Five Surprising Facts About Senior Living

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1. Assisted Living is not a nursing home.

Today’s Assisted Living communities are not the “old folks’ homes” you may remember. Assisted Living communities are for seniors who need a little extra help with day-to-day activities, like managing medications, bathing or dressing.

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing centers, on the other hand, provide round-the-clock, licensed nursing care for people who need short-term care or long-term rehabilitation. Skilled nursing care is especially helpful for people who need transitional care after leaving the hospital. Skilled nursing centers typically offer physical, speech and occupational therapies, as well as stroke recovery, cardiac, wound and transplant care.

Healthcare experts estimate that up to 30 percent of seniors living in nursing homes actually do not need round-the-clock care. Assisted Living communities usually offer more privacy and more opportunities for social activities than nursing homes, and at a lower cost.

Assisted Living residents often have their own apartments with access to community amenities, such as an activities calendar and dining, plus common areas, like a game room, gardens, fitness center and maybe even an on-site hair salon. 


2. You won’t hurt your kids’ feelings if you choose senior living over moving in with them.

The number of seniors living with adult children is on the rise. According to AARP, in 2008, 4.5 million parents were living with adult children. By the end of 2011, the number had risen to 4.6 million, a 13.7 percent increase.

You don’t want to lose your independence, and your kids don’t want to lose their autonomy either. Moving into a senior living community can actually empower you with more freedom and more choices. It’s a win-win. You’ll have your own space and live your own life, and you’ll spend time with your family on your terms.

According to the American Psychological Association, studies show that many seniors would prefer not to reside with their children but rather live independently.

Linda Teri, Ph.D., director of the geriatric and family services department at the University of Washington Medical Center says, “the problem is that people try to resolve the declining health of an aging relative without listening to the needs of everyone involved. A family may feel obligated to bring Dad into the home after his heart attack without first asking him if he would prefer Assisted Living instead.”

In multigenerational households, conflicts often occur when adult children feel they must take on a parenting role with their mom or dad. Families are left struggling to find the balance between caring and controlling.

“One of the scariest things to people as they age is that they don’t feel in control anymore,” says Steven Zarit, a professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University. A recent study by Zarit looked at parental stubbornness as a complicating factor in intergenerational relationships. 

“If you tell your dad not to go out and shovel snow, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s the sensible thing. But his response will be to go and shovel away… It’s a way of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping back,” he adds.

Seniors want to be cared about but are afraid of being cared for. In a 2004 study, researchers from the State University of New York at Albany explored what older parents are looking for in relationships with their adult children. They concluded participants have a strong desire for both autonomy and connection with their adult children.


3. You don’t have to cook (or plan or shop for meals) if you don’t want to.

Quality dining experiences are a high priority for many senior living communities. Residents often have their own kitchens, too, so you can cook if and when you want.

The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates there are 3.7 million malnourished seniors in the U.S. today. Health problems, medication conflicts, lower income, lack of appetite and increasing social isolation make seniors especially vulnerable to malnutrition.

For many adults, a move to senior living can improve nutrition. Seniors who live and eat alone tend to consume unhealthy, prepackaged foods more often. Senior living residents enjoy access to healthy menu choices without the burden of cooking, and they benefit from connecting with others at mealtime.


4. Assisted Living isn’t for people who are sick and frail. In fact, Independent Living and Assisted Living communities have many of the same amenities.

With Assisted Living you’ll have the best of both worlds — help if you need it and independence. In fact, Assisted Living residents often enjoy many of the same activities and amenities that Independent Living residents enjoy.

Seniors worry most about losing independence when moving to an Assisted Living community. The truth is senior living can actually help encourage independence and improve quality of life.

Here are just a few ways that Assisted Living communities support autonomy:

  1. Assisted Living helps seniors get out and about with transportation for doctor’s appointments, lunch and shopping trips, classes, volunteering and worship services.
  2. Assisted Living may help prevent isolation and depression by offering older adults a chance to widen their social circles with new friendships.
  3. Assisted Living encourages safety and security. As we age, changes in mobility can impact mobility. Having help with daily activities like bathing, dressing and medication management, gives Assisted Living residents more confidence and support.

Yes, moving from your family home is a big change, but senior living may give you even more freedom and more choices to live life on your terms.


5. Assisted Living is more than just care. It’s a lifestyle.

Residents often find that their social calendars are busier than ever with new friends and new activities to enjoy. And yes, senior living residents still date.

We know close friendships and meaningful relationships play an integral role in aging well. Research shows that staying connected with family, friends and your community is more important in predicting longevity than age or medical conditions. 

When researchers analyzed studies of roughly 300,000 people who were followed for an average of 7.5 years, those who had strong social relationships were 50 percent more likely to be alive.

Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that an active social life may slow the rate of memory decline in older people.

Stronger social connections lead to better mental wellness, and mental wellness can improve physical wellness, too. Widening your social circles can improve dedication to taking care of yourself, increase your interest in exercise and physical activity and even add to more healthy eating habits.


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