More than 85 percent of Americans age 50 and older want to stay in their own homes and never move. Aging adults fear moving into nursing homes and losing their independence more than they fear death. This said, there are many living options in between living independently in your traditional family home and being fully dependent while living in a nursing home.

Here’s an important point for you to consider: Giving up the family home for another lifestyle is a one-way street — there is no going back.

My thought: If you are aging and considering moving from your traditional home with its familiar surroundings and neighbors, thoroughly investigate your options, including staying at home.

Staying at home affords the maximum amount of freedom and control. There is familiarity and comfort in being surrounded by the people and things we love.

If health issues are a factor, care at home can be individualized. Aging-in-place contributes to healing and a healthier and happier life. Universal design, home modifications and technological advances can provide safety and replace many aspects of institutionalized care.

If health is not a factor and you are seeking freedom from home repairs and yard maintenance, you might want to look at independent living in a retirement campus or community.

Retirement communities

In Washington state, from 2000 to 2011, there was a 30-percent growth in residents age 65 and older. Our aging society of baby boomers will have a very different sort of retirement. We will more likely work longer, start a second career, volunteer or go back to school. Our generation of retirees will be the healthiest, longest-lived, best-educated and most affluent in history. Where we live will play a major role in our happiness and well-being.

Throughout Seattle and in the surrounding areas, there are numerous providers of retirement living and senior care that ranges from independent to supportive.

One factor that I cannot stress enough: Before you move, make sure you are thinking through every aspect of the retirement community you are considering. Choose the one in which you will be most comfortable.

Every retirement community has its own character or personality. Some are somewhat cliquish, and others are egalitarian.

Each retirement community targets a certain subgroup. Your level of ease will be linked to the history and demographics of your fellow residents. Your personal lifestyle should blend with daily living in the community.

If, for whatever the reason, you decide living at home is not for you, then choose your retirement community wisely.

Each type of retirement community serves specific needs. Briefly, your choices are independent living communities (very much like an apartment with meal options), continuing-care retirement communities (independent living, plus meals, personal care assistance and health-care options), assisted living (meals, plus personal-care assistance), adult family homes (residential/family environment with high levels of personal care) and skilled nursing facilities (24-hour nursing care).

If you want to explore senior living options, start by searching for a retirement community in your preferred neighborhood. Maybe it’s Queen Anne, First Hill, Madison Park or West Seattle.

Is having family nearby important? Does living close in to the city’s core provide an attractive lifestyle? Or is your preference a residential neighborhood? Would you rather be near a certain shopping district? Maybe you’re looking to get away from the city and traffic so a rural setting might be the ticket.

Since living options are tailored to specific lifestyles and care levels, make sure what is offered is what you need. Shop wisely. Visit more than once. Participate in meals. Request an overnight stay in a guestroom. Get references and testimonials. Get a feel for the living situation; gauge your compatibility.

A new adventure

If you are thinking about giving up your family home, the transition will be easier if you are naturally sociable and like to mingle and carry on conversations. If you are a private person, it might be better to live in your own home for as long as possible.

Once the family home has been sold, the move to senior living is irreversible. This is a major life transition very much like when we were kids going off to college or when we relocated to another city. Our familiar surroundings and the neighbors with whom we were at ease are gone.

Like all life transitions, we will need time to adjust, mingle and find our fit. Over time, we will find our social groups and engage in activities and events. Our adventure begins.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. She was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2012 Washington state Small Business Person of the Year. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to