Thinking about a senior living community?
Whether you’re exploring retirement ideas for you and your spouse, need a bit of assistance to maintain your independence, or searching for compassionate care for a spouse or parent with dementia, a senior living community can provide the solution you’re searching for.
Here are ten things you may not know about senior communities.
1. Senior Living? It’s Not What You Think
The biggest objection to a senior living community is “I don’t want to live in a nursing home.”
But senior apartments and retirement communities couldn’t be farther from this antiquated misconception.
Today’s communities are designed to meet the needs of seniors: physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.
In many communities, that means beautiful decor, all the comforts of home, gourmet meals, onsite entertainment, opportunities for exercise, experienced and professional staff, and plenty of options for making connections and building relationships with peers.
A 2017 report from A Place for Mom found that the quality of the provider is the #1 priority for people looking for an independent or assisted living community, even above affordability and neighborhood.
Senior living communities are taking note. There are more quality communities available today than ever before.
The easiest way to see what a senior community is all about is to visit one for yourself.
Schedule a tour with a local community and see what it has to offer. In fact, go see a couple and find out which one appeals to you most.
2. Not All Communities are the Same
When you begin touring senior living communities, you’ll quickly realize that they’re not all the same.
Think of the number of hotel options you have when planning a trip. Some are basic and budget-friendly; they offer a bed to sleep in, a bathtub, toilet, coffee maker, and mini-fridge… and not much more.
Others are boutique hotels designed to provide an outstanding experience around every corner, from gourmet meals to delightful furnishings, desirable amenities, and exemplary service.
Just like you have your choice of hotels when traveling, you have a choice of senior apartment, too.
What’s more inline with your ideas of the future: basic, boutique, or something in between? There’s sure to be a senior community that will meet your specific wants and needs.
3. Couples are Welcome
Couples that stay together age together. But not always at the same rate, with the same conditions, or with the same needs. Does the decline in health of one spouse mean a separation is eminent?
Not within a senior living community.
Imagine your spouse has had a stroke or combination of chronic conditions. Even if you’re in good health, being the sole caregiver for your spouse could be difficult or downright impossible.
Managing your spouse’s medications and doctors’ visits, assisting with personal care and maintaining a home and yard can be overwhelming at best.
At worst, it can lead to your own isolation and onset of health issues.
What to do?
Sending your spouse to live alone in a facility while you remain in your home isn’t a very appealing option.
But there is another option.
Many senior living communities offer options for couples to live in the same residence while receiving the individual care and assistance they need. Communities often offer one- and two-bedroom units and various floor plans so couples can choose the apartment size and features right for them.
You and your spouse could both relocate to a community that offers a mix of independent living, assisted living, and memory care services and remain hand-in-hand, facing the future together and getting the help you need.
Even if you and your spouse are both in good health today, moving into a retirement community with multiple levels of service ensures you’ll have individualized help in the future if one - or both - of you should need it.
4. Pets are Welcome, Too
“I don’t want to give up my pet.”
Many senior living communities will welcome your beloved pets with open arms.
Animals can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure, as well as increase social interaction and physical activity for seniors. Allowing pets onsite is one way senior communities promote the health and happiness of their residents.
If you’ve developed some health conditions that are restricting your ability to fully care for your pet, an assisted living facility could provide the help you need to continue to care for Fluffy or Fido.
Some senior living communities may have restrictions on breed types and sizes, so that’s a good question to bring up when you tour a senior living facility.
5. Customize Your Experience
Many of today’s senior living communities don’t provide a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter experience for every resident. Rather, you can choose the exact level of care and service you need.
At The Villas at Stanford Ranch in Rocklin, CA, three levels of service are available to residents:
• Independent Living
• Assisted Living
• Memory Care
Maybe you want to free yourself from the resources, time, and effort spent maintaining a home and yard, but still want the freedom to live on your own with no intervention. Independent living provides that freedom.
What if you or your spouse needs a little assistance with daily activities? You can customize the amount of assisted living care you get depending on your needs.
If you ever need the professional and compassionate care of memory care program, you can get the meaningful enrichment you need within the same community.
And if you and your spouse need different levels of care, you can customize an experience that works for both of your needs while remaining together.
One of the biggest benefits to a community that offers multiple levels of service for seniors is not having to move again if your situation changes.
Let’s say you choose an independent living situation. A few years down the road, you can add assisted living services if your ability to care for yourself is impaired. And, if you should ever need memory care services, you can remain within the same community.
6. You Don’t Have to Face Dementia Alone
One in ten people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia, a degenerative brain disease that leads to difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s affects more women than men.
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss.
People can lose track of important dates, have trouble keeping track of monthly bills, completing familiar tasks, suffer from confusion, and have changes in mood and personality.
Caregiving for an Alzheimer’s patient often falls to spouses and family members. Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women caring for spouses and parents.
