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10 Surprising Facts About Senior Living

By Melissa LeeMarch 2, 2022
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Senior living communities are quickly evolving to meet the changing needs of seniors. Read on to learn interesting facts about elderly lifestyles and to discover some benefits of senior living, modern senior housing options, along with activities for seniors in assisted living that may surprise you.

Fact #1: “80 is the new 65.”

Innovations in health care and a focus on prevention, with exercise for longevity, mean that seniors today can live longer, healthier lives. In the next two decades, the number of people over 65 will increase by 42% and the number of people over 85 will increase by 111%.

The average age of a nursing home resident has reached the 80s, with almost half of nursing home residents over 85, according to the Health in Aging Foundation. Women live longer than men, and so the average nursing home resident is a single female.

The gender gap in life expectancy has narrowed since the 1990s, when there were only 67 men per 100 women in the over-65 population group. But by 2060, it’s predicted that there will be 86 men per 100 women in the over-65 age category.

Fact #2: Senior living communities can feel like neighborhoods.

It can be intimidating to think about starting over somewhere new. Today’s senior living communities often have neighborhood-like designs to make the environment feel like home.

For example, Atria Cary offers a modern, neighborhood-like feel with convenient, on-site social activity spaces that really round out the community spirit:

  • Bistro
  • Cocktail lounge
  • Fitness center
  • Library
  • Movie theater
  • Putting green
  • Restaurant
  • Salon and barbershop
  • Walking paths

Fact #3: Senior living can prevent social isolation.

Humans are social beings who generally desire to fit into a group of like-minded individuals. Seniors experience increased happiness, feel a sense of purpose, and typically live longer when they socialize with others, according to research on the health risks of loneliness in older people by the National Institute on Aging.

With an array of on-site assisted living activities and amenities, senior living communities curate fun and engaging options for all residents to enjoy, avoiding the risks of social isolation for older adults. Senior living staff may even tailor activities to the unique interests and passions of residents.

Activities for seniors in assisted living typically include the following:

  • Birthday and holiday celebrations
  • Happy hours
  • BBQs
  • Musical performances
  • Art and other educational classes
  • Guest speakers
  • Group trips
  • Fitness classes
  • Spiritual services
  • Clubs and interest groups

Fact #4: Specialized senior living is on the rise.

Senior living communities tailor their offerings to meet the changing demographics and demands of older adults in the U.S. Examples include the following:

  • High-rise senior living communities. This metropolitan style is commonly found in assisted living communities in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other major cities throughout the United States. A great example is Murano Senior Living in Seattle. Luxury assisted living communities in high-rise buildings may feature the following perks:
    • Condo-style amenities
    • Stylish, rooftop outdoor spaces
    • Floor-to-ceiling windows with cityscape views
    • Highly walkable locations within the city

  • Religion-based communities. Spiritual seniors can find communities with distinct services and amenities to match their religions. For example, Atrium Kosher Home in Potomac, Maryland, offers a traditional Jewish living environment for seniors. Religion-focused communities may include the following on-site accommodations:
    • Specialized food services like kosher or halal
    • Celebration of religious holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, or Christmas
    • Religious services or visits by religious leaders

  • Language-based communities. A language or cultural barrier can present a significant challenge upon entering senior living. Specialized communities may offer expanded language resources on their campuses. For example, Aegis Gardens Newcastle in Newcastle, Washington, offers:
    • Staff who speak Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Vietnamese
    • On-site tea rooms
    • Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Fujianese cuisine
    • An art room featuring calligraphy, bonsai, painting, and more

  • LEED-certified communities. These “green” communities can be identified through their LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, status. The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, determines if a building’s design is environmentally friendly. For example, Atria Del Sol in Mission Viejo, California, achieved LEED certification with renovations to enhance its eco-friendly efforts. Typical “green” senior living communities may feature:
    • Alternative power sources, such as solar or geothermal
    • Greywater recycling or rainwater harvesting systems
    • Design elements that reduce energy or water consumption, such as low-flow toilets

Fact #5: Seniors can keep their independence and privacy in senior living.

Senior living communities generally tailor services and care to meet the unique needs of each resident, including privacy needs. The benefits of senior living include maintaining a right to privacy in assisted living communities to a large degree, across most states.

Staff and communities can empower your loved one to continue being themselves and living life as they prefer. For example, an introverted resident can choose to live alone, while an extrovert can choose roommates. All residents are free to do the following:

  • Invite family and friends over to visit often
  • Snack and eat the foods they prefer, sometimes with input from professional dietitians
  • Choose the activities and events they want to participate in

A Place for Mom’s free, local Senior Living Advisors can help you learn more about the freedoms available to your loved one at potential senior living communities.

Fact #6: Memory care focuses on the whole person, not just their dementia diagnosis.

