William Shakespeare’s Guide to Seniors’ Best Housing Options

To Be, or Not to Be ...“To be, or not to be (living alone as a senior)—that is the question.”

Housing choices for seniors are heavy matters. Maybe not quite as heavy as the matters that Hamlet was wrestling in Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy, but heavy nonetheless.

Should seniors live alone or with family? When is it time to move into assisted living? Who should live in assisted living? What are the best senior homes in my area? What to do? What to do?

“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky” (All’s Well That Ends Well).

Rather than leaving things to chance, explore housing options for seniors and do it early. We’ll examine the benefits of each option so that you can be well-informed before you make your decision.

Living at Home—”That is my home of love” (Sonnet 109)

Aging in place is a rising trend; many modern seniors want to continue to live in their own homes. To age in place is to keep the lifestyle you’re accustomed to in a place where you’ve made so many memories. You’ll remain independent and stay near your friends and community.

Those who need just a bit of extra peace of mind should consider a medical alert system. Those who need a bit more domestic help should consider a home care assistant.

Things to consider about staying at home:

  • How much help do you need?
  • Would you prefer to stay near your friends and community?
  • Do you need to adapt your home to make it safer as you age? (If so, consider contacting a CAPS specialist)
  • Are there fun activities in your neighborhood to help you stay active and healthy?
  • Are you prepared to pay for more help to take care of both you and your home?

Moving In With Family—”He that is thy friend indeed, he will help thee in thy need” (The Passionate Pilgrim)

Moving in with family can be a good step for many. It allows a bit of leeway between extra help at home and living in a senior community. Living with family means more time with the ones you love. Also, it means the structure of a support system to take care for you. Household tasks will no longer be your sole responsibility, which can be a big relief.

Before moving in, discuss everyone’s expectations so that the transition to living together is as smooth as possible. With the right preparations, living with family can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

Things to consider about living with family:

  • Are you prepared to move out of your home?
  • Do you want that much more time with your loved ones?
  • What is your budget?
  • Will you need a home aide?
  • Will a family member take care of household responsibilities?
  • How will this affect your family?
  • Is your family able to help you with everyday tasks when you need it?
  • Has your family modified their home to adapt to your changing needs?

Make sure to vet and explore this option. There are downsides to living with family as well. Sometimes “you pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely” (The Winter’s Tale)

William ShakespeareMoving to Assisted Living—”For you and I are past our dancing days” (Romeo and Juliet)

You might need more care than family or a home health aide can provide, or perhaps you want to be in a community of other seniors with constant access to care. Moving to a senior care community means the end of yard work and boredom, and the opportunity to meet some new friends. Everything you need is within walking distance or shuttle distance and you’ll gain easy access to health care.

Make sure to check out the senior home in person to make sure it’s the right place for you. Remember that “all that glistens is not gold” (The Merchant of Venice).

Things to consider about moving to assisted living or a senior care facility:

  • Are you able to afford this option?
  • Are you ready to downsize and leave your home and community?
  • Do you need constant access to care?
  • Do you want to live in a community of people your age?
  • Will you enjoy a wide variety of programs to stay healthy and entertained?

It’s Your Decision — “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet)

To make the best senior housing choice, examine what care you need now and what care you expect to need in the future. In the end it will be your decision. “Men at some time are masters of their fate” (Julius Caesar).

Budget is an important consideration, but shouldn’t be the only one. You can always increase or decrease care when and if you need it. And remember Polonius’s advice to Laertes: “This above all: to thine own self be true” (Hamlet).

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne’s favorite Shakespeare play is Hamlet and at one point he could recite every one of the big five soliloquies from memory. Those days are long past.


The Last Stop: Christmas is in the Air

Margery's Friends with a Community Christmas TreeEveryone is bustling around at my place, getting ready for the holidays. The day before Thanksgiving, I saw a woman pushing a big cart. I was curious and asked what she was doing. She told me she was getting her Christmas decoration out of her storage locker before the big rush for the carts after Thanksgiving.

As I write this on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I am curious if any of my buddies here braved the crowds and shopped on Black Friday. Read on to know what December is like at this senior residence.

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

It’s Time for Seniors to Embrace the Internet of Things

You’ve likely heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), but if you don’t actually know what it is, you’re not alone. In fact, even purveyors of the Internet of Things at times aren’t sure how to actually define this growing concept and collection of … things. In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is a term used to describe the ever-growing network of connected devices, or, if you will, “smart gadgets.” With 45 million people (and growing) in the U.S. in their senior years, and more and more seniors opting to age in place, the Internet of Things holds much promise. We contend that seniors should embrace the Internet of Things. You may just be surprised how much better and easier life can be when you do.

