Archive for the ‘Senior Living News’ Category

The Changing Face of Senior Living Marketing

The Internet has changed so many aspects of senior life, from the ways in which they shop for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), to the ways in which they communicate with their doctors. Marketing strategies for those companies and health care providers also is changing as seniors become more adept at using the web and social media.

Price Transparency

In Cassandra Dowell’s “New Senior Living Shopper Demands Price Transparency,” the point is clear: if CCRCs want to close deals with seniors and/or their adult children, they are going to have to embrace price transparency.  The days of people visiting CCRCs and making their own decisions seem to be a thing of the past, as potential consumers and their adult children price-shop CCRCs online.

As older people and their adult children begin to look for CCRCs, they no longer just want to know about the services and amenities; now they want to know about providers’ contracts, financial stability, and property financials, history, and management information.  The economic downturn seems to have made it even more important for seniors to know more about their choices in CCRCs and feel secure in their decisions.

But, providing the right types of information and amount of price transparency online can be a daunting task for CCRCs.  Databases such as LifeSite Logics and Silver Living have compiled the information and done their own research and reviews on CCRCs and provide consumers with the information and reports they may be looking for when considering a CCRC.

These sites also aid consumers who may not trust information directly from the CCRCs and who are looking for unbiased tools to help them make decisions about their care.

shopping online

When this information is unavailable online, consumers have a difficult time in making those decisions, and with so much information about other CCRCs becoming available, they may just ignore the sites that don’t provide enough information all together.  So, while some CCRCs may consider keeping prices under wraps to encourage on-site visits from prospects, they in actuality are shooting themselves in the foot.

Consumers who know the pricing is within their budgets are more likely to tour the facilities because they don’t want to waste their time looking into CCRCs that are out of their league.  When price transparency is in place, CCRCs create more meaningful follow-up opportunities with prospects and save everyone a great deal of time: only those prospects who can afford your CCRC are contacting you and scheduling tours.

Diane Twohy Masson, CASP, has outlined ten goals with walk-in tours in mind, with number 1 being the highest level to achieve:

  1. Getting a senior to move into your senior living community.  Congratulations on helping them find a solution for their needs!
  2. Scheduling a move-in date – their house sold and they are ready to move in.
  3. Depositing on an apartment – you’ve made a sale!
  4. Coming back to choose an apartment – be careful not to make any assumptions or they will leave before making a choice.
  5. Coming back to discuss financial requirements – get an administrator involved to help.
  6. Coming back to discuss health concerns – remember, this may or may not be the official health assessment.
  7. Coming back to dine with residents – encourage this so the residents can work their magic on your prospect.
  8. Attending an event – help them to imagine the lifestyle of your community.
  9. Touring a second time – invitations to dine with residents, look at the perfect apartment, or meet with some residents and staff are very beneficial.
  10. Wanting to ask more questions – this is the first indication that they are interested, so be on the lookout for a solution to their needs.

Getting the information out to prospects and their adult children online is just the first step in marketing to seniors.  CCRCs need to have a strategy in place for tours and meeting goals to ultimately close the deal with seniors looking for a care facility.

Connecting Through Social Media

Just as the internet has made finding and choosing CCRCs easier for older people, social media and the web have made connecting and communicating with health care providers easier too.

Angie Haupt points out that hospitals have been building an online presence for some time, driven by marketing and supported by relatively large budgets, but there is a trend in more primary care and other private-practice doctors expanding their horizons on the web.  And, the numbers of doctors who are blogging and tweeting are increasing every year.

But, “Should You ‘Friend’ Your Doctor?”  That’s a topic Kristine Crane explores in her May 2014 US News & World Report article, and it appears as though the answer is yes: as long as both the patients and the doctors follow the same rules of communication.  One rule of thumb to follow is that patients should avoid contacting doctors all of the time or for very serious issues online, and doctors are prohibited by law to have specific conversations about patients on social media.

doctor using technology

One of the more effective ways of connecting with doctors through social media is through the various chatting and forum options.  Patients with similar health concerns are able to connect with one another and their doctor and share similar concerns and questions.  And, some doctors are creating podcasts and YouTube videos for patients to listen to or watch prior to their visits, so they attend appointments already armed with critical information.

Again, transparency is the key to effective online communication.  The more information CCRCs and doctors provide to patients online, the more likely they are to transform from prospects to customers and patients.

Images via Flickr by Tim Reckmann and HI TRICIA!

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Study: Evidence-Based Strategies for Communciating with Adults in Long-Term Care

In a recent Clinical Review, Kristine Williams, RN, PhD, found that the communications skills of long-term care workers are a key factor in the quality of life and care for older adults in long-term care settings.  In fact, communication with older adults in these environments can be optimized if health care professionals use evidence-based strategies, because residents in those environments rely on staff for over 75% of their communication opportunities.

