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Blog Feature

By: Jim Stinson on January 17th, 2014

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The Secret to Selecting a Senior Living Community

assisted living | assisted living in ct | senior living | senior living community | 60-day stay trial | friendship | Aging & Caregiving

By: Reverend Jim Stinson, Director of Spiritual Life for United Methodist Homes

A Familiar Story

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I’ve made more friends here now than I have in years.  My world was shrinking as I aged. Friends and family members were moving to be near family members.

Others were not as able to leave their homes, having given up driving. My house was getting to be more of a burden than a joy. Frankly I found myself getting depressed as I became more and more isolated.

Fortunately a friend I trusted a lot suggested I explore renting an apartment in an assisted living community. I was reluctant at first. My house was familiar; my belongings were precious to me. I knew where everything was. But my friend persuaded me to at least take a look. She said, “it can’t hurt to find out,” and the rest is history. I looked and made a decision to try it. Now here I am and I have never been happier.

A New Beginning

In my years as a chaplain at Wesley Village I’ve heard some version of this story (above) many times from various residents. What seemed like a ‘giving up’ became a ‘new beginning’ at the very time such a possibility seemed unlikely. Residents slowly begin to discover that the benefits of living in a community setting often outweigh ‘giving up’ a familiar way of living.

“Take a Look!”

I wish more people caring for or about an older adult could share my experience, even as I wish more older adults would lay aside their fears and prejudgments about leaving their surroundings and ‘at least take a look.’ There is more than meets the eye in such settings. Old age should not have to be a time of loneliness and frailty. It can be a time of growing horizons, allowing old ways to become new ways and finding fullness in living. This is often best accomplished in a community, rather than in isolation. The trick is to carefully select the community. And to check not simply with the eyes!  

What Does Your Loved One Need to Thrive?

A nicely appointed building in a nice setting is definitely a plus. A community that is well staffed is also a plus. But often not seen with the eyes is something more important than any of these. It is the sense that the community takes relationship-building seriously. It is just as easy for older adults to feel isolated in a nice looking community as it is for them to feel isolated in their homes. The physical setting doesn’t necessarily erase that concern. A physically safe community is important, but in and of itself, it is not enough. To thrive, a person needs to feel safe to make connections with others. He or she reaches the point of saying, “Well here I am and I have never been happier,” when they can say, “I’ve made more friends here now than I have in years.”

So in looking at senior living arrangements for yourself or someone else, pay attention to the relationships you see between the staff and the residents, residents and residents, and staff and staff. Carefully looking at these relationships will give you the best indication of whether or not the community is where you or your loved one would want to live.

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About Jim Stinson

I first became an ordained member of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church fifty years ago. Through my time with the pastoral ministry, I worked extensively with older adults, many of whom were members of my congregation. I also served as the Director of Spiritual Life for United Methodist Homes from July 2002 until my retirement in July 2015, providing guidance and support to residents, family members, and staff. I love reminding people that “old” is not a dirty word and encourage others to adopt a healthy perspective on aging. I am also the author of a book, Just Because I Am Old – A Practical and Theological Guide To Caring, which was recently published in 2014.

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