Today’s seniors are tech-savvy

The days of grandma or grandpa not having the first clue how to use a computer or cell phone are fast diminishing. Today’s seniors are used to technology, and it’s not uncommon for older adults to use email and the Internet regularly. Some, in fact, use it every day. According to Pew Internet, 6 out of 10 seniors now go online, and nearly 50% of all seniors have high-speed broadband Internet access in their homes. And, older Internet users cite the benefits of having information from the Internet in their lives: 79% of senior Internet users agree that people without the Internet are at a disadvantage because of the information they miss, and 94% agree that “the Internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.”

But, seniors are not just embracing the Internet and email. A PewResearch study showed that 2012 marked the first time that half of Americans 65 and older were online, and at that time 7 in 10 seniors owned a cell phone and one-third of seniors were using social networking sites such as Facebook. Laurie Orlov, author of an AARP study and principal analyst of Aging in Place Technology Watch, a marketing research firm in Florida, told the Denver Post that seniors are adopting technology out of necessity and “there are fewer and fewer good excuses for avoiding it if you can afford it.” Tealy Baumgartner, a tech-savvy grandma in her 90s, received an iPad from her grandson and was hesitant to accept the gift until she “learned that you can’t mess it up” and uses it to read her hometown newspaper, search for recipes and knitting patterns, and send emails and photos to family members.

Additionally, a study on seniors and the Internet conducted by professors of marketing at the University of California Irvine, Temple University, and California State University Long Beach determined that seniors are adopting technology more than ever, but they face “unique barriers to usage” because they previously had not used them in work situations and commonly have physical limitations that make using computer and the Internet more difficult. However, when seniors learn how to use the technology or other devices such as tablets with touchscreens and built-in assistive technology, they are enthusiastic and “express strong openness to learning.” The seniors in the study most frequently noted cultural currency as the reason for wanting to adopt technology.

Several programs are being offered across the country to help seniors learn how to use technology, including those at senior centers, in conjunction with programs matching teens with seniors, and others. In New York City, seniors can take advantage of free tech training classes being offered by Older Adults Technology Services (OATS). With support from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the City of New York, 23 new public computer centers have been built in neighborhoods throughout the city. Each new facility contains 300 computers, available for seniors to use free of charge. In Kansas City, Arts Tech, a youth organization working with underserved urban teens to help them develop marketable artistic and technical skills, is training teens to teach seniors about using computers and the Internet. The Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, money made available to nonprofits seeking to close the digital divide, is funding the project to match teens and seniors for technology lessons. And, in Colombia, Md., teens from the Colombia Association’s Youth and Teen Center the the Barn are working with seniors from the 50+ Center at the East Colombia Branch of the Howard County Library System to teach them new technology. The program was created after the Senior Center received a donation of several iPads.

Once seniors know how to use the technology, it becomes part of their everyday lives. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, among older adults who use the Internet, 71% go online every day or nearly every day, and an additional 11% go online between 3 and 5 times a week. And, seniors are increasingly purchasing tablets or e-book readers: 27% of seniors own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both, while only 18% own a smartphone. If seniors are tackling these devices, they surely can handle IoT products, which typically involve automatic notifications and require little, if any, manual control.

New Technologies Suited to Seniors

According to a report in Government Health IT, new technologies that address the needs and problems of seniors will be essential. By 2050, the number of Americans 65 and older is set to double, to more than 80 million, and the number of heads of household aged 70 or older is expected to increase by 42%, to 28 million, by 2025, according to research by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Moreover, a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that almost 90% of Americans, including those older than 70, want to age in place for at least the next 5 to 10 years of their lives.

As the American population ages, and as the digital health field expands, technologies addressing the unique challenges of aging in place will become more of a reality. Great strides already have been made to improve aging, with the emergence of companies like BrainAid, True Link and Lively. Seniors who want to age in place need to be as independent as possible, and BrainAid produces PEAT, an Android app that provides cognitive aids for independent living. Seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss receive help with tasks through cueing and scheduling assistance. Finances can be a hindrance to aging in place, so True Link provides financial safety for seniors; it features on and off switches for caregivers or children to help aging parents manage their money by blocking purchases, setting spending limits, sending alerts about suspect charges, and more. Concerns over loved ones aging in place also can hinder the process, and Lively helps caregivers and children keep tabs on elderly family members. Lively’s activity sensors monitor movements in the home and their Safety Watch gives medication reminders, keeps track of steps, and includes an emergency button. These are just a few of the many companies that are developing technologies to make aging in place a reality for seniors.