Clinical review results: 

  • Normal and abnormal physical and cognitive changes due to aging present communication barriers that put long-term care residents at risk for ineffective communication encounters
  • Institutional factors present communication barriers that put long-term care residents at risk for ineffective communication encounters
  • Health care professionals in long-term care settings need to be aware of these aging and institutional factors and use evidence-based strategies to ensure person-centered communication with residents

Estimates indicate that Americans aged 65 and older will more than double by the year 2050; as a result, the number of older Americans in need of supporting long-term care services also will dramatically increase.   While years of healthy life are increasing along with life spans, supportive care services will be necessary to overcome common limitations experienced by older adults due to the normal changes associated with aging, chronic conditions associated with aging, and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that lead to progressive disability.

It’s important to note that the population of dementia sufferers also is projected to double by 2050.  Currently, at least 70% of those aged 65 and older require supportive long-term care services at some point, and estimates are that 40% will reside in a nursing home (at least for a short rehabilitation stay).  With these growing demands on health care providers with geriatric expertise, it will be critical to make long-term are more person-centered.

Through research and discussion, Williams determined that communication is critical to person-centered care.  Nursing home residents report their ability to relate to staff who care for them through communication is a key factor in their satisfaction with life in long-term care.  Plus, nursing staff who report relationships with residents also report higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Also according to Williams, research demonstrates how communication promotes independence and autonomy for residents or can contribute to dependency, depression, behavior issues, and other negative outcomes.  This fact clearly demonstrates the need for effective communication in long-term care settings.

Barriers to Communication

Certain barriers to communication do exist for older adults in long-term care situations, a critical realization for any professional serving in the long-term care industry.  Vision and hearing loss are challenges, as are cognitive changes such as reduced processing speed and working memory.

Stroke and Parkinson’s disease also make communication a challenge for older adults.  Plus, the very fact that the residents had to move from their homes and away from significant others who served as communication partners poses barriers to their effective communication with caregivers in their new communities.

Overcoming Barriers

  • Person-Centered Care – Health care providers should take the time to learn about residents’ backgrounds, history, and family.  Families can aid in this process by providing recorded autobiographies, memory boxes, and photo displays.
  • Ignoring Talk – Include the residents in discussions about their care, to make them feel valued and appreciated.
  • Intergenerational Communication – Care staff may have ageist views and stereotypes of older adults that result in modified communication with them, and the resulting elderspeak has negative effects on the residents.  Caregivers should refrain from using intimate terms of endearment, asking closed questions and suggesting correct answers, and substituting “we” for “I.”
  • Communication Assessment -Health care providers should make an individual assessment of the communication and cognitive abilities of residents in their care and modify communication on an as-needed basis only.
  • Nonverbal Communication -Caregivers need to be aware of the messages they are sending through nonverbal communication and make it a priority to look at the residents, maintain eye contact, and use appropriate facial expressions.  Health care providers also need to ensure they are not committing elderspeak through nonverbal communication, such as looming over the shoulder of a seated older adult.
  • Hearing Support -Speak with gradually louder volume until a comfortable level is reached and do not use a high-pitched voice.  Minimize background noise and frequently check hearing aides for battery power and cleanliness.
  • Cultural Competence -Those health care providers who are not native English speakers or who have accents will need to be especially aware of the effectiveness of their communication with residents.  Validating that the older adult has heard and understood the communication may be necessary.
  • Encouraging Function -Use communication to prompt residents and provide cues and reinforcement to encourage and improve functional independence.
  • Dementia -It is even more important to resist using elderspeak with patients who experience dementia; research shows older residents with dementia were more than twice as likely to resist or respond to care with aggression or displeasure than when staff used normal adult communication.  Keep in mind that residents with dementia have slowed processing speed and reduce working memory, so avoid excessively slow speech when communicating with them.  It may be necessary to repeat questions and statements and use paraphrasing.
  • Staff Training -Training and educational programs should include specific information on effective communication with older adults.  Periodic training sessions should be provided with new information on evidence-based communication developments.

Overall, health care providers need to be aware of the challenges older adults face in communicating and be cognizant of whether they are adding to the barriers of effective communication themselves.  Establishing interpersonal connections may be the first step toward more effective communication with residents, especially because providers should strive to improve the residents’ quality of life through person-centered care.

What challenges have you faced in communicating with residents in the senior living communities you serve in? Discuss in the comments below.

