Retiring Happy in OKC
Planning for the best years of your life
For many, the very idea of stopping work to “enjoy” retirement can be daunting. But an increasing number of retirees are taking this time by the proverbial horns and making the most of a life less stressful.
As the city continues to develop for the better, many retirees want to stay in the metro to take advantage of all it has to offer. The Commons on Classen is the first retirement living accommodation to open in the downtown/midtown area, offering affordable apartments.
Resident manager Shannon Hitchcock said that many people don’t want to move north or south of the city, so their new site fills a demand.
“We opened in December and have a mix of female and male single residents aged between 65 and 72,” Hitchcock says. “Our residents wanted to downsize out of their huge homes.”
Downsizing is one way you can take the stress out of your later years – but for many, having good friends and staying active are the main ingredients for senior happiness.
Oklahoma City retiree Larry Govin said he was much happier since retiring from his demanding job. “I love waking up and, for the most part, being free to say yes to any spontaneous options that come my way.” And he does just that with his group of longtime friends.
“We get our exercise walking and riding bicycles, enjoy festivals [and] live music, camp, ride motorbikes, enjoy extended road trips or just get together in the ever-more-exciting OKC,” he says.
You Need a Plan
Living life to the full during retirement takes careful preparation. “Plan to be debt-free and own a home prior to retirement. A paid-for home is the cornerstone of a successful retirement,” Govin explains. “Live within your means, [and] take care of your body through exercise, eating healthy and preventative medical care.”
Staying active is something seniors are taking more and more seriously. Touchmark at Coffee Creek retirement community’s Executive Director Melissa Mahaffey said many retirees now seek more exercise groups to enable them to live life to the full.
“Several companies are offering more opportunities for retirees to experience wellness,” Mahaffey says. “Whether it be Pilates, tai chi, walking clubs, sit and stretch or balance and posture [classes], one could find several retirees gathered to do their part to stay healthy in order to seek a quality life full of possibilities well into their years.”
Brenda Bennett, the YMCA’s VP of Communications in OKC, said that over the last year the Y has seen a 28.7-percent growth in their senior membership, compared to a 10-percent growth of overall membership.
“Older adults are trying to stay more active and improve their quality of life,” she explains. “Many older adults are being encouraged by their doctors to increase their activity as they age – especially those dealing with chronic health issues.”
Embracing that need for increased activity and improved health can be made simpler by living somewhere that encourages the lifestyle. Mahaffey says, “Some individuals often comment that they should have made the move sooner, as once they make a move to a retirement community, they then realize what they have been missing.”
And it’s not surprising, considering the services many retirement communities offer: daily chef-prepared meals, a full-life wellness and life enrichment program, fitness rooms, golf courses, walking and bike trails.
Planning ahead in terms of staying on top of your finances and health seems to be the order of the day if you want a happy retirement.
It may take a certain level of financial security to have a comfortable retirement, but Govin says that it’s “friends that make you rich in retirement.”
Whatever makes you happy, make sure to embrace it in your retirement by keeping happiness in mind when planning for the best years of your life.
► Figuring out the Future
Weighing options for retirement is a family affair
It’s no surprise that our aging population is continuing to grow in Oklahoma – after all, we’re living longer overall. In just more than a decade, nearly 20 percent of the state’s population will be 65 years old or older, according to United Way of Central Oklahoma. And according to a recent survey carried out by CareerBuilder, our city comes second in U.S. rankings for the largest increase of older workers from 2001 to 2016.
However, how we prepare for our silver years, when we stop working and when or if we should switch living arrangements, are all questions we should be asking ourselves years before we absolutely need to make such decisions.
Doug Harper, senior vice president of Stonegate Senior Living, says, “Finances are key; how you plan for retirement really does correlate with options.”
Stonegate manages 13 locations in the state, with some offering assisted living and some offering rehabilitation and transitional care. Having worked in the industry for more than two decades, Harper has seen many changes.
“The industry has come a long way and there are lots of really nice options up and down the spectrum,” Harper says. “There are lots of price points on assisted living.”
But what is crucial is planning and making sure the family around you knows what you want and where you want to be, he added.
Many retirement communities offer transitional care, so residents initially move in wanting to downsize and be part of a similar community, but should they come to need assistance with everyday life and care further down the line, it’s available to them.
However, Harper says the demographic is changing.
“People moving into retirement living communities 10, 20 years ago were in their late 50s and early 60s,” he says. “Today they’re more 75 to 80 years old.”
As the demographic switches, it’s crucial that children of aging parents don’t delay discussing their parents’ care wishes.
“Start the conversation early,” says Stonegate’s Sales and Training Director Terri Rasp. “Put in place a plan your family can follow when your parents can no longer make decisions on their own. Understand their preferences and the choices available so you can find one custom-tailored to their needs.”
Planning your future with your family involved is crucial to a healthy and happy retirement, enjoying the golden years of life.