It is easy to assume that an assisted living facility is the new “nursing home.” But senior care professionals have transformed your grandma’s retirement home into a community where there is a myriad of amenities, healthy options, and social activities for your loved ones.
From elegant dining rooms, pubs, and outdoor porches to wellness clinics, afternoon yoga, and excursions, assisted living facilities provide convenience, happiness, and improved quality of life — which is why some seniors are moving to assisted living before they need to.
If you haven’t visited an assisted living community in a while, you might be surprised to learn that most seniors who have moved to assisted living report that they prefer life at their new home to living alone. Here are five reasons why.
Getting older creates obstacles to eating well. Some seniors don’t eat as well when eating alone as they would sitting down at a family meal. Others struggle to eat right due to lack of money to buy adequate food or transportation to the grocery store. In senior living communities, residents don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or meal preparation. Instead, they get to enjoy a fine dining experience every day of the week.
Long gone are the days of frozen, processed cafeteria food. High-quality assisted living facilities work with dieticians, local farmers, and chefs to offer three homemade meals a day, featuring healthy options, comfort foods, and resident favorites. Who wouldn’t want to eat fresh-baked scones, BBQ ribs with cob corn and pasta salad, grilled swordfish in a lemon butter dill sauce, and strawberry shortcake every day?
It’s common for new assisted living residents, who had been eating poorly before they moved, to experience improvements in their health and well-being just from three meals per day that are tailored to the changing health needs of seniors.
No Home Maintenance or Yard Work
Although your parents might enjoy owning a home, the upkeep may be more than they can handle. Keeping up with daily chores, housekeeping, and mowing the lawn is often stressful, not only for seniors but also for their family. Assisted living offers a break from these burdens, allowing seniors the freedom to enjoy their autumn years with others’ their age.
But if your parents have green thumbs, they can still get down and dirty planting flowers or vegetables for eating. Most assisted living communities offer gardening activities and clubs for their residents.
Opportunities for Socialization
Social circles shrink with age for a variety of reasons — maybe your mom’s friends have died or moved away or your dad can no longer drive — but feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious consequences for senior health. Feeling lonely increases the risk for accelerated cognitive decline, poorer cognitive function, and dissatisfaction with family and social relationships.
Moving into assisted living offers seniors a community where they can find a strong social environment and support network. Residents often gather for conversation and programs in the lively community areas — pubs, living rooms, libraries, beauty salons, private dining rooms, and sunrooms — and enjoy the companionship of neighbors, friends, and family.
Being intellectually engaged benefits the brain. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.
Among the various activities that assisted living communities provide are plenty of chances for lifelong learning, from computer classes to book clubs to trivia challenges. Many facilities even offer guest lectures from visiting scholars and professionals.
Improved Family Relationships
When a parent becomes dependent on you to assist them with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, or running errands, this role-reversal can create tension in your relationship.
Assisted living helps seniors care for themselves while also offering access to an active and rewarding lifestyle. At the same time, when families no longer bear sole responsibility for meeting all of their loved one’s needs, it can reduce everyone’s stress level and even improve family relationships. The time that adult children spend with their senior parents can then become truly meaningful quality time.
Through these services as well as social activities, many seniors are finding that assisted living provides just the level of care they need to thrive in the next phase of life. Many residents find that they not only appreciate the higher level of personal care support but also the added opportunities for socialization, dining, and activities. Additionally, it means that there is a plan of care in place, which eases pressure on family members to provide ongoing hands-on care.
Whether or not your parents feel “ready,” there is value in moving to an assisted living community before they need to. Moving in when they are still active and independent allows them time to be able to be involved in the choice and well enough to make friends with other residents when they arrive.
So how can you know when it’s time to start considering making the move into assisted living? The answer isn’t going to be the same for everybody, but there are signs you can watch for.