September 17, 2019

Castles in Spain: Housing Considerations in Retirement

by Deb Gerow

Retirement. Freedom from the daily work routine and the necessity of making difficult decisions, right? Not necessarily so. Being retired is wonderful, but as you may have discovered already, retirees do face many important choices.

One of the most difficult decisions is deciding where to live. We may be making this choice for ourselves, or, if we are very fortunate, helping our parents to choose. Of course, most of us are quite content in the residences in which we have been living for years. However, as we age, these homes may not work as well for us as they did when we first took possession. With the effects of aging, changes to our families, and even just changes in our preferred lifestyles, it might be time to try something else.

Many people dream of retiring to a new location, perhaps one with a better climate. While some retirees do make this transition successfully, the idea of being far away from family and friends discourages many of us from this path.

So, if not a castle or even a casa in sunny Spain, where should we live? There are several options for us to choose from. If we are healthy and active and able to manage daily living without much assistance, we may remain within our current community aging in place, either living independently or perhaps with family. Another possibility is to move into some form of seniors’ housing community. Then, for those of us experiencing more challenges with managing daily tasks, there are several supportive living options available.

Aging in place means remaining in our homes, staying in familiar surroundings, in an area that we know well and where we feel comfortable. However, there are challenges if we make this decision. Houses may need retrofitting — changing doorknobs for door handles, installing grab bars in the bathroom, perhaps trading that jacuzzi bathtub for an accessible walk-in shower, building a ramp up to the outside door, putting in a stair-lift or an elevator, adding brighter lighting, or building a ground-floor laundry room. Remaining in one’s own home also means being responsible for yardwork like snow shovelling in the winter and grass cutting in the summer. Homes also require maintenance like washing windows, touching up paint trim, changing light bulbs, or replacing that leaky faucet. Of course, it is possible to hire extra help for these jobs, but it’s necessary to consider them when weighing one’s options.

Some seniors choose to live in granny, garden, or in-law suites, usually in the home or on the property of a family member. These units are generally self-contained, and since they have a smaller square footage, they are easier to maintain than a whole house. Family members are available to provide support, taking care of yard work, maintenance, and transportation as needed. While allowing for privacy and independence, opportunities abound for contact with loved ones.

There are many types of housing complexes from which to choose if one decides on a setting just for seniors. Some move into apartments, condominiums, duplexes, or even gated communities specifically built for seniors. There is no need for retrofitting since these places were designed with seniors’ needs in mind, and usually, there is no upkeep or maintenance to worry about. Often there are lots of recreation programs organized for residents so opportunities for socialization are present. These seniors’ complexes provide a good option for people who don’t want the responsibilities and worries of maintaining their own home. The best way to access this more independent seniors’ housing is to visit in person and apply.

If you will be touring a seniors’ complex, go to for a checklist that you could use to evaluate it. In addition, is a good link to help find partially or fully funded seniors’ housing in Alberta.

For those who are experiencing many challenges managing day-to-day living without support, then perhaps a form of assisted living is the best choice. Assisted living communities will vary depending upon services required, size of unit, type of residence, location, and even the level of luxury. Often, they provide access to healthcare professionals and assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, housekeeping and laundry, meal service, medication management, social and recreational activities, and transportation.

For those individuals with high medical or mobility needs, your local health network is a good place to start to look for long-term care information. In Alberta, community and social services referrals (211) can put you in contact with the public system so that people who qualify can access subsidized homecare (visit for availability).

It is essential to think about the future and start considering choices that will help make life easier for each of us. No one option is perfect for everyone. If Spain is your choice, then you’d better start practising your Spanish conversational skills. If not, perhaps the information in this article will help you select an option that is best for you.