Some pretty common questions.
As seniors we have different needs and concerns, here is some information many have found helpful.
Isn't staying in my own home less expensive?
When making the important decision of where to live as you age, you need to take into account your overall health and well-being along with the finances. Many seniors think that staying in their homes is more affordable than joining an assisted living or senior living community but fail to take into account the various costs that can accrue. While you may not be paying rent or a mortgage, living at home can require basic home maintenance, like a new water heater or yard care, or projects to keep the home accessible based on your abilities. These improvements can include installing a stair lift, wheel chair ramps, or remodeling a bath (to include a curbless shower and installing hand rails, for example). All these projects have a cost, and it’s important to research to see if they will add to your home value or not.
There are also costs associated with independent living and retirement home communities, here are a few things to consider when researching to see what’s included in your monthly rent or joining fee: waiting list deposit, move-in fee, housekeeping, meals, TV, utilities (phone, internet, electricity), transportation, parking, field trips, wellness programs. Also ask about assisted living services, how are they provided and how are costs established. What are the maximum costs for such services. Assisted living services are available in private residences as well but can be higher than those at a retirement community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you are satisfied you have the information you need.
How can I avoid losing my independence?
Independence is something we all hold dear. We desperately wanted our independence as teenagers and hold on to the concept even more dearly as we age. Nobody wants to give up their independence. It’s the number one reason people state for staying in their own home instead of moving to a senior apartment community yet there’s a problem with that logic. Staying in our homes tends have the opposite effect on our independence. Instead of giving us freedom, it tends to restrict us. Visiting friends and staying active can be difficult when living in one’s own home with limited access to transportation and activities. Maintaining and cleaning a house also requires time and money, which can limit many people’s choices and activities. Independence should not mean isolation but that’s often the result of “staying in my home.” People who move to an assisted living or Independent Senior Living Community have fewer logistical barriers and tend to become more active, have more social interaction and live fuller more purposeful lives. Most residents at a LifeMinded community will tell you they resisted moving from their own homes as long as possible, but they will also tell you after making the move, they wish they had done it sooner.
Can I afford this?
For many seniors, living on a fixed income brings concerns of outliving your retirement savings. There are many things you can do to ensure you are living within your means, hiring a financial advisor, developing a budget, and preparing for the possibility that you may become unable to handle your finances. A large portion of your nest egg will be spent on living expenses, so it’s important to consider housing related daily, monthly and yearly costs.
Is being "social" really that important?
As we age, our worlds tend to get smaller. There are many reasons for this, but studies have found that it’s not good for our health. Staying social is associated with heart and immune system health, lowering depression risk and overall longer life. Being isolated triggers feelings of loneliness that can put your body into a chronic stress response, and constant presence of stress hormones leading to poor health outcomes.
Shrinking social circles, poor health, life changes, and transportation issues can all inhibit your ability to have an active social life. That’s why living in a senior living or senior housing community that promotes health and activity, while making socializing easy and convenient, is critical to living a vibrant and engaged senior life.
Here are some suggestions for how to stay social:
One-on-one time: Meet up for coffee or tea with a friend. Make it a regular date so you don’t have to remember to schedule it again and again. Invite someone over for a meal at your home. Take your pet (or just yourself) on a walk to somewhere where people congregate. Video chats or phone calls can be good substitutes when distance is a factor, but it’s worth the effort to get face-to-face in the same room whenever possible.
Group activities can be beneficial because they have structure and usual meeting times. You can meet new people and develop friendships by seeing people on a regular basis. It’s one of the advantages of living at a senior housing or senior apartment community, but you can still be social even if you aren’t part of a retirement community. Explore the options at your local religious organization, or non-profit to be a part of group studies, choirs, book clubs, or service projects. Even if you don’t like big groups, there are lots of activities that are ideal for 3, 4 or 5 people; take that walk together, play a board game, or maintain a communal garden, a little company goes a long way in keeping you healthy.
How does aging impact nutrition?
Nutritional needs change as we age but eating well doesn’t get any less important. Sadly, poor nutrition and malnutrition can easily be mistaken as illness. Consuming healthy food and key nutrients are a valuable preventative medicine for all seniors and should be made a high priority.
Many issues can get in the way of this goal. Bodily changes, such as dental and gastrointestinal conditions, can affect what foods are satiating and appealing. Lack of interest in cooking and eating alone, financial concerns, and the ability to access the grocery store also play a role.
We also tend to use less energy as we age (staying active can help offset this), therefore a senior’s caloric needs are lower. That is why it’s important to be efficient in getting key nutrients into our systems. Common nutrient deficiencies include inadequate intake of vitamin A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. Focusing on healthy whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high protein foods such as meat, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, will help pack the nutrition you need into your daily caloric intake. Partaking in low nutrient foods like solid fats and added sugars doesn’t leave enough room in your diet for the nutritious foods. A daily multi-vitamin can also help fill in any gaps you may have, but is no substitution for healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
A LifeMinded community will help seniors meet their nutritional needs by providing easy access to healthful, well-balanced meals. Everyone gets sick of cooking and eating the same meals over and over again, but it’s difficult to meal plan and try new things. The best senior housing and retirement homes will have a full-time chef on site that can bring spice to your life, and more nutritious foods to your table.