns. Read directly from them about what their experience was like and what advice they have for you as you navigate your own journey to senior living.
Meet the Residents
Professors, ministers, attorneys, and business people, retired and not quite retired, coming from down the road and out of state; residents at Holland Home come from all different backgrounds each with their own story as to how they came to live at Holland Home.
Kwasi & Safiyah
Residents Kwasi and Safiyah moved from Marion, IN, however, they have lived all over the U.S. and abroad. When their work as professors and missionaries brought them to Grand Rapids for events at nearby Calvin University, they fell in love with the area. They reside in Breton Homes and have lived there since August of 2018.
Dan & Jan
Dan & Jan moved from the Cascade area of Grand Rapids and were very familiar with Holland Home due to Dan’s mom living there for ten years. They moved to Breton Woods Independent Living and have lived there for over four years.
From the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, Caroll was also no stranger to Holland Home as her parents had also lived in different areas of the organization. Shortly after the passing of her husband six years ago, she started thinking about a potential change — perhaps a condo. However, a conversation with her sister-in-law eventually led her to start her journey of transitioning to senior living at Holland Home. She currently lives at Raybrook Estates III and has lived there just under a year.
I know I would feel so alone in my house if I was still there and it doesn’t feel lonely here.
How did you make the decision and what was that process like?
Kwasi & Safiyah
With Safiyah nearly retired and Kwasi retiring in a few years, they started to consider the possibility of moving to Grand Rapids for their retirement and began looking at single-family homes during their visits. It wasn’t long after, they began to realize that moving into a single-family home would mean then also having to move again when the time came to transition into senior living. During one of their visits to Grand Rapids, they happened to be driving around and turned onto Schaffer Rd. They then soon found themselves on Holland Home’s campus and was there where their journey to senior living at Holland Home began.
“We came up to Grand Rapids and looked at the model in Breton Homes North. Although incredibly nice, it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. So, we went to Raybrook and Breton Woods and got on the waiting list and toured the apartments and homes.”
They received a call from the Holland Home sales team in March of 2018 and sure enough, there was an opening. “We were still living in Marion, IN at the time so started the moving process. We moved in August of 2018 — plenty of time from when we received the call to when we actually moved in. It was such a positive experience. Everyone was so patient with the many questions we had.”
Dan & Jan
The couple laid out four main reasons for their decision: One being, Dan’s mom lived in Breton Manor for ten years — passing away just one month shy of turning 100 years old. She had many health issues and was in and out of hospice three times. “We witnessed first hand the incredible care she received, how caring the staff was, and the overall facility,” Dan mentioned.
“On top of that, I was experiencing multiple health issues making the idea of moving multiple times that much more difficult. Not to mention, neither of us wanted for me to have a major health issue which would then put a huge burden on Jan — managing my health, selling the house, and dealing with the complicated financial issues and logistics of a move,” he added.
“Finally, we simply wanted to ‘de-stress’ our lives and move when we could focus more on us (and our hobbies), participate in activities, and do things we always wanted to do.”
Similar to Dan & Jan, Caroll’s parents were both at Holland Home. Starting in Independent living, then DeVos, then the Cook Unit, then to Skilled Nursing. She noted, “I’m so thankful for the care that I witnessed for my mom first hand. My husband and I had lived in our house for 42 years and I didn’t want to take care of a house on my own as I got older. After talking with the sales team and everything was explained, Caroll put down a deposit to get on the waiting list which she expected to take 3-5 years.
She went on to walk through what transpired during her time on the waiting list: “About a year later, I started gradually going through things and just kept working at it. Then, Holland Home called and let me know my name was coming up so I started to take more action. I contacted a realtor and the house sold within two days. I was told there was a place in Estates III to look at. It was actually bigger and although a bit further away, it was more what I was looking for. It all meshed so well, it couldn’t have been a smoother transition.”
We absolutely love it. We have developed so many good friends. The organization has such awesome and caring staff. It's exceptionally well run, financially stable, and well respected throughout their field.
—Dan and Jan, Residents
What challenges did you have to overcome and how did you overcome them?
Kwasi & Safiyah
“The biggest challenge was just getting all of our finances where they needed to be to make the move. But we had so much help.” Moving is always a challenge and the couple talked about downsizing and their process for tackling that challenge:
“We had a very large home prior to moving so we did lots of measuring to help us figure out what would need to go. We will say, getting rid of the lawnmower and snowblower was liberating!”
Dan & Jan
Jan: “Leaving our friends and neighbors was difficult so selling our home was scary and tough emotionally. We had also not fully retired, though Dan was only working part-time. However, we moved at a time when we both needed to slow down. We could both help, both could adjust, both felt healthy and good enough to make a move. Also, emotionally and career-wise it was about the right time and we weren’t forced by family, a medical emergency/crisis, by a doctor, or by anyone.”