Image via Flickr by BisGovUK

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Love to Learn? Protect Yourself Against Dementia

According to a 2012 AARP membership survey, 87% of respondents reported they were extremely or very concerned about “staying mentally sharp.”  In fact, of the 10 areas listed as concerns in the survey, “staying mentally sharp” was the area of greatest concern, tied with “Medicare in the future.”

Julie Beck’s June 2014 article, “Study: An Intellectual Life Could Protect Against Dementia” in The Atlantic points to some hopeful news for aging Americans who are concerns about cognitive impairment.  The Mayo Clinic study, published in JAMA Neurology, supports the idea that staying mentally active could help stave off dementia.  According to Beck, “researchers found that ‘the protective effect of intellectual enrichment is primarily manifested as a relatively consistent higher cognitive performance over time” and “mental stimulation throughout a person’s life helped decrease the risk more than if they started cognitive activities in mid-life, but those with lower education levels benefitted more from mid and late life activity than those with higher education levels.”  And, Dr. Prashanthi Vemuri, assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic and lead author on the study, determined that the brain is more likely sharper than starting later, but it’s never to late to start.

Protect Yourself Against Dementia with Brain Games

So, if staying mentally active can help protect yourself against dementia, what are some things you can do now?  Various organizations have compiled ideas, information, and resources for mental activities and brain health.

Alzheimer’s Association

  • Start with a small change, like a daily walk
  • Stay curious and involved – commit to lifelong learning
  • Read and write
  • Work on crosswords or other puzzles
  • Attend lectures and plays
  • Enroll in courses at a local adult education center, community college, or other community group
  • Play games
  • Garden
  • Try memory exercises

AARP Brain Health Center

Harvard Medical School

  • Keep learning
  • Use all your sense
  • Believe in yourself
  • Prioritize your brain use
  • Repeat what you want to know
  • Space it out – re-study the essentials after increasingly longer periods of time

 Healthline

  • Learn something new
  • Speak in tongues – learn a second language
  • Read
  • Play chess
  • Try computer games
  • Work on (old-fashioned) puzzles
  • Get together with friends and take part in clubs
    • Card clubs
    • Chess clubs
    • Sewing/quilting circles
    • Volunteer

Prevention.com

  • Play checkers
  • Read a newspaper or book for an hour
  • Write a letter
  • Do at least two mentally-stimulating activities a day
  • Play a mentally challenging game every day for several weeks

Additional Web Resources:

What do you do to keep your mind sharp? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via Flickr by O. Taillon

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Dispelling the Confusion Between 55+ Communities and Independent Living

An active husband and wife senior coupleAs part of our mission to help families find senior living options that fit their loved ones’ needs, SeniorHomes.com offers a free Care Advisor service. On any given day, our Care Advisors assist over 400 seniors and families to find housing and care options that meet their needs and fit their budget.

Over time, our Care Advisors have noticed some frequently asked questions common to many of our inquirers. This article is the first in a series where our Care Advisors respond to questions many retirees have. In this article, Care Advisor Cindy Fox explains the differences between independent living and 55+ communities (sometimes referred to as Active Adult Retirement Communities).

When seniors and their families inquire about a community, they know exactly what they want their new lifestyle to have: they desire an affordable monthly rent, a dining option on nights they don’t feel like cooking, living among other seniors their age and perhaps have scheduled activities to join. When most people begin their search for independent living, they think this is the community setting they are looking for; however, that’s not the case.

All too often, I ask the seniors to tell me a bit more about themselves and they tell me that they’re a husband and wife in their mid-60s, fairly active without any physical ailments, and don’t want the hassle of home ownership. We conclude that an independent living community isn’t what they want for a variety of reasons.

Couple having tea Younger seniors desire an active setting—living much as they had before retirement—and these types of communities are often referred to as 55+ community, active adult, or age-qualified. Services, such as meals, housekeeping, and transportation—amenities that generally appeal to an older demographic (around 80)—are not of interest to them. And younger retirees want to live among those of a similar age.

Understandably, many people are confused and frustrated when they learn that independent living is not what they seek. Unfortunately, nothing is straightforward when learning about a new and unfamiliar environment, and part of this is because not everyone has adopted standard terms in the senior living industry. This is where my advice can help.

Couple bike ridingIn my experience, the marketplace has yet to adapt to the demands of younger seniors. They want fewer responsibilities and more opportunity for social engagement with their peers, yet prefer services such as dining or housekeeping to be optional. More specifically, they would prefer to forgo maintaining and upkeeping a house, but keep the routines of home life—cooking meals and cleaning their personal space.

The good news is that this type of community does exist, typically called active adult, 55+ or age qualified communities. Furthermore, they come in a variety of styles, and whether they are gated developments with free-standing houses or an apartment complex, they will generally have beautiful common areas where residents can congregate. Typically, you must be at least 55 years of age to live in this setting and the median age is late 60s to early 70s—a generation younger than those moving into independent living communities.

