Aging Wisely, Living Well
What you need to know about senior housing, medical screenings, and staying active as you age.
The two-story house with the big backyard was perfect 40 years ago, when your parents were able to maintain the yard, effortlessly go up and down the stairs, and easily care for the extra space. Today, they rely on others to mow, rake, and shovel, going up and down the steps is a challenge, and that extra space just means extra work. For some seniors, it might be enough to hire in-home help and invest in a personal alarm. For others, though, it might be time to move.
This can be a touchy subject. Be sensitive. Introduce the idea of moving in a kind and loving way, don’t approach Mom or Dad as if you’ve already made a decision for them. Point out the impracticalities of living alone in a big house, talk about how it makes sense to investigate the alternatives, stress the safety aspects. They may view it as a loss of independence, when really it can provide them with greater independence.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about living in a senior community means losing your independence,” says Nick Kozel, Walker Methodist vice president of marketing and communication. “This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most people find their abilities increase because of amenities such as courtesy transportation, housekeeping, and enriching social programs.”
They also find that their health, nutrition, and spiritual needs are met, and they have a sense of safety and security.
Independent living provides the greatest versatility and freedom in compact, easy-to-maintain, private apartments or homes within a community of seniors. Any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors (generally those age 55+; in some cases the age requirement is 62+) may be classified as an independent living community. While you have to be relatively self-sufficient to live in an independent living facility, many of these communities offer services and resources to make daily tasks easier. For example, many provide local transportation, social activities, group meals, and laundry and cleaning services, and many are located near near hospitals and clinics, shopping malls, and recreational facilities.
One form of independent living is a housing cooperative, such as Nokomis Square Cooperative, a nonprofit corporation established in the late 70s by members of the Nokomis area in Minneapolis. Their goal was to provide senior housing in the “neighborhood.” The first members moved into Nokomis Square in 1984.
“The primary distinction between a housing cooperative and other forms of homeownership is that in a housing cooperative, you don’t directly own real estate,” explains Pam Schultz, Nokomis Square Cooperative marketing representative. “You purchase a share or a membership. Your membership entitles you to occupy the apartment or unit of your choice. Your relationship with the cooperative is established by an occupancy agreement or proprietary lease, and every membership has a share in the cooperative and a vote in major decisions and for the board of directors.”
Assisted living refers to communities designed for seniors who are no longer able to live on their own safely but don’t require the high level of care provided in a nursing home. Assistance with medications, activities of daily living, meals and housekeeping are routinely provided.
Shirley Barnes, CEO of Crest View Senior Communities, says that Crest View—with everything from senior housing to skilled care services—feels like a small town, where people enjoy life together yet have privacy when they need it.
“The beauty of what we have here in Minnesota is that there are so many options,” she says.
Five Questions To Help You Decide If You’re Ready to Move
The best way to determine whether now is the best time to make the move is to provide honest answers to the following questions:
1. Are you becoming isolated at home?
2. Do you skip meals, or eat poorly?
3. Have the routine chores of home maintenance become too difficult or tedious?
4. Are you showing signs of forgetfulness that threaten your safety?
5. Have you given up hobbies, interests or pursuits that are meaningful, or stopped getting together with friends or family?
Five Steps to Prepare Your Search for Senior Housing
Katie Rideout, housing manager, Cerenity Residence – White Bear Lake, offers these five steps to prepare your search for senior housing:
1. Start touring buildings/programs early to decide what you like and don’t like. What is important to you at a senior living building? Keep notes to remember the features you like at each location, and maybe take a photo or two when you tour. If touring several locations seems overwhelming, ask your children to do the initial tours and narrow the choices to three buildings.
2. Organize your finances to determine what you can afford.
3. Specifically look at the home care programs and learn how the programs vary, such as whether services are bundled or are available a la carte. “And be truthful about the level of care you need to ensure the building can provide the services you require now and when or if your needs change,” says Rideout.
4. Be realistic about what services you could take advantage of at your new senior living building. Your kids might be enthusiastic about the fitness room, for example, but if you haven’t used exercise equipment before, will you after you move?
5. Realize that moving is a big change and can be overwhelming. Give yourself time to adjust.
“When Mom and Dad move to senior housing, it takes time to find a new routine and be comfortable,” says Rideout. “Be willing to offer more support and attention early on.”