There are a lot of myths about growing older, and some of the biggest involve misconceptions about senior living. These days, many seniors live in home-like settings surrounded by interesting activities and friends around every corner. Think you know senior living? Read on to find out.
1. Assisted Living is not a nursing home.
Today’s Assisted Living communities are not the “old folks’ homes” of yesteryear — institutionalized settings where seniors are parked in front of TVs for hours at a time. Instead, today’s Assisted Living communities are for seniors who need a little extra help with day-to-day activities, like managing medications, bathing or dressing.
Also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes provide round-the-clock, licensed nursing care for people who need short-term care or long-term rehabilitation. Skilled nursing care may be especially helpful for people who need transitional care after leaving the hospital. Skilled nursing centers may offer physical, speech and occupational therapies, as well as stroke recovery, cardiac, wound and transplant care.
Some seniors living in nursing homes may not need round-the-clock care. For this population, Assisted Living communities provide more privacy and more opportunities for social activities — and potentially, at a lower cost.
Assisted Living residents often have their own apartments and may have access to community amenities, such as an activities calendar and dining, plus common areas like game rooms, gardens, fitness centers and even on-site hair salons.
2. You won’t hurt your kids’ feelings if you choose senior living over moving in with them.
While the number of seniors living with their adult children is on the rise, and over 20 percent of adult children said they would want their parents to move in with them as they grow older, many seniors don’t want to lose their independence. And they don’t want their kids to lose their autonomy either.
Moving into a senior living community may actually empower seniors with more freedom and more choices. It’s a win-win. They may have their own space to live their own lives, and spend time with family on their terms.
According to the American Psychological Association, studies show that many seniors would prefer not to reside with their children but rather live independently.
Linda Teri, Ph.D., director of the geriatric and family services department at the University of Washington Medical Center says, “the problem is that people try to resolve the declining health of an aging relative without listening to the needs of everyone involved. A family may feel obligated to bring Dad into the home after his heart attack without first asking him if he would prefer Assisted Living instead.”
In multigenerational households, conflicts often occur when adult children feel they must take on a parenting role with their mom or dad. Families are left struggling to find the balance between caring and controlling.
“One of the scariest things to people as they age is that they don’t feel in control anymore,” says Steven Zarit, a professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University. A recent study by Zarit looked at parental stubbornness as a complicating factor in intergenerational relationships.
“If you tell your dad not to go out and shovel snow, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s the sensible thing. But his response will be to go and shovel away… It’s a way of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping back,” he adds.
Seniors may want to be cared about but may be afraid of being cared for. Many seniors may have a strong desire for both autonomies from, and connection to, their adult children.
3. You don’t have to cook (or plan or shop for meals) if you don’t want to.
Quality dining experiences are a high priority at many senior living communities. Residents sometimes have their own kitchens, too, so you can cook if you’d like.
There are nearly five million seniors facing hunger in the U.S. today. And health problems, medication conflicts, lower income, lack of appetite and increasing social isolation may make seniors especially vulnerable to malnutrition.
For many adults, a move to senior living may improve nutrition. Senior-living residents may enjoy access to healthy menu choices without the burden of cooking, and they benefit from connecting with others at mealtime.
4. Assisted Living isn’t just for people who are sick and frail. In fact, Independent Living and Assisted Living communities have many of the same amenities.
With Assisted Living you’ll have the best of both worlds — help when you need it and independence when you don’t. In fact, Assisted Living residents often enjoy many of the same activities and amenities that Independent Living residents enjoy.
Many seniors worry most about losing independence when moving to an Assisted Living community. The truth is senior living may actually help encourage independence.
Here are just a few ways that Assisted Living communities may support autonomy:
- Assisted Living may help seniors get out and about with transportation for doctor’s appointments, lunch and shopping trips, classes, volunteering and worship services.
- Assisted Living may help prevent isolation and depression by offering older adults a chance to widen their social circles with new friendships.
- Assisted Living may encourage safety and security. As we age, changes in mobility can impact safety. Having help with daily activities like bathing, dressing and medication management may give Assisted Living residents more confidence and support.
Yes, moving from a family home is a big change, but senior living may give seniors even more freedom and more choices to live life on their own terms.
5. Assisted Living is more than just care. It’s a lifestyle.
Residents often find that their social calendars are busier than ever with new friends and new activities to enjoy. And yes, senior living residents still date.
We know close friendships and meaningful relationships play an integral role in aging well. Research shows that staying connected with family, friends and your community may be important to people’s health.
When researchers analyzed studies of roughly 300,000 people who were followed for an average of 7.5 years, those who had strong social relationships were 50 percent more likely to be alive.
Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that an active social life may slow the rate of memory decline in older people.
Stronger social connections may lead to better mental wellness, and mental wellness may, at times, improve physical wellness, too. Widening social circles may even improve a senior’s motivation to take care of themselves — by potentially increasing their interest in exercise and physical activity, or by creating healthier eating habits.
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