According to industry standards, independent living refers to a setting where a meal plan, housekeeping, linen service and transportation are standard amenities included in the monthly rent. Often a full-time activities director is on staff to schedule daily activities and weekly outings. The median age of seniors in this type of community is usually in the early 80s. When joining an independent living community, there is generally no option to “opt out” of the meals and services. Frequently, this setting will also offer assisted living support as needed.

Couple enjoying the natural sceneryBoth 55+ and independent living communities will allow home health care providers to assist residents with light-to-moderate support. This à la carte approach can quickly become cost prohibitive when a resident has high care needs, and it may become necessary to consider a location that offers higher levels of care on site, such as assisted living. If you have a condition where you can expect substantial increases in care outside of the normal aging process, it will be important to take these options into consideration.

When you decide which type of community meets your needs, it is time to search for your new home. While searching for independent living or assisted living communities is relatively easy, it is a bit more challenging to find 55+ communities. If you don’t find the words “dining service,” “meals provided,” or “housekeeping” listed on a community’s website, it is likely a 55+ community.  Additionally, the cost to live in a 55+ community will be far less than an independent setting because the there are fewer amenities bundled into the rates.

You will spend many fruitful years in your new home, regardless of what choice you make. As you age, you might transition from one type of senior living community to another as your needs change, providing the quality of life most important to you.  If you are looking to find a setting that offers a 55+ setting, where you can transition to independent living and assisted living as needed, you may wish to consider a continuing care setting. This for many seniors is their last move because it offers a continuum of care designed to provide the environment you want at the time it is needed.

I hope this discussion has proven helpful in your search for your new home, and I’m just a phone call away should you have any questions!

Sunrise Senior Living: Growing Green Practices at Communities

Sunrise Senior Living - LogoIn an earlier article, I highlighted the growing trend of retirement communities adopting green practices, and Sunrise Senior Living was one of the senior living providers featured. In this article, I am highlighting other green practices found at their communities.  

Sunrise Senior Living is already a leader in energy-saving efforts, with 33 communities receiving ENERGY STAR© certification and all of their 248 communities in the United States entered into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Portfolio Manager to track energy usage, but there are other measures this company embraces to reduce their environmental footprint and enhance the lives of their residents.

Replacing outdated equipment with the latest technology and the “best of the best” is how Jim Shaffer, director of maintenance and capital programs, describes Sunrise’s philosophy when renovating or upgrading communities. While the upfront costs might be higher, in the long run the company sees a substantial return on investment that results in reduced costs due to decreased consumption of resources, whether it is energy or water.

Sunrise of Plano's Associate Executive Director Sharon Demarest

Sunrise of Plano’s Associate Executive Director Sharon Demarest showing off the community’s herb and flower garden.

With communities typically spanning four to five acres, of which half to one third is devoted to landscaping, that is quite a bit of green space to maintain. This is one reason why Sunrise decided to explore the use of a smart lawn irrigation system to manage their watering. The system determines the watering schedules and volumes using the previous days’ rainfall totals that are provided via satellite. Two years ago, this system was installed at several communities and the investment is paying off, with Shaffer saying they have seen “significant water savings.”

Sunrise is also willing to invest in new technology if it improves their residents’ living spaces. “Creating that sense of home” is important and lighting plays a role in creating a comfortable feeling, says Shaffer. Four to five years ago, Sunrise made the switch from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which saved a significant amount of energy, says Andy Coelho, senior vice president of facilities, and now we are investing in light emitting diode (LED) lights since the technology has proven itself and creates the aesthetics we are looking for. Shaffer adds that LEDs are now more affordable.

Sunrise of Plano's Gardening Club

Sunrise of Plano’s Garden Club enjoying an afternoon of gardening.

Despite the value of these energy-saving practices, they are often unnoticed by residents. However, there are other more visible ways that Sunrise greens up its communities—efforts that are inspired by their residents. At Sunrise of Plano in Texas, the herb and flower garden is an integral part of the community and is a special place for a lot of residents, says Sharon Demarest, the community’s associate executive director.

Though residents started the garden five years ago, its importance had diminished until being resurrected by Demarest and other residents two years ago. The garden is near and dear to my heart and is special for a lot of residents, Demarest says. With the garden having raised beds, residents can easily water and weed the herbs and flowers, and the maintenance staff performs the heavier duty work.

Sunrise of Plano's Gardening Club hard at work.