“Selling my house was my biggest challenge. I started by getting a big clipboard to keep track of the things I needed to do — one room at a time. I’d stay in that room and would work on one thing at a time. For instance, in the kitchen, I told myself, ‘I’m going to tackle these cupboards today.’ I had a bunch of boxes and would create three piles: Donate, toss or keep. Be ruthless. Get rid of things. Then move on to another room. Gradually, things started emptying out. Then I got the house ready to sell. I put a little money into it: carpet, paint, etc. to get it ready. It was nice having the time and I had friends and family to help me with the work. If you know you’re being put on a list, get started now!”
What does life look like now?
Kwasi & Safiyah
There are so many activities and things that interest us. Once we’re both fully retired, we’re definitely wanting to become a part of groups that have affinity interests to ours. There’s really something for anyone. We want to learn new things, try new things as interests may change as we age, attend more R.E.A.L lecture series. We’re not here to veg, we’re here to blossom. Our kids had this idea of what a “retirement community” was and then they saw it for themselves, “This is really nice!”
Dan & Jan
We absolutely love it. We have developed so many good friends. The organization has such awesome and caring staff. It's exceptionally well run, financially stable, and well respected throughout their field. They are leaders in the community and in their field. There are tons of things to do and get involved in, yet they respect privacy and personal preferences.
With living in Estates III, although it is a bit further away from the main Raybrook communities, it still has such a sense of community. I see people walking their dogs and kids coming and going from school. I’m still learning as it has only been 8 months. There are so many things to do and places within the community. It feels more and more like home now. Another resident told me on a tour that it can take about a year to get used to so you need time to adjust. Take your time. I’ve gone to quite a few things already: Movie night, knitting class, and weekly bible study. I look forward to giving the volunteer office a call to see what might be a good fit for me to get involved with and help with. I know I would feel so alone in my house if I was still there and it doesn’t feel lonely here.
Did anything surprise you?
Kwasi & Safiyah
We can’t say how nice it is to go to church with the people we live with. There are a number of other folks who were ministers before coming to Holland Home and the chapel depends on coordinating people to help run the services. The volunteer system and worship coordinating have been so refreshing.
Dan & Jan
We continue to be surprised how effective the management is — in planning and reacting to difficult situations, in dealing fairly but effectively with residents, in reacting to (but not over-reacting to) national, state, and local health and financial pressures. We are amazed at the residents, including their diversity, their amazing skills and knowledge, and their warmth and genuineness.
Everyone’s story is so different. But regardless of everyone’s stories, they all know they will be taken care of due to the different levels of care. I have seen that care first-hand from the administration, to aides, and healthcare. I don’t think there’s anywhere that’s perfect but Holland Home is pretty close.
Our kids had this idea of what a “retirement community” was and then they saw it for themselves, “This is really nice!”
—Kwasi & Safiyah, Residents
Kwasi & Safiyah
We look forward to aging in place with neighbors that are doing the same thing. There are people here with similar backgrounds: missionaries, teachers, etc. so it’s a wonderfully social place because we have a lot of things in common. Grand Rapids overall has been very open to newcomers too. There are so many rich stories from people about their backgrounds. When you walk into the dining area, there’s always someone to ask us to sit with them at meals. There are spinners and weavers and artisans like us and we’ve been able to participate with a table at the Holiday Market. It's an artistic outlet for sure.
For someone considering: It is a process. From our first application to when we moved in, it was over a year however, it took us that amount of time to say goodbye. It was nice to have that time especially with not being fully retired. Depending on where you are in employment, there are definitely financial considerations to have in mind and arrangements to start making. We received a lot of great advice from the Holland Home team regarding income tax considerations and the best way to prepare for tax liabilities. We were advised to consult a CPA and that advice was as good as gold!”
Dan & Jan
We came because it's financially much smarter to decide while we were healthy and ready and able to make an intelligent and informed decision. Our strongest recommendation? Do it now. See the facility. Talk to staff and residents. Talk to us if you want. Get answers to your questions and concerns. Do a Google search. Your best financial and life-important decisions come when you decide ahead of the crisis. No decision is still a decision. Luckily, we knew Holland Home “from the inside out” (because of my mom’s care here), so moving here was a no brainer for us. But rather than when it has to be forced onto you, know you can do it because moving is easiest when you can decide to do it, when you are able to adjust, when you can still do things and be neighborly.
I wanted the freedom of not having to care for a home and I loved how it worked out. I’m excited because there’s so much more to discover. Bus trips to go on. Classes to take. So much to look forward to. Change is hard. Losing a spouse and moving from the home you shared. It’s not just a physical move but an emotional one. But I know through it all I have had God’s guidance.