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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on July 21st, 2016

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Senior Living Communities: A Threat to Independence?

Aging & Caregiving

Senior living communities threat to independenceIf you’ve ever broached the subject of moving to a senior living community with an aging loved one, you may have been met with the some variation of the response, “No way. I want my freedom.”

You’re hardly alone if you’ve encountered this form of resistance. In fact, the vast majority of seniors claim to want to “age in place.” Guiding this preference? The belief that senior living communities are a threat to independence. Let’s take a closer look at the issue, along with why it may be time to embrace a new perspective when it comes to senior living, freedom, true independence, and something even more vital: quality of life.


Understanding the Myth

Why do so many aging loved ones insist on aging in place? The answer is simultaneously simple and complex. Many have a deep emotional connection to their homes and the familiarity and comfort within them. After all, our homes are where we enjoy many of our happiest memories -- from raising our families to celebrating milestones together.

The desire to remain in the home, however, is often constructed around a fallacy that things will continue to remain the same despite the passage of the years. The unfortunate truth when it comes to the progression of age, however, is that things are going to change -- regardless of a senior’s living situation.

Consider research recently reported in JAMA Internal Medicine indicating that nearly two million people over the age of 65 never or rarely leave their homes due to a number of challenges. Factor in the reality that friends and aging family members are also growing increasingly less mobile, and living alone becomes a far more isolating prospect. In this case, aging in place becomes much more of a burden than a sense of independence. According to one New York Times article on the phenomenon, “Remaining at home, however difficult or isolating that becomes, gives older people a sense of control that may prove illusory.”

Accepting the Truth

The reality? When it comes to promoting “freedom,” the aging in place at home idea may not be all it promises to be. Conversely, senior living -- which often gets a bad rap -- can represent an appealing alternative. Why? Because while a move to a senior living community may threaten freedom in its most rigid, formal sense, it actually promotes ongoing independence in a number of different ways -- through everything from increased access to transportation and nutrition to enhanced opportunities for socialization and engagement.

A move to a senior living community indeed represents a change for aging loved ones, but so does remaining in the home throughout the aging journey. The ultimate conclusion for seniors and the people who love them? Those looking to find a healthy combination of support for both independence and quality of life may find it in an unlikely place: a senior living community.

Key Takeaways

  • The effects of aging are felt regardless of the environment -- from family homes to senior living communities.
  • Ideas about freedom and independence are often out of touch with the reality of living alone as age-related changes occur.
  • While many older adults view senior living communities as a potential threat to their freedom, a move to senior living can foster independence in a multitude of vital ways.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.