Filling the beds are the staple culinary herbs of basil, rosemary, sage and parsley. Lavender is also grown along with blackberries and blueberries. Drying the herbs allows their use year-round in dishes served in the community dining room, and they also served as inspiration for the lemony basil salmon roasted beet-couscous salad dish featured in the 4th annual Taste of Sunrise Recipes from the Heart and Home,says Demarest.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's Mary Hiers

Sunrise of Webb Gin’s Mary Hiers earned NWF wildlife habitat certification for her community.

She is proud that the garden inspires a sense of community amongst all residents and staff and serves a purpose beyond just lifting spirits. The community’s activity director uses it for social programming and activities, since gardening not only keeps residents active but the plants can also serve as cues, which are important for memory care residents. It’s such a happy place with residents working in the garden, collaborating and having fun; it’s truly a joy, Demarest says.

At the Webb Gin community in Georgia, it was the efforts of resident Mary Hiers that made residents and staff more aware of their garden’s importance as habitat for local wildlife. “I just love the outdoors…the environment has always been important to me,” Hiers says. As the former director of the Fernbank Science Center, Hiers spent her life connecting children and their parents to the natural world around them, and she continues this even in her retirement.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is enjoyed by residents year-round.

Tending the garden is a favorite pastime of residents.

Upon joining Webb Gin, she noticed that the landscape provided habitat, food, water and shelter, the four elements needed to provide habitat for wildlife. “The property is beautiful,” Hiers says, of the campus that has walking paths through the landscaped grounds and a retention pond that plays host for many birds. Favorite resident activities are walking along the paths and bird watching.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is enjoyed by both families and residents.

The landscaped grounds are enjoyed by residents throughout the year.

Knowing of the National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife habitat program, she decided to earn certification for Webb Gin. Executive Director Carla Cooper assisted Hiers in filling out the application, and they received certification in 2013. But Heirs didn’t stop there.

To develop the educational component of the walking trail, such as describing how the plants contributed to providing habitat, she reached out to a dear friend, who also happened to be a successful grant writer, to write a grant for signs that could be placed alongside the 150 plants located around the community.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is well tended by residents.

Her friend wrote an award-winning grant and the signs were erected later that year. While educating residents  is the primary reason of the signs, there is another beneficial use that these signs provide. Recall exercises are good for our brains, and the community therapist uses the plants and signs in recall exercises, Hiers says.

Another important sign is the National Wildlife Federation certification sign that prompts visitors to ask what it means. “Families see the sign and ask about it,” she says, and based upon the questions she answers, she thinks news about backyard certification is spreading, something she is pleased to see.

Smiles are always found in Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden.

Inspired by seeing raised beds at a nursing home, Hiers is exploring whether raised beds could be built at Webb Gin so disabled residents can also participate in gardening. And she is also instrumental in planning an Earth Day program with Jenohn Carter, the activities and volunteer coordinator. Residents will plant a Golden Raintree to replace one that died earlier and have the opportunity to hear local master gardeners talk about gardening.

Sunrise of Webb Gin is surrounded by NWF certified landscaped grounds.

Though Hiers takes the initiative to spearhead these environmental efforts, she credits that Webb Gin staff for their support, saying “we have the most awesome director.” And because she loves what she is doing, Hiers doesn’t see ending her work anytime soon; “I’ll go to my grave being a teacher.”

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

The SeniorHomes.com 2014 Best Senior Living Awards is Open for Nominations

We’re excited to announce the launch of this year’s SeniorHomes.com Best Senior Living Awards! Nominations are being accepted today through April 14th.

Phase 1 of the Best Senior Living Awards identifies the best websites, newsletters, blogs, organizations, and more. Phase 2 of the Best Senior Living Awards: Best Senior Living Communities will be launched in May 2014 and will identify the best senior living communities in key cities across the U.S.

This year, we’ve added a few exciting new categories to the Best Senior Living Awards – Phase 1, including:

  • Best Books for Aging and Caregiving- Includes books written for seniors and caregivers, which may be collections of inspirational stories, ground-breaking ways to think about aging, and humorous anecdotes to brighten your day. Tell us about your favorite books!
  • Biggest Senior Living Advocate – These are organizations that fight for senior citizens’ rights on Capitol Hill, advocate for increased funding for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, and raise awareness about issues facing the growing aging population. What organizations are making the biggest impact in the lives of seniors? Tell us about them!
  • Best Large Cities for Senior Living – Which large cities boast tons of senior-friendly services like public transportation, access to prestigious hospitals and advanced medical care, and senior-friendly recreation? The Best Large Cities for Senior Living include those with populations of 200,000 or more and have at least 10 assisted living, independent living or memory care communities.
  • Best Small Cities for Senior Living – Not everyone enjoys the big-city atmosphere. Small cities are sometimes desirable for seniors who want to be away from the fast pace of city life and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the countryside. The Best Small Cities for Senior Living have a population of less than 200,000 and have at least 5 assisted living, independent living or memory care communities.