IoT and “Smart Aging”

One of the most important benefits of seniors choosing to embrace the Internet of Things is that it has the power to transform their lives. W. David Stephenson, a leading IoT strategist, theorist, and writer, focuses on “smart aging” and encourages seniors to use “a combination of wearable devices and smart home devices to allow seniors to age in place with dignity, improved health, and lower expenses.” In an April 2014 blog post, Stephenson explains the ways in which the IoT can benefit seniors, from helping them to become partners in their health care through self-monitoring to aiding them while they live alone, miles away from family.

Stephenson suggests that seniors take advantage of IoT products such as bedroom slippers with sensors to detect variations in a senior’s gait and alert caregivers by an app. There also are necklaces that detect the onset of congestive heart failure. Stephenson asserts that these IoT products will take some pressure off of elderly patients who need to recall their symptoms at doctor’s appointments and actually will give more information to doctors because they can measure what is happening with the patient: “the patient will generate a constant stream of data, and, over time, we will evolve efficient ways of reporting the spikes in readings to the doctor in a way that might actually trigger preventive care to avoid an incident, or at least provide an objective means of judging its severity to improve the quality of care.”

IoT Empowers Seniors to Age In Place

Sometimes, seniors just need to get past the fear of the newness and embrace the technology that can enhance their lives and keep them connected to their loved ones and hobbies while they age in place. Once they do, they realize all of the potential uses and benefits of using smart gadgets. Many are actually quite simple to use after initial set-up and provide useful capabilities. The most common IoT products that help seniors to age in place include…

  • Controlling lighting, security systems, and appliances with a mobile device
  • Providing continuous monitoring and sensors to alert loved ones or health providers of accidents
  • Issuing medication reminders
  • Offering reminders to turn off the stove, or even automatic shut-off functionality
  • Wearable health sensors for remote healthcare services

Additional Links to IoT Information For Seniors:

Images via Flickr by Hannah and Jo Christian Oterhals

Let it Snow: Tips for Winterizing a Senior Loved One’s Home

Winter is the time to cuddle up in your warm house with a cup of hot chocolate as you watch the snow fall. But a frozen pipe or broken furnace is a surefire way to ruin the mood. Before you can burrow under the covers, you’ve got to prepare your home to brave the storm.

Here are my tips for winterizing your home, to the classic tune of “Let it Snow.”

‘The weather outside is frightful’

Keep that weather outside, where it belongs! Secure your home so that the cold and ice can’t get in.Tips to Winterize a Senior's Home

  • Put up storm doors and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent leaks and cold drafts.
  • Clean and secure pipes and gutters. Fallen leaves will block your pipes if you don’t remove them, and snow can easily pull down loose gutters. Give them a good cleaning.
  • Check for leaks and misaligned pipes by running water through the gutters and tracing its path. You want the water to drain away from your foundation to prevent flooding.
  • Cover all vents and other openings with chicken wire to keep out uninvited critters.
  • Trim overgrown branches that extend over your home. Snow and ice can get very heavy. Overloaded branches are vulnerable to breaking and causing damage to your home.
  • Prevent pipe bursts by draining water from exterior pipes and shutting outdoor valves. Once it hits freezing, let your indoor faucets drip. As long as the water in the pipes is moving, it won’t freeze. You can protect pipes in unheated areas by wrapping them in insulation—In a pinch, you can use rags, newspapers, or even bubble wrap.

‘The fire is so delightful’

There’s not much better than a warm fire on a snowy day. But before you light that fire or turn on the furnace, make sure they are safe to use.

  • Replace the air filter in your furnace. A dirty air filter can’t do its job. Improve the air quality in your home with a new filter every year.
  • Turn on your furnace before you need it and make sure it all works. You may need to relight the pilot light if it blew out during the summer. A strong smell is common when first turning on the heat, but if it persists you should call a professional to take a look.
  • Get your chimney cleaned. A blocked chimney will cover your living room in soot! That’s the last thing you need during the holidays. Get your chimney cleaned to prevent a huge mess.
  • Prepare some cozy blankets and house slippers with those grippy bumps on the bottom. Keep your feet warm, but don’t wear socks around the house—they are way too slippery.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The holidays often mean home-cooked meals, fireplaces and candles. Unfortunately, all of these things increase fire risk. Make sure you have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, and use this as a time to give them all fresh batteries so they can protect you all year.

‘And since we’ve got no place to go’

You may prefer to stay inside, but you should be able to get out if you choose! It’s extremely important to prepare your entryway and sidewalk to prevent falls. For when you do stay in, make sure you have everything you need in case of emergency.

