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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Sis, the Nag" from Hickory Hills, Ill., was right on target. The woman is a primary candidate for retirement living. Unfortunately, society as a whole, and especially the maturing adult, is undereducated when it comes to the resources available to them and the many advantages of those resources.

A large part of the American culture continues to perceive retirement living in the same vein as life in a nursing home -- hence the hesitation when it comes to this type of decision making. Although life in a retirement community is quite the contrary, this perception has been slow to change.

I work in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). The beauty of this environment is that there are 60-, 70-, 80- and 90-year-old adults who continue to live active and independent lives, and yet have assisted and nursing care services available to them in the event these needs arise. The residents reside in a hotel-like atmosphere in their own apartments, with their own furniture, go to the mall, grocery stores, theater and anywhere else they so desire. They make new friends that have had or continue to have similar life experiences.

Today's senior has worked hard to provide children and grandchildren with the opportunity and vision to fulfill their own goals. The families want only the very best for them. They want their parents to enjoy themselves and all of the amenities they so often deprived themselves of to provide for their families. Retirement living is truly a step in the right direction.

"Sis" is no doubt facing a difficult decision. Regardless of how nice the retirement community is, it will never be the memory-filled home in which she raised her family. However, life is a series of trade-offs. She is already feeling the burden of caring for her house and at a loss as to why her children are not more available. "Sis" probably has a delightful brood, but what will she expect of them if her health declines and she finds herself able to handle less and less?

Taking this first step is a big one. I meet people daily who are hesitant to take the initial step. The majority of mature adults feel they are not ready for retirement living. Yet these same folks come into my office six months after they've moved in to tell me how happy they are, and how they wish they had made the move years earlier. -- KELLI KNOX, HOUSTON

DEAR KELLI: Thank you for an informative letter. I received mail from angry readers scolding me because I didn't criticize "Sis's" children for failing to help their mother with maintaining her property. However, I seriously doubt that if they're unwilling or unable to do it, they would appreciate a lecture from me.

It's far more important that "Sis" be empowered to control her own destiny and, if she's not getting the attention she'd like from her children, to develop an independent social life of her own. That is why I urged her to sell the real estate before it becomes run-down and to give serious thought to a retirement community targeted to active seniors.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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