As it turns out, the key to happiness later in life is not personal wealth, although having money does make it a bit easier. No, the real secret to a happy life is having good relationships – with spouses, with friends and family. This month, we dig deeper to find out why and learn how moving into an Assisted Living community can improve this happiness.
Harvard University began a study tracking 724 men back in 1938. They came from different backgrounds, including college students and some living in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. Every two years, these men have been interviewed by researchers about their lives and given medical exams to study their brains and blood. Most of the surviving participants are in their 90s.
The study’s fourth director, Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said 75 years of research has given us solid clues about what leads to happier and healthier lives versus lives dominated by struggles with depression and health problems. Strong social bonds play a vital role in protecting long-term physical and mental health. Those challenged by health problems are more likely to become isolated and experience feelings of melancholy in old age.
It’s not always easy making new friends at ANY age. When we are in our teens and 20s, the institutions of school and career provide ample opportunities to make friends because we spend so much time with other people. Waldinger suggested those who make an effort to replace workplace friends and colleagues with new friends after retiring are more likely to be happier in their senior years.
Those connected to family, friends, the community are generally happier and physically healthier, living longer than those who are less well connected. In contrast, those who are mostly isolated aren’t as happy and have shorter lives. Those in unhappy relationships at age 50 reported their emotional pain magnified their physical pain at age 80. H. Jackson Brown Jr. was right when he wrote that, “the decision of who to marry will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.”
Romantic feelings may be hard for many couples to sustain for generations, but even those in the study who bickered frequently with their spouses showed signs of sharper memories if they were paired with someone who they felt they could count on during tough times. This suggests that a secure relationship helps the brain.
Rather than finding that happier relationships cause better health later in life, the Harvard study suggests that people who are healthier are more likely to make and maintain satisfying relationships. It just makes sense that someone who feels miserable much of the time will project this on others and be less likely to attract companionship. This heightens the importance of listening to doctors when they tell us to monitor our blood pressure, eat healthier and stay physically active.
Where does Assisted Living come into this?
A move to a senior living community can be a rescue from the isolation of living in solitude. While we all appreciate our privacy and the freedom to take “me time”, a structured environment designed to facilitate making new social connections can not only kill loneliness but contribute to life-extending happiness.
At Regency, we have Activity Directors to plan exercise and fun outings. Rather than sitting isolated in a house, seniors come together to play games, watch movies together, have meals together, worship as a group, and much more. Calendars placed in our newsletters and posted around the community preview good times of joint fun ahead.
When someone new moves to the community, an activity director typically conducts an activities survey to ask the new resident what he or she enjoys doing. Even someone who was an only child and has been introverted most of his or her life can make fast friends when talking to someone they have things in common with during meal times.
Considering a move to Assisted Living can be a scary proposition for the senior, but once they’ve lived here for a few weeks, most feel a genuine sense of belonging in a new family. Some may discover that they are social butterflies spreading their “wings” for the first time in their lives. Researchers are confident that strong social bonds like these play an important role in protecting our long-term physical and mental health.
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
The decision to move to Assisted Living can be a source of great conflict within families with aging loved ones no longer able to live alone. After getting settled in their new home, Regency residents often tell us, “I wish I had done this years ago”. But there was a time when they, too, were apprehensive about this life-changing situation and the implications on their independence.
Jeff Clay, Regency’s Vice President of Business Development, compared the process to the nervousness that a high school graduate feels going off to a college dorm -- except the “senior” is reversed with the child help the parent move to a new place. It’s not unusual for there to be initial feelings of homesickness and anxiety about making new friends in an unfamiliar place.
An aging parent may be adamant about not leaving a home where he or she has sentimental attachments, but grown children should encourage their senior parents to make such a movie before health worsens or there’s some sort of accident essentially forcing the decision. Actions taken during crisis situations may wreak chaos, especially if the parent is confused with the onset of dementia, so the process goes more smoothly with adequate contemplation and preparation.
“Seniors may have a preconceived notion that Assisted Living is going to be a cold, hospital-like setting, but when they visit, they quickly realize that living at Regency simply means having an apartment, except there’s help available to do things like housekeeping, laundry and remembering to take their medications. Residents are free to come and go, and they enjoy delicious meals in a social dining area, along with planned activities,” Clay said.
This is a contrast to nursing homes, which are primarily focused on providing skilled medical care. Regency offers an alternative that balances the senior’s desire to have social opportunities with the rest of the family’s need to have the peace-of-mind that help is never far away. If a resident with a closed door falls in their room, pull stations next to the bed and in the bathroom with adjustable length cords can summon help, in contrast to homes that typically lack such amenities.
Clay said when siblings are involved in the decision to move a parent, there may be disagreement on what to do. A local caregiver may have a different opinion than another child who lives far away and doesn’t see the parents as often. The remote family may not realize how frail a parent has become or the heavy toll circumstances can take on the primary caregiver who lives closer. In these instances, Clay encourages the children to weigh all their options and look at the situation objectively.
