April 29

Living in Community – Part Two

Retirement - cartoon artIn part one of Living in Community, we wrote about the basic human need for social ties.  As we age, however, some seniors who live alone can become adamant that they don’t want to leave their family home—even when they are the only one left in it.  For them, home is a strong link to a past that is slipping away—a link they don’t want to sever.

Unfortunately, seniors who live alone may find themselves:

  • moving less and falling more
  • eating and sleeping less
  • becoming more fearful and distrustful of others

–all of which contribute to even more self-isolation. The downward spiral also tends to accelerate any tendency for cognitive decline, as nutrient intake and mental engagement decrease.

(In one particular case, an elderly woman still living at home—and still capable of making most of her own decisions—chooses to eat mostly white bread, prunes and ice cream, since she is “not hungry” for anything else.  A phone call from a telemarketer is enough to convince her that someone is in the street, “casing the house” and just checking to see if she is home alone, so “they” can break in.  Her desire to put a deadbolt on her bedroom door is firmly discouraged by family living nearby.)

As much as many seniors want to maintain the family homestead, it often makes much more sense, economically and certainly socially, to transition into a senior community.  Jeff Anderson, writer for A Place For Mom, a group which connects families with senior care options, notes that it is “common for new residents, who had been eating poorly before they moved in, to experience breathtaking improvements in their health and wellbeing just from three square meals per day.”  Being served with others who are also eating is part of that new ability to enjoy food again.

Unlike the old nursing home model, today’s senior communities create neighborhoods for gathering and offer opportunities for Living Life on Purpose.  Communal living fosters new friendships as well as helpful relationships, as residents enjoy festive occasions and entertainments. Better still, New Perspective residents benefit from the terrific engagement opportunities created around the 4 Pillars of Physical Fitness, Brain Fitness, Dining Experience and Social/Spiritual Enrichment.

Encourage isolated seniors to make the communal living choice.  As Wendell Berry, an American author, poet, essayist and farmer, observes, “A proper community…is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members – among them the need to need one another.”