  • Apply non-slip sprays to steps and walkways. These sprays are easy to apply and create a durable textured surface that prevents slips.
  • Get a helping hand in keeping the sidewalks clear. Whether it’s a professional or your neighbor’s son, hire someone to shovel and de-ice your sidewalks.
  • Install sturdy handrails throughout your yard. We all need a helping hand in the winter. A handrail will help you stay upright when the ground is icy.
  • Use ice melt or sand to make the ground less slippery. When conditions are bad, you can sprinkle it before you as you walk.
  • Create survival kits for when you are stuck in your home. Include plenty of batteries in case the power goes out. Equip your kit with a portable battery-operated radio, flashlights, blankets, and safety matches. Stock up on canned food (don’t forget the can opener!) and water bottles. If you are ever snowed in or caught without power, you will have everything you need.

‘Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!’

Building snowmen, curling up by the fire, watching the grandchildren play—winter is a magical time full of possibilities. Now that your home is ready, you are free to enjoy the season.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pa., with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.


Joan’s Journey: A Flight Forward, A Look Back

Hey Journeyers. Fasten your seat belts. This afternoon, we are on a very bumpy, gray route, high in the sky, from Los Angeles to Baltimore. I left LAX with sunny skies and 68 degrees. I am flying to BWI airport, which reports 48 degrees and rain.

Why? In an unexpected development relating to settling my affairs in Baltimore, I decided to return “Home” before severe winter weather arrives that may cause cross-country travel havoc.Joan's Journey: A Flight Forward, A Look Back

Now, my flow of writing pauses with the word Home. Isn’t my current residence at Holiday Villa East in Santa Monica my Home? Does Baltimore then become my “Former Home?” What about Houston—the lovely city where I lived for 26 years and happily raised my children?

As seniors, we have gathered a lifetime of experiences and, perhaps, Homes. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “Home” as a dwelling place, together with a family or social unit that occupies it; a household. Agreeing with this definition, is there any harm in calling multiple dwellings Home? I think not.

As I look outside the plane window, I see impenetrable dark skies over the Rocky Mountains. The seatbelt light is on and my stylus cannot hit the keys. I have no choice but to close my eyes and contemplate my first return home since moving to senior living in Southern California.

Ten months have passed since I’ve seen lifelong cherished relatives and friends. To date, I have not been “Homesick” living at a senior residence in a totally new location and lifestyle. Will returning home, especially so close to the holidays, change my feelings or cause regrets? Will finalizing my business affairs in Baltimore bring sadness—or relief?

In my stomach, I feel that queasiness of the unknown, which is odd, because I am returning to the known. Perhaps I have a touch of air sickness, which is also unlike Joan the Gemini Journeyer.

As the bumpy Southwest Airlines flight and the ominous skies continue, I’m mentally preparing for this new milestone of Joan’s Journey. On the return flight to LAX, I will stop for three days at another home, Houston. In the next few blogs, I will divert from life at senior living, to the experiences and feelings of returning to a past lifestyle.

Joan’s Journey will post again once more in 2014. SeniorHomes.com and I invite you to share your senior living experiences in the Comments Box below. Until our next blog, enjoy the trip, day by day. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Note: Southwest Airlines Flight #4431 emerged from the dark skies to land at BWI Airport, where Joan was met with the black, rain-filled night of suburban Baltimore—and one of her dear friends. Follow Joan in upcoming blogs as her journey takes a new look back at her former life.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor. She specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren.

6 Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

Traveling over the holiday season is tough for anyone, as the roads and airways are busier than usual. (Layovers and traffic jams aren’t usually anyone’s idea of a good time.) But for seniors and family caregivers, these typical stresses are magnified when it means suddenly changing plans and scrambling to find appropriate accommodations. Joyous occasions can become overshadowed by fear, anxiety, and stress.

It’s particularly troublesome for seniors with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, as any change to the standard routine can create serious anxiety and even lead to emotional outbursts out of sheer frustration. These tips will help you prepare for the worst and hope for the best as you travel with aging loved ones this holiday season, so that you can make the most out of your time with family and friends no matter what circumstances may arise. Traveling with seniors

1. Plan Ahead to Reduce Travel Stress

Planning is always important when you’re traveling, but it’s even more so when you’re traveling with an aging loved one. Consider health issues and potential hazards, such as portable oxygen and other needs, and always have a backup plan. When you’re prepared for any potential hiccups during travel, you’ll be much less stressed should something go awry.