These caregivers help with daily living activities such as household chores, shopping meals, appointments and finances; medical care such as medication administration, treatment recommendations; personal care such as bathing, dressing, hygiene, grooming, and feeding; and providing emotional support.
Senior living communities with memory care programs provide a respite from family members having to become full-time caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Spouses and children can then focus on providing emotional support and helping provide meaningful experiences - making new memories even as old ones fade.
Many senior communities offer onsite memory care programs that can help seniors suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia.
At The Villas at Stanford Ranch, the memory care program has been designed to provide a professional, compassionate environment committed to the wellbeing of residents. Socialization, physical activities, music therapy, pet therapy, and one-to-one family counseling are some of the activities that help residents feel a sense of belonging and meaning.
With memory care programs at senior communities, no one has to face dementia alone.
7. Senior Communities Are More Affordable Than You’d Think
Looking at a brand-new, state-of-the-art, amenity filled boutique senior community can bring worries about pricing, but you may be surprised….
Senior communities can be more affordable than you’d think.
Factor in the cost of a home mortgage, insurance, property taxes, repairs and maintenance, and add in the cost of in-home care, and you may find that a senior community costs less than remaining in your home.
Selling a home, reverse mortgages, drawing from life insurance policies, converting policies into long-term care benefit plans ... there’s many ways to finance a senior community. Talk to a trusted financial advisor for more ideas.
Many senior communities offer a choice of units, ranging from studios to one- and two-bedroom units. The floorplan you choose and the level of care you need will be factors in the cost.
The best way to find out exactly what a senior living community will cost is to take a tour and inquire about the floorplan and level of service you specifically need.
8. Senior Communities Lessen Isolation
Living in a senior community can help residents create meaningful bonds and forge peer relationships, lessening isolation and loneliness.
In a study of loneliness in adults aged 50 and older, researchers found that chronic loneliness was associated with higher numbers of chronic illness, depression, and a risk factor for cognitive impairment in older women.
Research is showing that isolation is a strong risk factor for disease and mortality. One of the main factors determining isolation is whether someone lives alone.
Other factors contributing to isolation are physical impairment, losing a partner and/ or close friends, and losing an important role such as employment.
According to a recent study by the National Council on Aging, an estimated 17% of all Americans over the age of 65 are isolated because they live alone.
Senior living communities are often designed to encourage socialization from residents. Many feature common areas, playful amenities, shared dining rooms/ cafes, and regularly scheduled events.
Seniors who live in independent/ assisted living communities have lots of opportunities to connect.
While you can’t force a senior to get out of their own unit and mingle with other people, there’s so many opportunities to build relationships in a senior community that isolation and loneliness become rare occurrences, rather than the norm.
9. And Offer Even MORE Health Benefits
Reducing isolation isn’t the only health benefit of living in a senior community.
Senior communities provide friendship opportunities. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 found that spending time enjoying leisure activities with friends and loved ones protects cognitive skills and keeps them intact longer.
Senior communities often provide exercise opportunities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, walking trails, or close proximity to city parks. According to the CDC, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The CDC recommends older adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, plus muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
Senior communities often provide in-house prepared, nutrient-rich meals. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends older adults get more calcium and vitamin D to support bone health, as well as plenty of vitamin B12, fiber, potassium, and heart-healthy fats. Many older adults can experience mobility restraints that make it difficult to shop and prepare healthy meals for themselves. Senior community residents can get the help they need to eat right.
Senior communities can help reduce the instances and severity of falls. The leading cause of senior injuries and death comes from falls. The CDC reported that in a given year about 25% of Americans age 65+ fall down. Exercise – and exercise therapy – is one of the biggest recommendations to reduce falls in adults age 65+, and senior communities provide plenty of opportunities for residents to get out and get moving. For adults who live in a senior community, the likelihood of a fall going unnoticed decreases tremendously. Environmental factors found in communities, such as adequate lighting and cleared clutter, can also help prevent falls for seniors.
10. Recommended by Seniors
The most surprising thing you may not know about senior living communities is how often they’re recommended by other seniors.
In 2013, Holleran Consulting LLC polled over 57,900 seniors from 265 senior communities across 36 states. They found that seniors were overwhelmingly impressed by their communities.
• 89.3% of independent living residents rate their overall satisfaction as good or excellent.
• 84.5% of independent living residents would recommend their community to someone else.
Similar surveys to assisted living residents reported equally high satisfaction rates.
Seniors who move into independent/ assisted living communities are very happy with their choice, and are happy to recommend their communities to others.
Choosing a senior living community doesn’t need to feel like an overwhelming task. Start your search by finding a senior community near you and take a tour. There’s no better way to see if you’ve found your forever home then walking the halls, meeting the staff, asking questions, and talking to the residents who could become your neighbors.