We’ve also brought back the most popular categories from the Best Senior Living Awards programs in past years. Here’s a look at the full list of categories included in this year’s Awards.

Vote for your favorite nominees for the best places, resources, websites, blogs and more in the categories below.SeniorHomes.com 2014 Best Senior Living Awards

Vote for the most influential, inspiring and innovative people and organizations in the categories below.

Voting ends on April 28, 2014, and finalists will be selected based on popular vote as of that date. Finalists will be judged by a panel of leading senior living experts based on a carefully crafted set of standardized, category-specific rating criteria, and winners will be announced on May 19, 2014.

For full contest details and information about the ratings and judging process for each category, visit http://www.seniorhomes.com/p/2014-best-senior-living-awards/

Interested in serving on our panel of top-notch senior living experts? Email Angela at angela@seniorhomes.com for details!

 

ElderChicks Have a Zest for Life: Interview with Dr. Thelma Reese

Chatting with Dr. Thelma Reese over the phone, you can hear her zest for life in her voice. At 80 years old, the retired professor laughs jovially at the trials and tribulations associated with aging. Her extraordinary outlook and vibrant personality are conveyed effortlessly with her knowledgeable commentary on life.

“What’s a Blog?”

I can say with absolute certainty that when I’m 80 years old, I want to be just like Dr. Thelma Reese.

One of the perks of being a writer or blogger is the opportunity to interview people who make your day or literally change your entire view on a subject. That’s a fact Dr. Reese knows well herself, having co-authored a book, The New Senior Woman: Reinventing the Years Beyond Mid-Life, with her friend Dr. Barbara Fleisher, also a retired professor and better known as Bobby.

I mentioned that we found her through their blog, ElderChicks, and Thelma responded, “When we were writing our book, our daughters, who are aging Baby Boomers themselves, said, ‘You need to have a blog!’ And we said, ‘What’s a blog?” Her laughter set the tone for what would turn out to be one of the most enjoyable 30 minutes I’ve ever spent talking with someone.

ElderChicks

Seniors Aren’t Just Busy, They’re Vibrant and Active

Dr. Reese says her own mother was part of her inspiration in writing The New Senior Woman. “She lived to be just one month shy of 97 years old,” Thelma says. “And she still absolutely had all her marbles. I realized that she lived in a totally different world.”

Thelma notes how rapid the change has been in the world of aging. “We’ve gotten wider – and I don’t mean in the hips,” she quips.

“If you look at a population graph that shows age distribution, there used to be a point in the middle,” she explains. “But now, it’s flat. The change has been very rapid. Aging is so much more visible now, partly because there are more of us, but also because we’re in better shape.”

“And seniors aren’t just busy, but they’re vibrant. They’re active. They’re engaged with the world.”

Aging Women Have Incredible Stories to Tell

Thelma and Bobby grew interested in how some are handling aging so well, and others not so well. So they started getting together with women and seeking out ladies who seem to have found the secret to vibrant aging – some way that they handle it that makes it a very positive thing.

They found that most people they asked immediately had someone in mind: one of those vibrant, joyful, bright personalities who are embracing aging wholeheartedly.

And they started listening to women’s stories. “We’re all different,” Thelma says. “And we wanted to talk to all kinds of people, not just those who have some sort of tremendous cushion that just makes things easier.”

Women from All Walks of Life

The women profiled in The New Senior Woman come from all walks of life. They range in age from just under 62 (at the time of publication) to 100 years old. They have different ethnic backgrounds, different education levels, and different socio-economic status.

“The 99-year-old and 100-year-old women featured in the book are extraordinary,” Thelma says. “What was really interesting is that there were certain topics that came up again and again. So each chapter’s title is one of those topics.”

“Everyone has something to say about these topics, or some interest in them like what happens in retirement, downsizing, or ‘How do I spend my days, what do I do to fill the time so I don’t get bored?’. Many are sensitive about getting rid of their possessions or facing that kind of change. It’s a really emotional thing,” describes Thelma.

Sibling Rivalry – In Your 50’s?  

“What happens to families, the surprises of sibling rivalry that hits when the kids are about 50. It’s a big issue,” she says. This surprised me a bit, so here we had a brief interlude during which Thelma asked me to think about families I know, and perhaps some sisters that aren’t getting along all that sisterly.

“Ohhh, yes,” I say.

“Aha! Exactly,” Thelma replies confidently.

Impressed by the tidbit of knowledge I’ve just gained and now excited to write a blog post about middle-age sibling rivalry, I think to myself, “You can tell she was a professor in her former life. And I love it!

