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Senior living comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from intimate, homelike residences with no more than a few residents to sprawling campuses with hundreds of apartments. Offering a range of living options from high-end, resort-style independent living to skilled nursing care in a fully equipped nursing home, there is a senior home available that can meet the needs and budget of any retiree.
Senior living is an evolving term today, encompassing both a place to live and a way to live. Today’s seniors, lead by the Baby Boomers, have the opportunity to live life on their terms. The way one intends to live will naturally determine where one will live.
The choices include retirement communities, also sometimes called independent living communities, which are housing developments specifically marketed to people over age 55. They provide residential housing, much like an apartment or condo complex, but offer the added benefit of a 24-hour staff to respond to medical emergencies and provide housekeeping services.
Independent living residences, also known as retirement communities, are for seniors who are generally in good health and do not need professional assistance or supervision of their daily activities. Assisted living is a great option for seniors who are active and engaged but need some extra support with the day-to-day chores of living in a secure, nurturing environment. Aging in place describes a plan to stay in ones homes which may include planning for future health and transportation issues.
The greatest change in senior living is learning that there are many choices and being pro-active about what is most important to you. Choosing a place to live should also include research and knowledge about lifestyle, including mental, physical and social aspects of senior living.
Social support simply reduces stress. Maintaining friendships, cultivating and repairing family relationships, and belonging to groups all play a significant part in positive senior living. Loss of social connectivity can be a greater risk to aging than any other factor. Actively participating in hobbies keeps seniors interested in life and makes them more interesting people to be around.
George Vaillant’s book Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life, is based on Harvard Medical School’s Study of Adult Development. Vaillant very convincingly shows that lifestyle choices, not wealth, race or genetics, play the greatest role in allowing people to live well later in life.
Conscientiousness describes seniors who are diligent, responsible, hard-working, organized and self-disciplined. Just as we teach our children, it becomes clear that such thinking should be the focus of senior living. People who demonstrate these traits live longer and are less likely to suffer from dementia when compared with those who do not exhibit such traits.
Research further shows that the brain’s neuroplasticity (its ability to change) in adulthood requires repetitive, targeted exercises. As public knowledge and acceptance of the concept of “brain-fitness” spreads, funding and research increase, and companies are jumping in and exploring niches. Boomers intent on pro-active senior living are paying attention to brain fitness, as well as continuing education.
Geriatric studies done with people over 75 show that an active lifestyle decreases one’s risk of dementia and depression considerably. The active population is smarter in terms of both cognitive abilities and spatial reaction times. Active is defined as the presence of aerobic exercise as a regular part of one’s life… forever. Independent living communities today offer a wide variety of opportunities for aerobic exercise, including scheduled classes and recreational facilities. Most people are in tune with the benefits of good nutrition.
A recent study in the British Medical Journal tracked 23,000 adults in Greece. They found that eating vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes had the greatest impact on increasing longevity. The Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dementia and cited a 28% lower risk of developing cognitive impairment. The Archives of Neurology further shows that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dementia or even of its progressing. A senior living mindset that focuses on current findings will consistently seek out ways to incorporate aerobic activity and conscientious nutrition.
Senior living is indeed a new business in our culture. Seniors are enjoying full and active lives decades longer as we enter the 21st century. The desire for a fulfilling senior life also become the chance to role-model positive senior living for following generations. It’s your choice. Be proactive.
Written by senior housing writer Marky Olson.