Embracing Independence: Why Now for Retirement Residences

While there is no one-size-fits-all choice for seniors considering their future living arrangements, a retirement residence can be a smart—and healthy—decision for reasons that might not be obvious at first.

Some seniors may want to stay in their own homes as long as possible, opting for familiar surroundings and relying on family and friends if they need help. While some people are happy and able to support their senior loved ones—and some senior loved ones are happy with this arrangement as well—there can be a cost in terms of time, energy, stress and independence.*

“It’s a lot of work, like a second job,” describes Karen Henderson, founder and chief executive of the Long Term Care Planning Network, in a recent article in the Globe & Mail. “It’s a constant kind of low-key chaos all the time.”

Home care from personal service workers can be an alternative or supplement to family support, but some seniors can feel uncomfortable about allowing a stranger into their home, Ms. Henderson added*. And for seniors who require round-the-clock care, homecare can be the most expensive option: “A friend of mine died at home five years ago,” Ms. Henderson explains. “He had 12-hour shifts, two private caregivers and the cost was $10,000 per month.”*

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The support you need, when you need it

One of the biggest benefits of the lifestyle in a retirement residence is that it allows for varying levels of personal support, from independent living to assisted living and memory care options—all without moving. Seniors who fear losing their independence in a retirement residence actually regain it, as they have a choice of flexible services that empower them to lead a worry-free lifestyle where they can focus on the people and pursuits that are most important to them right now.

There is a bigger problem about aging at home though, especially for seniors who are unable to get out on a regular basis. Social isolation is “tremendously detrimental to health,” Ms. Henderson noted. Numerous studies have documented the negative health effects that come from loneliness or being isolated from others. They include depression, anxiety, dementia, and premature death.*

During COVID-19, social isolation among seniors has become a twin pandemic, taking a toll on many elders’ mental and physical health.

A built-in social community

Retirement residences, however, offer an antidote of built-in community, with many safe social opportunities to connect with others and meaningful activities to keep residents active, engaged and entertained—benefiting their physical, social, mental, emotional and even cognitive well-being.

This year, retirement residences have put in place even more rigorous safety and outbreak prevention protocols that have helped older adults feel safe in their homes. At Chartwell, a recent survey of residents and families found that 95 per cent felt that their residence took important measures to keep them safe during COVID-19.

Apart, but never alone

When conditions dictate that residents are safer staying in their suites, retirement residence staff have devised creative ways to promote engagement and socialization, including hallway fitness classes, mobile happy hours and video chats.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions.” Nov. 4, 2020, online: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html

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