As seniors age and mobility becomes an issue, their social circles begin to shrink. Much like the incoming college freshman who is anxious at first but eventually makes friends at a university, senior citizens can find that the future is their next, exciting chapter of life.
Although it can be a difficult conversation to have at family gatherings, “the talk” does not necessarily have to be negative if there’s honest communication. Experts recommend that grown children share their genuine concerns and listen to how the senior feels, presenting options to choose from rather than dictating to parents what is going to happen.
Take the time to shop around for the best community for the parent, factoring in location, services and activities offered, and how much the elderly parent likes a place. They may not like the prospect of moving out of their home, but they will almost certainly have a preference on where they’d rather be if it eventually happens. For many, they settle on Regency because of our “family” type atmosphere as much as the amenities.
A short-term stay, i.e., “trying it out”, might be in order since Regency’s apartments are available on a month-to-month basis. Someone can usually tell after a couple of weeks whether Assisted Living is for them. This is normal for someone recovering from a surgery who may need help for a short period with daily tasks, so it can apply to someone getting a feel for our place before deciding whether to sell their home.
When a new resident arrives at a Regency community, we conduct an activity survey and talk to the family so we can begin to get a sense of what the senior considers fun. New residents are paired with others who they may have something in common with. Coming together regularly for meals in a social dining area is a sure way to make friends fast. Regency staff may visit the room to encourage residents to participate in scheduled activities, but they also respect residents’ privacy.
These are just a few of the things to consider when thinking about moving an aging or disabled loved one to an Assisted Living Community.
For more information, visit http://regencyseniorliving.com/ To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
After the long winter, it’s great to know that longer, warmer days are ahead. Active seniors welcome the opportunity to get outdoors.
Here are a few ideas for getting more enjoyment out of springtime:
Seniors and caregivers should check with their doctor before participating in any strenuous activity. Not only is getting outdoors good for Vitamin D production, but the fresh air can actually boost happiness, which is important considering the rise of feelings of depression during the colder months.
Say goodbye to winter and hello to springtime. To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
Copyright: tunedin123 / 123RF Stock Photo
It’s never too early to plan holiday celebrations that take the needs of your senior loved ones into consideration. The holidays can be a tough time for many seniors as they may feel lonely, isolated, or extra aware of health issues that they didn’t have in years past. With a little preparedness, you can help them beat the winter blues and create a wonderful holiday season.
Make sure that you senior loved one has plenty to look forward to, even when you’re busy handling other aspects of holiday planning. Perhaps they can be in charge of special outings or activities with the grandkids, or can handle some meal prep or shopping. Elderly people, especially those with memory care issues, need to have plenty to anticipate and focus on. You may not be able to share quality time constantly during the hectic holidays, by try to schedule a little something as often as possible. One on one conversation might be less stressful, and there’s no better gift than your undivided attention.
You can also use this time together to ensure your loved one is doing well and that his or her needs are being met. Just as the comparing this holiday to previous years’ might be a point of sadness for seniors, it can also be a point of comparison for you to see how their health and mental wellness really are. If you see your loved one struggling with mobility or find you are having to make adjustments for him or her so they can get around, manage basic tasks, or remember things, you might want to consider a retirement community.
Senior housing and assisted living are great options for seniors who need a little extra help but don’t want to lose their independence. They can also help seniors avoid stress and depression by providing plenty to see, do and look forward to and plenty of social interaction. Retirement facilities also help residents stay healthy by providing well prepared, nutritious meals, exercise classes, and opportunities to garden, walk, and more.
This holiday season, celebrate the seniors in your life, and check in to ensure their quality of life is the best it can be as we say farewell to 2013 and begin a new year. By planning ahead for the holidays, you’ll better be able to anticipate your loved one’s needs both at family celebrations and in the months to come.
You might have, like many people, started planning for retirement a long time before you actually got to the finish line. There were accounts to open, financial planners to chat with, paperwork to navigate, and dreams to dream about hitting the golf course, traveling, and spoiling the grand kids. Just as you began planning retirement well in advance, you should also get a head start on the conversation with both yourself and loved ones about when you will be ready for a retirement community.
Many hear the words “retirement community” and assume they might be like the nursing homes from decades ago. It’s important, first, to recognize that retirement communities today are for all ages of retirees and many offer different levels of care tailored to your needs. Planning for when you might want to join a senior home isn’t a depressing bet on when you will fall ill or become frail, but instead a proactive process to decide when you will be ready to join a caring community of new friends, more opportunities to explore and enjoy yourself, and receive a little extra assistance as needed.
