Aging, Elder Care, and Senior Retirement Centers

by : Luise Volta

There was a time, not that long ago, when a senior citizen could plan on living with an adult child as the years took their relentless toll. Now senior retirement centers are popping up seemingly everywhere.

It's a good idea to take a look at why these changes are taking place and how each of us can best fit into this new pattern of elder care.

The most glaring difference today is the prevalence of working women. Even a few decades ago, a full-time homemaker often had the time and energy to care for an aging parent in her own residence. Many homes boasted a "mother-in-law" apartment in the basement, over the garage of somewhere else on the premises. In many economic, social and religious groups it was a matter of pride to "care for one's own". In addition, there were few really appealing options beyond that ethic.

The reason there are so many senior retirement centers today is not just the lack of wives at home to take on the responsibility of geriatric care, there is also a preference surfacing in the seniors themselves. No matter how welcoming the environment is, a private home usually doesn't offer the stimulation and peer relationships that the new senior retirement centers are providing. Many seniors frankly want to choose their own support-oriented residence.

If incomes are high enough, savings are adequate or HUD and Medicaid benefits are available, it can be a win/win situation. Full calendars and new friendships can replace the isolation that living in another person's home can produce. Even the most loving adult child is usually busy with the demands of a full life of his/her own. What can ensue is mutual independence.

Not all senior retirement centers are supportive. Careful investigation needs to be done to find a match. However, the rewards that come from putting some serious time and effort into the search can be great.

As this cultural change develops, a surprising factor is surfacing. At one time, the dread of making such arrangements kept seniors from moving on until it was absolutely necessary. What we are starting to observe is a trend involving seniors moving into these new facilities earlier out of choice. Enthusiasm is replacing fear and years of active, support-oriented living can be the unexpected bonus.

Those who doubt the wisdom of selling their homes and moving into a senior retirement center are visiting friends who have made just such a choice. They often find that the pros outweigh the cons. As the new centers appear, competition is emerging and the units, amenities and perks become increasingly attractive. It's getting to be a "don't knock it if you haven't tried it" situation with positive results.