2. Look Into Special Accommodations

If you’re traveling by air, and your loved one requires assistance with ambulation (such as a walker or wheelchair), check into the accommodations offered by the airline. Airlines typically have special rows designated for disabled travelers to allow ample space for wheelchairs and other equipment. Additionally, there are many restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that offer discounts for senior citizens. Don’t be afraid to ask and take advantage of these offers; there are many ways you can put a few extra dollars to good use over the holidays.

3. Prepare and Make Copies of Essential Documents

It’s a good idea to travel with a list of medications, as well as statements outlining medical conditions from your loved one’s primary care physician or other provider. Should a medical emergency arise while you’re traveling, you can easily provide the hospital or provider with essential health information to streamline treatment.

4. Prepare Medications for Air Travel

Traveling with prescription medications can be tricky for air travel. Be sure to include copies of prescriptions, and keep the medications in the same containers in which the pharmacy provides them. Otherwise, you could run into trouble with airport security. Having all your prescriptions and proper containers assures authorities that the medications are, in fact, prescribed to a traveler and not merely being smuggled for illicit use or street sale. (It sounds crazy, but it happens.)

5. Try to Maintain Familiar Routines

Obviously, keeping the same routine when you’re traveling out of town is easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain some level of familiarity by following the same types of routines you’d follow at home. If your aging parent always bathes in the evening, for instance, and then unwinds by watching a favorite television show, or eats the same thing for breakfast every day, try to do the same while you’re on the road. Even though the scenery might be different, the familiarity offered by routines can be comforting in otherwise stressful situations.

6. Take Your Time

One of the biggest contributors to stress over the holiday is the feeling of being rushed. Planning ahead can alleviate this to some extent, but you can also build in ample time to your travel plans to ensure you’re not crunched for time. Give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, planning for multiple stops and breaks along the way. If you’re traveling by air, choose a flight plan with ample, but not too lengthy, layovers. Build in an extra day or two to your trip to account for last-minute changes in plans so you’re not scrambling to change your travel arrangements at the last moment.

The holidays are meant for joy and laughter, for spending time with friends and family near and far, and for making memories that last a lifetime. Plan ahead, go prepared, and take your time so you can dedicate all your energy to making lasting memories instead of being weighed down by unnecessary stress.

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What are your thoughts on dating as an older adult?

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For more reading about senior living, visit the following pages:

The Differences Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

A few weeks ago, we took an in-depth look at assisted living communities, and what exactly they offer. Today, we’ll look at a related topic, stemming from a question we are repeatedly asked here at SeniorHomes.com.

What is the difference between nursing homes and assisted living communities?Resident with Daughter

Well, there are many, starting with the care services they offer. We have published a new, thorough article that explains nursing homes in great detail, including these key differences from assisted living:

An assisted living community does not provide skilled nursing services, and these communities are often private pay only. In contrast, nursing homes accept Medicaid and Medicare in addition to private pay or health insurance. Residents at an assisted living community are also capable of carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing and toileting with some or minimal assistance. In contrast, nursing home resident require more support with ADLs.

Of course, there are many other differences, and much more to learn about nursing homes. We encourage you to read the full article, and ask any further questions you have about nursing homes below. We’ll be more than happy to answer them.

If you think either assisted living or nursing homes may be right for you or your loved one, you can use the links in this sentence to help find a community in your area. And our Care Advisors are available every day to help with your search—just call the phone number at the top of this page!

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Make the Transition from Independent Living to Assisted Living or Memory Care?

How do you know when it’s time to make the transition from independent living to assisted living or memory care? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

When is it time to transition from assisted living to memory care?

For more of our background on the types of senior housing for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, visit our Memory Care Resource Center.

Helpful Hints for Moving a Parent with Dementia

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be bewildering and taxing, even on good days. While you remember your loved one as a mother who enjoyed spontaneous outings around town or a father who could find his way with ease through any hardware store, now they might no longer remember your name or are fearful when there is a change in routine.Car on the Open Road

When you can no longer care for your parents, there are communities specifically designed to provide the specialized care that Alzheimer’s or dementia requires. If you are considering such a community for a parent, but dread the trauma that the transition will cause, there are a number of steps you can take to make the moving process less traumatic.

This is why SeniorHomes.com is taking a look at the moving process. This week, in the final part of a three-part series, we provide tips from experts on the moving process itself, from packing to unpacking.

Get more helpful hints in Part 3 of our moving series, “Moving a Parent with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.” For more moving advice, check out the first two parts in our series, “It’s Never too Early to Plan a Move,” and “Strategies for Successfully Moving Your Parents,” and keep our Senior Moving Center bookmarked.