There’s a common misconception among elders that “senior housing” is synonymous with “senior care”. Just to be clear: they’re not the same thing. Senior housing makes up housing communities for retired elders whereas senior care is a form of medical (and nonmedical) care. You will often find senior care services available in senior housing communities, but that doesn’t mean they’re required.

When seniors think about retiring, they usually think about it in one of two ways:

1. Relaxing on the beach with a refreshing beverage in hand.

2. Locked up in a dreary dungeon of a home.

While the second is a wildly outdated concept, it’s a fear nonetheless. Meanwhile, the first is closer to reality than many think.

Senior housing never needs to be about what you can’t do. Senior housing is about freeing up your time, liberating you of responsibilities. As we age, we accrue a lot of responsibilities. We need to manage our finances and maintain our home – those two elements take a lot of time and effort. With senior housing communities however, you relinquish those responsibilities; you hand them off to someone else to manage. This cannot be more satisfying.

When grey water starts rising up from the garbage disposal. Most people take to the plunger to see if there’s a clog. If that doesn’t work, a brave few will grab a tool box and start tinkering below the sink. Others may look up the type of problem online. When and if all that fails however, they’ll contact a plumber – now this, is its own ordeal. You want to find a reliable contractor, but a cheap one as well since so many of these people are going to “find” more problems with the pipes and a $100 job can quickly turn into $1,000. So you wade through the ocean of possible contractors before settling on one and schedule a time for them to come – of course, if they’re anything like the cable guy, then 10:00 means “give or take 4 hours”. When they finally arrive, they either fix the sink or need more tools (that were forgotten in the “other” van or there’s something else wrong with your garbage disposal. Let’s assume however, that it’s fixed.

Whew! You’re done.

And it’s a job well done… it took time, effort, and after some finagling, money, but it’s done. But that’s one job on a whole house. How great would it be if the contractor was available in your neighborhood and they fixed it free-of-charge? What if your lawn could be trimmed and watered by a seasoned gardener? What if anytime your fridge leaked, your landlord bought you a new one?

See that’s what senior housing is. It’s not about taking away your freedom, it’s about giving it back to you! Why should you have endless chores and tasks to do on your own? Why can’t someone else do it? Instead of spending your free time working on your car, home, lawn, and managing your bills… why not spend your free time at the beach, taking up a new skill, learning a new language, practicing an instrument, writing a novel, or going out dancing? Senior housing affords you those opportunities. In retirement, you’ve paid your dues and now you can focus on recreation (and recreation alone).

Although for some people, the “cost” appears to be daunting. Perhaps it looks to be even more expensive than your mortgage… but that can be misleading. The cost of maintenance on a home, property taxes, flood insurance, and utilities can significantly raise the cost of owning a home. In addition, many homes gain value with time; many seniors today can remember a time when their parents bought houses $30,000 (or less) and now they can be sold for $300,000.

But rather than work with imaginary numbers, you can get concrete details from your computer or mobile phone. Today, there are a wide array of tools that can take the cost of your home, your income, your taxes, and additional expenses and determine whether or not it’s better for you to rent or stay in your home. Unsurprisingly, passed a certain age, many people are better off renting than they are owning real estate – and you can always rent out your home for additional income.

The surprising reality to senior housing is retirement communities give elders that “endless summer” sensation – the freedom to do whatever they want. Meanwhile, those that fear being locked in a dungeon, don’t realize that that’s what their home has become. So embrace retirement and enjoy your golden years. Whether you move to senior housing in Tacoma, assisted living in Seattle, or independent living anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, it’s time your adventure begins.