Moving to a senior living community is a big step for all aging adults, but it can be particularly difficult for elderly men. More than 70% of senior living residents are female, according to Argentum’s “Senior Living Resident Profile.” As the U.S. population ages, more men are seeking senior living, but this gender disparity can make it hard for older men to find communities that cater to their interests and needs. Some senior living communities offer activities and services specifically for aging men, and resident groups can provide important social interaction. Learn tips for finding a great fit for your dad or male family member, and understand what you should look for to make him feel at home.
The percentage of women in senior living increases with age and level of care. Why is there such uneven gender representation in senior care?
Women live longer than men. The average American man will live to be 76, while the average woman will live to 81, according to the most recent statistics from the CDC. However, this age gap has been shrinking for decades. And as the population gets older, senior living communities are aware of the greater need for gender-diverse senior care.
Family caregivers are usually female. Women are twice as likely to care for aging family members as men, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. Men of the baby boomer generation may not be prepared to manage a household while caring for an aging spouse, while older women are more likely to care for their husbands at home. Divorced senior men are also more likely to marry younger women who can care for them longer.
Elderly men may not be comfortable with care. Eighty percent of senior living staff members are women, according to Argentum. And, in this study on patients’ primary care physician gender preferences, researchers found patients of both sexes most often select providers of the same gender. Older men may be uncomfortable with female nursing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing or bathing, and would prefer a male caregiver, according to the American Geriatrics Society. The desire to remain self-sufficient, coupled with this discomfort, prevents some men from exploring senior living options. Touring senior living communities and meeting other male residents can help eliminate some of these roadblocks. Meeting likeminded seniors is a great way to avoid social isolation, too.
Gains in lifespan potential come as good news for most men, of course, but downsides include the increased likelihood that men may outlive their wives, or live to be older and more sick than they would have in the recent past. It’s no surprise then, that more men are entering senior care facilities during this time. Other factors driving this trend include the following:
Whether a man will feel at home in a community is a common concern family members share when seeking senior living for a male relative, says Nick Chareas, a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom.
“Early on in the call, they’ll wonder if Dad will fit in.”
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Fortunately, senior living communities have groups, activities, and offerings universally enjoyable for most everyone. Here are five things to look for when touring senior living with your dad.
1. Men’s groups. Friendship is important for any senior’s well-being. Seeking out a men’s group can help ensure your male loved one will make connections with like-minded people in their new home. Chareas once saw — and heard — a men’s group while visiting a community in Chicago. They were walking and laughing, feasting together on a well-made meal. The men were at their weekly Saturday meeting; they also planned card games and other community activities.
2. Veterans clubs. Coffee and dinner groups for veterans are common, according to Jane DiSalle, a Senior Living Advisor with A Place for Mom.
“Honor walls are also quite popular, with residents’ wartime veteran’s pictures hanging for all to see,” she says.
3. Masculine spaces. Common areas in senior living communities are often designed to appeal to female residents, but not always. Many communities create gender neutral common areas with the comfort of every resident in mind, while others may have a designated “male space” that some senior men may enjoy.
4. Staff participation. Men aren’t always as likely to seek each other out or make plans. If there’s a men’s group at the community, see if the activities director or another staff member helps plan events. If your loved one isn’t particularly social, try to make sure they’ll be invited and welcomed to the activities
When finding senior living for older males, look for communities that cultivate unique and inclusive activities for all residents. While many games — like chess, cards, and golf — can be enjoyed by all genders, activities designed especially for men can create a sense of community between male residents.
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Here are some activities assisted living communities may offer:
Address their fears. Loss of purpose, physical weakness, and dependence on others are three of men’s top fears about aging, according to the American Geriatrics Society. The right senior living fit can keep older adults healthy, happy, and active longer, diminishing these fears.
Have an honest conversation. The senior living conversation is always a difficult one and can be especially challenging for men who don’t want to be cared for. Focus on the independence your loved one can maintain in senior living and discuss some of the activities and groups listed above. Describe the stimulating social interaction senior living can provide and emphasize how important avoiding social isolation is for his health and well-being.
All these factors came together for Janet Hershey, whose father wandered at night and risked having a safety incident. She felt reassured that her father would be seen and appreciated at the community they eventually chose.
“I love the interaction with the staff and the residents. Every single staff member knows every single resident’s name. I just knew my dad would really like that,” Hershey says.
The staff’s willingness to bond was a selling point, but activities sealed the deal.
“Every month they send out an activity calendar to the families. I’d go two or three times a week. Probably every week, they have live music. We’d dance with all the residents. They have arts and crafts. They have exercise classes. Then, once a month, we’d go on a bus ride together. We went to the beach and had lunch.
“I feel like he knows that we love him,” Hershey adds. “I’m so thankful to A Place for Mom.”
Argentum. Senior Living Resident Profile.
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