The generations who make up today’s senior population are not the type to go quietly into the twilight years, rest on their laurels and watch the world pass by. No, the Greatest, Silent, and Baby Boomer generations that fought in World War II, marched for civil rights, and boldly declared that love and not war is the answer are ensuring that senior living is a time for enrichment and enjoyment. They’re proving that senior living doesn’t have to be boring.
But Isn’t Senior Living Depressing?
Even today, there’s still a cloud of dread and apprehension that surrounds senior living options, thanks to the stereotype of depressing, neglectful, and listless nursing home environments. Yet, on the contrary, senior living can usher in a time of relief and relaxation.
“Although there’s a fear of the unknown for many who are new to senior living, and for their loved ones, they quickly realize the security and peace of mind that come with being taken care of,” says Heather Levine, public relations and events spokesperson for Aperion Care, which has several locations including its Tolleston Park facility in Gary.
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Levine points out that, instead of fear, the decision to move into senior living facilities usually leads to relief and improved relationships between residents and their loved ones. “For those moving into independent or assisted living facilities, there’s relief at no longer having to make daily meals if doing so is a hassle or hardship, having access to better medical care, and having a variety of activities to choose from. For residents and their families, relations are no longer strained, as you often see between caregivers and their elderly parents. When so much of the worry is removed, these relationships improve.”
As opposed to signaling the end of good times, moving into senior living facilities signals the beginning of an exciting new chapter when you choose wisely. “It can be the best time of your life,” says Leslie Darrow, executive director of Hartsfield Village in Munster. “Instead of being saddled with a large home and the maintenance that goes with it, moving into senior living means more time for relaxation and recreation.”
Proving that it’s never too late for dreams to come true, Hartsfield Village has a Follow Your Heart program. When staff members hear or are informed about an unfulfilled wish or desire that a resident has, the Follow Your Heart program is used to make it a reality. “We had one resident tell an activity director that he’d always wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride, but he figured it would never happen. We set up a hot air balloon ride for this resident and his grandson so he could take it off his bucket list.”
When Is It Time to Consider Independent or Assisted Living?
The initial decision to move into senior living, or when family members need to consider moving a loved one into senior living, can be a difficult one. According to Ray Hemphill, executive vice president of project development for Providence Life Services, which is set to open its new Park Place of St. John senior living community this fall in St. John, seniors typically choose independent living because they simply want to do less housework and maintenance, and enjoy a more active social life.
With independent living, residents have all the privileges of living on their own with the luxury of assistance options available, such as dining, onsite medical care, transportation, recreational activities, and, in some facilities, housekeeping and laundry.
Making the decision to move into assisted living, however, can be a little trickier. If you or your loved one is having difficulties with daily activities such as meal preparation, personal hygiene, managing medication, and personal finance, assisted living is an ideal choice. “Moving into an assisted living community can help seniors avoid falls and other medical incidents, and gives them an increased chance at social interaction,” Hemphill says.
How Do Memory and Rehab Care Fit into the Picture?
Many senior living communities offer specialized housing and distinct, long-term skilled nursing services for those with cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease through memory care. Memory care housing typically has simple layouts with 24-hour supervised care. “These programs have secured exits to prevent wandering and have activities that are specifically geared towards people with memory loss,” Hemphill explains. “Staff members are trained to work with people who have memory impairments. They work to improve quality of life and learn special strategies for communicating with people who are unable to express themselves. They learn to keep people safe without treating them like children.”
Many senior living communities also offer short-term rehab care. “Rehab care typically serves people who have been in the hospital with an illness or injury and, as a result, need some help getting back to their maximum level of independence,” Hemphill says. Rehab care units can be a superior choice to home health or outpatient rehab because of the combination of focused overall medical care, aggressive therapy, and caretaking through provided meals and activities to get patients back home when possible. Darrow explains that at places like Hartsfield Village, those anticipating rehab can plan ahead by taking tours and making reservations.
Based on his experience with his mother, Hemphill recommends choosing a senior living community, like Park Place of St. John, which has a continuum of care. A continuum of care means that whichever needs arise later on for a resident—assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, or rehab—the resident won’t have to leave the community to receive them. “We moved my mother six or seven times, and I could always see the anguish it caused her, adjusting to a new place and making new friends each time,” he recalls. “Having everything on one campus would have been so much more convenient and comfortable for her.”
The Big Picture Looks Pretty Sweet
Senior living can be pretty sweet when you choose the right place. “At Hartsfield Village, we employ a holistic approach to living and healing through services such as geriatric massage therapy,” Darrow says. “With Baby Boomers on the retirement scene, we offer amenities we didn’t have five years ago including a fitness room, spa, gourmet coffee bar, putting green, and computer classes.” Even the cuisine is top-notch, with much of it coming from the campus’s 38-acre garden, tended by staff and resident volunteers alike, and utilized by the executive chef.
A promising new trend in senior living is intergenerational programs, like the one planned between Park Place of St. John and Crown Point Christian School. “Staff members at the school are working with Providence leadership to develop intergenerational activities designed for students and residents. We’re hoping to have one similar to the partnership between Park Place of Elmhurst and Timothy Christian Schools, where residents support student athletics, students serve as technology advisors for the residents, and they learn from each other during interim program classes.”
“Retirement can be a wonderful time of new friendships and less worries,” Darrow says. “It should be a time to sit back and enjoy life.”