01 Sep Enhancing the Hopes of Life
“I will not be moved!” This is a common response for our aging seniors when families suggest more attention is needed for help with Mom or Dad. We understand the reluctance. Moving from a secure family home into the unknown is challenging and many of our loved ones are afraid they are giving into the reality of aging. Their generation grew up on connections that were closer to home, deeply felt and offered support that were consistent and reliable. Now more than ever, they are left without close family or a feeling of being alone and isolated.
While many seniors face the challenges of physical limitations or the need for assistance in daily activities, one of the most common signs of a need for a move is loneliness. Loneliness is an all too common experience for those challenged by age. Social isolation results in focusing more on our physical problems and less on others. Being lonely depletes energy and hope for a positive future. It causes seniors to ignore the need to fix healthy meals, tend to personal hygiene, and invest in positive life concerns. Loneliness can also lead to depression, an illness that is becoming more prevalent among older Americans.
According to a landmark study at the University of Chicago, Dr. John Cacappo, found that loneliness was equal to smoking or obesity in risk factors for unhealthy physical problems. It causes decreased energy levels, sleep and appetite deprivation and decreased feelings of self-worth. Increased blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disorders, and an increase in Dementia were also found to be more prevalent in people who isolate and lack daily companionship.
While for many seniors, a preconceived idea of “an old folks home” meant a dated facility and decreased autonomy with few options. However, today’s retirement living is far different from a generation ago. Safe and healthy living in a community where there is social involvement enhance quality of life. Making friends, eating together, celebrating important life events, and enjoying activities of interest bring life back to those who need the connection. Living in an environment that offers book and history clubs, lectures, concerts, and involvement in the interests of life bring hope and anticipation to seniors who have become weary of being alone.
These modern environments offer what I call the Four P’s of retirement living: People to meet and enjoy a new found companionship available at any time, Places to go with others and share life experiences, Purpose to meet life’s challenges and find new interests. Physical Health that enhances our ability to be live life without physical limitations.
Living life in a community where common challenges are present and available companionship by both staff and other seniors is an important factor is considering a healthier move. Evidence shows that people live happier and healthier when surrounded by others. The quality of life becomes again something to embrace.