Would a Senior Living Community Feel Like Home to You?

Do you have friends or family who live in a senior living community?  Do you think they feel "at home" there?

Would you feel "at home" there?  Or do you believe they just keep residents busy through a program of activities? Would it feel like a perpetual resort, rather than living a true life?

Would you feel empty and useless if you live in an active aging community?  

My initial reaction, "I'd sure would like an opportunity to try it out." Sounds appealing but maybe not. Perhaps, boredom would set in? Nah... :)  

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Recently, I read an article published in Generations, the American Society on Aging’s quarterly magazine, It All Depends on What You Mean by Home, written by Wendy Lustbader.

Wendy said the striking common element of unhappy CCRC residents, they felt their lives had devolved into a series of entertainments. One man explained that he was insulted by the sight of the daily calendar posted in the lobby, as though he needed to be “kept busy” through a program of activities. He said, "It seemed as if I was at a perpetual resort, rather than living my true life."

It made him feel empty and he wanted to be useful - and to do the things he used to do, like mow the lawn, or go shopping for food. 

It seems senior housing options fail to address the preferences most older people want in a home: which are:

  • privacy,
  • choice,
  • relationships across generations,
  • and ways to contribute to the outside world. 

The wish to retain a sense of living a normal life was a theme in all Wendy’s interviews.  

A woman who had recently moved to an independent living apartment said, “Attending a program is not living. And participating in a current events program every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. is not the same as striking up a conversation with a neighbor who shares an avid interest in social and political issues." While she appreciated the dinners were included in the monthly rent, as well as the van for rides to shopping and appointments, she did not feel at home in the way life was structured at her residence:

People are fairly silent in the dining room, as though they have run out of things to say. I’m afraid of becoming one of them. I go out for a long walk in the neighborhood every afternoon and I never bump into anyone from my building. The only time I feel at home is at church on Sundays when I’m with people I’ve known for years and who don’t live this kind of restricted life.

 They also miss the exchanges of help that occur naturally in real neighborhoods, such as block-watch duty, loaning a lawn mower, or supplying a cup of sugar.

Feeling Seen and Known

One would think that the immediate proximity of so many people and peers of the same age would create close relationships, but it turns out not to be the case for some.

I’ve heard this same complaint in the Elder Orphan Facebook group - of members who tried living in senior housing. As it turned out, the newcomers often feel lonely. 

Reasons to Live is What Mattered 

What does it mean to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning? Instead of passively participating in self-oriented activities, it seems that the residents who were busy contributing to other people’s lives were the most animated, is what Wendy found.

To talk to someone outside of this place is a relief to my mind. Then I feel in touch with the self I know.

Identity is as complicated as any aspect of our humanity, but it is safe to say that where we live primarily influences how we view ourselves. Our environment either supports our sense of who we are and how we find meaning in life, or it becomes an impediment. 

I remember my Father fell into a "passive trance" when he moved to a supported living residence. Prior to moving, the need to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, post office, and other places kept him active and on his feet. 

After the move, he spent his days watching TV -- and he never watched TV at home.  And he would always tell me, “I just want to go home.” 

When we move to a supportive environment, where everything is done for us, do we give up the daily challenges that keep us moving, more aware, and on our feet? 

If we get everything done for us, is that depriving people the necessity to perform life’s daily tasks, which is the reason to get out of bed every day?  

Do we yearn for challenges and things that are unpredictable to disrupt the routine?  Does that help us thrive? 

So, what's the answer for senior living communities?

What about for us? Is aging at home the best option? That depends on a lot of things: our health, our strength, our capabilities, our nearby support, our home, and more.  

But what happens if we’re not safe to live alone and unable to care for ourselves? And we’re unable to hire and pay for personal care because that expense can be so much higher than a senior housing residence?

I’d like to hear your take?

If you want to learn about the Basics of Aging at Home, be sure to buy the new Kit for only $5.99.


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Chapter 1. What is aging in place

Chapter 2. Tips and ideas on home modifications

Chapter 3. Ways to pay for it

Chapter 4. Home care

Chapter 5. The available options

Chapter 6. Ways to pay for home care

Chapter 7. How to know if you need care at home

Chapter 8. Food and all your options

Chapter 9. Find transportation - the different options for getting around

Chapter 10. Power of Technology - and how you can use it to make your home safer  

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