Just as you planned the first phase of your retirement and when you could stop working, go ahead and consider when in the future you might be ready for the retirement community phase. If you are already asking yourself if you’re ready for senior housing, that could be a sign you’re almost ready. Perhaps you’ve realized a big house is harder to maintain as an empty nest, and that you don’t need all the extra bedrooms. Perhaps you are wondering if you’d prefer to live in another city not that you aren’t tied there by your career. Perhaps you simply like the idea of being surrounded by peers who are in a similar place and enjoy similar pastimes, much as you might have in college.
Starting the conversation now can also make the emotional side of this decision easier. Both you and your friends and family might have feelings to take into account and navigate. It will be easier to do this slowly over time when everyone can be more objective and logical than in the emotionally heightened rush after a crisis like hospitalization. Especially if you are currently living with family, the emotions surrounding caretaking can be complicated for everyone involved. Time and open dialogue can make the transition easier.
Even if you don’t intend to move into a retirement community for some time, go ahead and talk to your family, loved ones, doctor, and financial planners now so you can strategize the best possible way to make your move when you are ready. Just as you learned with the first phase of retirement, it’s always best to plan ahead!
There’s no denying that tastes in housing have changed in the past decade. The same young professionals who bought rambling suburban homes when they started families in the 80s are contemplating retirement, and often want something totally different for their next place to live. Forbes explains that “Boomers buying for the long haul are looking for good access to transit, medical care and recreation; for high-speed Internet access and security systems; and for energy-efficient appliances.”
That’s often very different, and more urban-oriented, than their needs to be near work, in a good school district, or to have plenty of room for the family during their professional years. This is part of the reason so many retirees contemplate downsizing. It gives them some financial gains, fewer maintenance demands, and the opportunity to live somewhere in line with their new lifestyle needs.
If you are considering downsizing as part of your retirement plan, there’s a few things you can do to make it an easy process. For one, it helps to know where you will be downsizing to. Talk to your financial planners and take a look at your accounts—you might be surprised at what options net the biggest gains. Retirement communities can actually be less expensive when you look at the overall cost of your current home, including utilities, gas to commute to the things you like to do, groceries, and more. By deciding first where you will be living, you can then see how much space you will have to work with and what your actual needs will be. For example, if you’re moving to an apartment, townhome, or condo, you may not need the extra large gas grill or the leaf blower in your garage.
In fact, rooms like the garage can be a great place to begin downsizing. Attics, basements, and garages can accumulate a lot of junk over the years that you simply won’t need at your new home. Take old paint cans, oil, light bulbs, and other maintenance leftovers to hazardous materials recycling—your city website can tell you where the drop off for these items is. Then you can move on to things you rarely use—untouched clothes that no longer fit in the back of your closet, children’s games and clothes you no longer need, or extra dishes and kitchen things.
When you’re left with the things you use frequently or are deeply sentimental, you know you are well prepared to downsize! Think of how pleasant life will be when you are surrounded only with your favorite things in a home that’s perfectly suited to your new lifestyle and day to day activities! Get closer to friends, family, and all the fun outings you enjoy while shedding the stress and cost of so many belongings.
As wonderful as it is to be happily settled in a home you love, part of what makes your golden years so golden is the chance to see and do new things and get together with friends and family you care for. You’ll appreciate the convenience and community of your retirement facility even more after breaking your routine and cutting loose on a cruise, a train trip to a niece’s graduation, or simply visiting a new state for a change of scenery. We have some travel planning pointers that will help you have the best time possible:
· The older we get, the more easily our immune systems are stressed. If you are flying, be sure to stay hydrated to help avoid a travel cold. You can also take a decongestant or chew gum to keep your ears from hurting as the altitude changes. Before travel, take vitamins and eat extra vegetables and fruits to help your immune system amp up for the extra stress.
· Call your bank ahead of time to be sure they know where you are traveling. It would be very frustrating to arrive only to have your credit and debit cards shut down for suspicious activity!
· Plan around your limits. Just because you have health or mobility issues, or simply don’t have as much energy as you did in your 20s, doesn’t mean you can’t travel and have a great time. Plan your itinerary around when you have the most energy, or if you know one day will be strenuous, try to make the next luxurious and relaxing.
· Make special arrangements as far ahead of time as possible. The more information you have on travel days the better. For example, it would be nice to know in advance how the stewardesses on your airline will store your cane or walker. Some medical items like oxygen need to be approved or verified with official notice from your physician. Best to not let these details wait until the last minute.
· Purchase luggage of a size and design you are comfortable handling. There have been many new styles in the past several years, including some with multiple wheels on the bottom than can roll from any direction at the touch of a finger. Nothing simplifies travel like luggage you can handle yourself without strain.
Don’t forget one of the very best parts of travel—getting to come home! When you’ve had a wonderful time with friends and family, or even on your own, it can be lovely to come back to a place equally as welcoming, with many friendly faces. It’s not discussed as often, but homecoming is a great perk of the retirement community life.