Back to the book, Thelma says “Seniors today are really learning new things and adapting to a world that is so different. Health, separation, and loss – you don’t get to be older unless you’ve dealt with these things. One chapter is called, ‘Sometimes I Feel Safest in My Senior Bubble.’”

Younger Women Have a Strong Interest In Aging Well The New Senior Woman

Dr. Reese and Dr. Fleisher did not want it to be an academic book. They wanted it to be something interesting and fun to read, even though they are academics themselves.

“We didn’t want it to be pure research,” Thelma says. “Most of what’s been written about this time of life has been written by people who are younger. We are viewing aging as contemporaries and as women who can offer guideposts to people approaching senior years.”

But they’ve been surprised to find that a much of their audience is actually younger women. Thelma notes that one younger woman explained that these topics become interesting to her age group when they start to realize that they’re mortal.

“The book came out at the end of October, and it’s really been a great adventure,” says Thelma.

Dr. Reese and Dr. Fleisher are already talking about writing The New Senior Man.

“I don’t know that men will actually buy such a book, though,” she laughs. “It will be their wives buying it for them, handing it to them and saying, ‘Here! Read this!”

A New Way to Think About Aging

I mentioned that something she said at the beginning of our conversation really made me think about “aging” in a way that I hadn’t thought of before. The women in their book range in age from 62 to 100 – that’s a span of nearly 30 years!

Do we, as a society, really lump people separated by 30 years into the same group of “seniors”? That’s the impact a drastically increased lifespan has had. At one time, a person at age 62 was undoubtedly entering the last stage of life. Now, not so much.

“Exactly!” Thelma said with enthusiasm. She went on to describe a friend of Bobby’s who is 62 years old and has run a very successful business. She’s an old friend who lives in the Midwest, and recently called Bobby and announced that she’s getting a divorce.

“Her husband has retired and wants to play golf, and he’s not terribly interested in doing other things,” Thelma explains. “She figures that with her family history and a little luck, she has another third of her life left to live. And she’s not going to sit here and wait for him to stop playing golf,” she chuckles.

Dr. Reese Exemplifies Joyful Aging

Thelma is certainly not slowing down. She once made a roundtrip flight from Philadelphia to Houston and back to Philadelphia – in a single day. “I was invited to a luncheon with Barbara Bush, and I really wanted to go,” she says.

She arrived at the airport early, thinking that it would take some time to get through airport security. To her surprise, they whisked her right through. She asked a gentleman working in security, “Is this because I’m old?”

“No, no it’s random,” the man explained. Yet when she got to the second checkpoint, she was again whisked straight through.

And again, she asked a woman working for airport security, “You’re letting me rush through here because I’m old, aren’t you?”

This worker said, “Oh, sure!” Thelma laughs appreciatively as she gets to the punch line of the story, and I’m laughing right along with her.

There’s not really any way to wrap up this article in a way that’s worthy of Dr. Reese, so I’ll end it with one of her anecdotes that sums up her attitude about aging.

On Monday, Thelma appeared on Conversations Live with Vicki St. Clair, a Seattle-based radio show. During the interview, Vicki asked her if she believes that 80 is the new 60. “Absolutely not, and I don’t want it to be,” she says. “80 is the new 80, and I’m fine with that.”

As I said, this was truly one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had.

Learn more about Dr. Thelma Reese and Dr. Barbara Fleisher’s book at TheNewSeniorWoman.com, visit their blog at ElderChicks.com, or follow them on Facebook. And definitely purchase the book, The New Senior Woman at Amazon.com. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Images via ElderChicks.com

Modern Senior Living for LGBT Seniors

These days, more people can openly say, “I”m gay,” without fear of ridicule or outright rejection. Society as a whole tends to feel that the world has become more open to differences in sexual orientation and lifestyles that were once considered strictly taboo.

But to those in the LGBT community, the stigma still feels very real. The discrimination exists, and the heart-wrenching rejection by friends and loved ones hurts. And for seniors, the fear of coming out can become all too real again as they consider moving to senior living communities, even for those who have been openly out for decades.

Discrimination is Real

The Equal Rights Center recently released the results of a study it conducted in cooperation with SAGE and funded by grants from the Retirement Research Fund and the Gill Foundation. The results show that discrimination is still quite real for LGBT seniors, reports Senior Housing News.

The report is titled, “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” and it includes results from 200 matched-pair telephone calls conducted in 10 states, designed to gauge the acceptance levels and presence of discrimination in the senior housing selection process. LGBT senior couples

Too Much Information? Or Too Little?

Each tester conducted 20 phone calls, with half posing as heterosexual couples and half as same-sex couples. The profiles for the matched-pair testers were identical other than sexual orientation. In 48 percent of tests, testers reported experiencing some form of “adverse differential treatment.”