Memory care is a type of senior living designed specifically for older adults with dementia and cognitive decline. Specially trained memory care staff members tailor care to residents’ unique life journeys, personal preferences, and individual medical situations. Many communities offer memory care activities based on residents’ interests, passions, and prior occupations.

Memory care communities generally focus on holistic, person-centered care, meaning that traditional medical care is complemented with therapies to fit each resident’s individual needs. These programs may include:

Fact #7: Affordable assisted living options are becoming more popular.

Statistics show that the monthly median cost of assisted living reached $4,300 per month in 2020. While this may seem out of reach for seniors with a moderate budget, affordable senior living options are growing in popularity. In the U.S., construction companies have begun building mid-market affordable senior housing options to meet demand, according to the senior living development firm The Douglas Company.

These communities are designed for middle-income seniors and feature smaller units focused on the current trend toward minimalist living, with streamlined amenities and an emphasis on à la carte services. For example, the Senior Suites of Central Station in Chicago, Illinois, offer affordable housing based on residents’ income levels. Mid-market senior housing works especially well for affordable independent living for seniors, where personal and health care services are commonly à la carte.

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Fact #8: Many senior living communities are pet friendly.

Studies have shown that owning a pet can lead to a healthier lifestyle, as it promotes physical activity, improves emotional health, and reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association.

With such research gaining popularity, it’s more common to find pet-friendly assisted living communities and senior living communities that allow pets in common areas. If your loved one doesn’t have their own pet, they can still enjoy the benefits of animals through on-site pet therapy programs.

For those with disabilities, service dogs and emotional support animals may be eligible to live in communities with no-pet policies through the protections afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Fair Housing Act.

You can find pet-friendly communities on www.aplaceformom.com.

Fact #9: Owning a home may not make the most financial sense.

If your parents are retired, empty nesters with a large, multi-bedroom home, do they really need all that space and the costs attached to it? While it can be difficult to let go, it can make the most financial sense to part ways with the costs of homeownership.

Selling the home frees equity for more retirement funds, as described in Next Avenue, a PBS venture focusing on the needs of older adults. Downsizing will decrease monthly expenses and alleviate the worry of rising property taxes or expensive homeowners insurance. Selling a house to pay for assisted living remains a common retirement strategy for seniors.

Senior living communities can also protect residents from unexpected expenses, like a leaky roof or a broken air conditioner, as the community will typically handle things like maintenance, landscaping, and even snow shoveling for a flat, predictable fee.

Fact #10: Staying active is the best disease prevention, even if you’ve been inactive all your life.

Regular, low-impact exercise may be able to extend your loved one’s life and independence. Staying active is the best way to maintain good health, according the National Institute on Aging’s “Get Fit for Life” guidelines. The link between longevity and exercise for seniors has been researched and affirmed for decades.

Many senior living communities recognize the importance of exercise for the elderly, and they may feature fitness classes, gyms, weightlifting, and more. Exercise options at senior living communities also may increase lifespan through healthy socialization. Walking clubs, group classes, and personal training opportunities make it easy for seniors to build day-to-day social connections.

While chair yoga and gentle stretching may be perfect for some, other seniors may prefer a more adventurous active lifestyle. Here’s an example of some communities’ expanded activity options:

  • Mountain biking trips to famed trails
  • Group hiking trips through national parks
  • Pursuing a black belt through martial art courses
  • Practicing sunrise yoga flow on the beach
  • Playing a lively game of pickleball with friends

Disclaimer

The information in this article is for general use only. This is not medical, legal, financial, or real estate advice. Please consider consulting with a financial advisor, real estate advisor, an attorney, or other experts before making changes to your personal finances or real estate holdings. Please consult with your medical team before starting any new exercise regimen.

Sources

American Heart Association. (2019, October 7). Can your pet help you be healthier?

Dunleavey, M.P. (2017, July 26). Should you sell your home when you retire?

Harvard Medical School (2021, February 15). Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skillsHarvard Health Publishing.

Harvard Medical School. Get healthy, get a dog: the health benefits of canine companionship. Harvard Health Publishing.

Health In Aging. (2020, October). Nursing homes.

Hg.org. Right to Privacy in Assisted Living.

Movement Advancement Project & SAGE. (2017). Understanding issues facing LGBT older adults.

Mather, M. & Kilduff L. (2020, February 19). The U.S. population is growing older, and the gender gap in life expectancy is narrowing.

National Institute on Aging. (2020, December). Exercise and physical activity for healthy aging: get fit for life.

National Institute on Aging. (2019, April 23). Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks.

Parkman, K. (2021, June 07). 2021 assisted living statistics: current data trends and projections.

The Douglas Company. Middle Market Senior Housing Construction.

U.S. Green Building Council. (2021). LEED rating system.

USAGov. (2021, November 1). Retirement.

Author
Melissa Lee

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