Last week, we discussed a few ways how you can take your space in a retirement community — whether that’s an individual room, apartment, or full home — and make it feel like home again. That article focused primarily on decorating and things you can do inside your private space. Today, we’re looking outside those walls, so that you not only become settled in your new personal space, but also develop of sense of connectedness to your community.

Get Involved

When you move to a new place, it can be tempting to just sit in your room, especially if you’re shy. There’s no shame in being introverted, but you should push yourself to become a part of your new community. Why? It can help you feel connected to your new home and protect against isolation.

Be a Good Neighbor

It can be tough to put yourself out there and meet an entire community of people right off the bat. An easier first step would be to meet and befriend your immediate neighbors. These new friends can act as gateways into the overall community and as a support group as you get used to your new home. In most cases, simply being a friendly, helpful neighbor is enough to develop that relationship.

It’s okay if you don’t click right away. You may not like your immediate neighbors (like any neighborhood) but try a few houses, or rooms, down. You’ll likely eventually find a neighbor who could become a close friend and companion in your community. Even if you’re not friends with your neighbors, it’s good to establish a reputation as a conscientious, reliable, and helpful person, who’s willing to help when asked. You’d be surprised how positive this reputation can be.

Eat in Common Areas

If you’re shy, it may also be tempting to eat in your room. It’s probably the place that’s the most comfortable since it’s your private space. Plus, you can watch your TV while eating, hearing and seeing the people in your favorite shows. This can become a vicious cycle of isolation, though, since you won’t meet new, real-life friends if you spend all your time alone. Eating in a common area, like a cafeteria or community restaurant, at the very least, gives you the opportunity to interact with your fellow residents. This is a great way to ease your way into being more outgoing, since you only need to spend a short time among others before returning to your cozy abode.

Learn the Community Events Calendar

Most communities will provide entertainment to their residents via a calendar of events. Not only does this act as a unique selling point to prospective seniors, it encourages residents to interact with others and avoid isolation. Knowing the calendar will allow you to plan your personal schedule around which happenings you’ll enjoy and to ensure that you don’t miss them. These events are a great way to meet likeminded residents who share your passions and interests, which is an excellent way to make lasting friendships. Usually, the calendar of events will be posted in common areas around the community, as well as be available online.

Make Your Own Events

You don’t have to only participate in the events planned by your community. If you have found a friend or two, or are looking for friends, plan your own themed events. Not only is this something fun to do, but it can give you a sense of ownership and belonging over your new surroundings. In turn, this can make your new community feel more like home, since it’s where your book club is or fishing buddies are. Whatever your activity is, making your own events can connect you to your new home and help you create new memories to cherish.

Get Out with Family

While you may be living in a really nice retirement community, it’s still important to get outside and see family. This can help alleviate some homesickness, since we often get homesick for people more than for places or things.

Go Out for Chores

In many ways, it’s very easy to get many of your daily chores done without leaving the house. Outside of the regular chores done around the house, you can get your groceries shipped to you (if you even need groceries in your senior community). Many communities will even handle stuff like mailing, which otherwise requires going to the post office or a shipping center. While these types of services may be nice occasionally, push yourself to get out of the nursing home or facility. This will keep you active and allow you to “escape” occasionally, which can give you a sense of freedom and self-determination. If most of your needs are met by the facility that you’re in, ask a family member or friend if they want help with their chores and accompany them while they’re out and about. This doubles as really nice bonding time, too!

Family Dinners

Speaking of bonding time, there are few things as central to most families as the traditional family dinner. This is a time when everyone gathers together, gets off their devices, and interacts together over a nice meal. Entering a retirement home doesn’t mean these family dinners need to stop. In fact, if you weren’t doing them before, now is the perfect time to start. If you have a kitchen and the space, hosting a family meal can make a house feel like a home by filling it with love and happy memories. If you don’t have the space, see if one of your children or other family members are willing to host. This may not have the same effect as hosting yourself, but it can still prevent you from feeling trapped or even forgotten and give you something to look forward to regularly.

If you don’t have a large family or aren’t particularly close to your relatives, you can still have a “family” meal — just with your closest friends! This can be a group of friends that live in the community, friends you’ve had for years, or a mix, as long as the meal is shared with people you care about.

Welcome Visitors When You Can

Even if you don’t have a large enough space to host a dinner, you still have enough space for guests. Sadly, there is a notion out there that nursing homes are a place where seniors are put and forgotten about. This shouldn’t be the case, though, and only fosters a sense of loneliness that can shorten your life by years. If you’re entering into a nursing home or retirement community, make sure any discussion about the move includes how often you’ll be getting visits. These visits can be a reassurance that you’re cared for and not forgotten about while living in your new community.

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Ultimately, when it comes to making an assisted living community feel like home, the most important thing you can do is pick the right facility. All these tips from this article and the previous one can help you to feel more comfortable in your new home, but if the facility is a poor fit for you, it will be much tougher to actually make it feel like home. Make sure that before you sign the paperwork and begin moving in, you’ve done your research. Once you’re there and put our tips to use, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes home.

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — Ways to Make a Senior Living Facility Feel More Like Home: Part 1