That means the heterosexual couple received more beneficial information on the units available and amenities offered, or the same-sex couple was presented with more information likely to be perceived as a negative or deterrent, such as added costs and fees.

It’s not all bad news, though. There were some cases in which same-sex couples were informed about discounts and special offers the heterosexual couple was not.

But It’s Not the End of the Road

The unfortunate reality is that when it comes to finding a senior living community, or even facing your golden years as a LGBT senior, you’re facing uncertainty. The world is certainly more open-minded, but it’s not open-minded enough to give LGBT seniors the confidence any senior should have moving to a retirement community or assisted living community.

it should be a joyful time filled with hopes of making new friends, cultivating a vibrant social life, and taking advantage of the features and amenities in a new place — maybe even a new city, halfway across the country from where you spent your whole life to date. It’s an adventure.

Say you make some calls and get a warm, totally inviting response from a community’s staff. You feel good and even make a visit. Everyone seems nice; you’re in. You move in — only to discover that the residents living in the units nearest yours are homophobic. That’s not anyone’s idea of a relaxing, refreshing retirement.

Forward-Thinking Organizations Make Strides

The tide is turning and these situations are becoming fewer and fewer over time. In the meantime, there’s also a growing number of senior living communities and senior centers that cater exclusively to LGBT seniors. Other groups, such as ElderSource in Florida, are aiming to create better programs and more opportunities for LGBT seniors at the local level.

More senior living communities and organizations are providing LGBT Elder Sensitivity Training to their staff to provide a better senior living experience and an environment where heterosexual seniors and LGBT seniors can live in harmony and everyone can feel accepted and valued.

Here’s more good news: Whatever your situation, whatever environment you’re looking for, and whatever your personal comfort level, we’re here to help you find the right senior living community, whether it’s for yourself, yourself and a spouse or partner, or an aging loved one. It doesn’t matter if that means looking into two senior living communities or 20. Call SeniorHomes.com today at 1-800-276-1202 to talk with an amazing Care Advisor who will happily guide you every step of the way. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, where we’ll share some excellent resources for LGBT aging adults!

Image via Stock.xchng by ugaldew

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Seth Rogen Shares His Personal Alzheimer’s Story on Capitol Hill

Seth Rogen, an actor best known for his roles in comedies such as Knocked Up, visited Capitol Hill last week to speak to Senators about his personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Rogen tells the tale of his mother-in-law, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease soon after he met the woman who would become his wife, Lauren Miller.

While she had been a teacher for 35 years, it only took a few short years after her diagnosis for this horrible disease to take away her ability to speak and care for herself. Upon realizing how little support there is for Alzheimer’s disease — and the lack of effective treatments that significantly slow or stop progression of the disease — Rogen and his wife decided to do something about it.

The couple created Hilarity for Charity, an organization that uses Rogen’s love of comedy to host events at colleges and universities across the country to raise funds for families struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.

Rogen was disappointed at the lack of attendance by Senators to his testimony, even tweeting a photo of the many empty seats, noting, “All those empty seats are Senators who are not prioritizing Alzheimer’s. Unless more noise is made, it won’t change.”

Watch Seth Rogen’s testimony below:

Levels of Care in a Continuing Care Retirement Community

This is a guest post contributed by be.group.

You’re strong now. You can get around with ease, you still drive, and home maintenance is getting kind of annoying but you still love to be in your home. Why leave your space now for one of those nursing homes?

Perhaps you haven’t considered all your options. Enjoying life at a CCRC

Today’s continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) shatter the myth that all senior living communities are “old folks’ homes” where octogenarians sit around all day. Today’s retirement communities offer multiple levels of care all on one campus for a wide age range.

The active, independent senior can enjoy residential living, with all the freedoms of living at home and none of the burdens of maintenance. As care needs change, that same person can receive higher levels of care (assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, hospice) without ever having to uproot and move. The arrangement is perfect for couples where one spouse needs a higher level of care than the other as well as singles looking for a community to grow with them over time.

A new video from be.group describes the lifestyle options and levels of care available in a CCRC.

“If something happens to me I got assisted living that can help me out, I got skilled nursing…and while I’m in trouble but getting good care, [my wife] is still here with her friends and with the routine that she’s established,” says one resident of White Sands La Jolla in La Jolla, Calif. “And so it takes a lot of uncertainty and a lot of risk out of our future life.”

To learn more about CCRCs, watch the video, “Levels of Care in a Continuing Care Retirement Community.”

be.group is one of California’s largest nonprofit providers of senior living communities. Learn more about your lifestyle options at thebegroup.org.

Image via Stock.xchng by benedeki