Is senior living a place you hope to avoid, or a place where you’d love to go? While the former has traditionally been the common response, the tide is turning in favor of senior living as a desirable option for vibrant older adults.
With the help of Ward Phillips, director of sales at WesleyLife, a comprehensive provider of services for older adults in Iowa, we explore ways that senior living communities are attracting “want to” as opposed to “have to” residents, offering experiences that encourage seniors to live their lives precisely the way they choose.
Choosing Senior Living
Twenty-first-century senior living is shifting from something people need to something they want. In fact, Phillips says that many people who are still active in the workforce—people in their early 60s—are inquiring about senior living opportunities. There’s even a man who will be moving into WesleyLife after he gets done hiking the Appalachian Trail—an unbelievable concept to those who maintain negative perceptions of senior living.
And when adult children start looking at senior housing options for their parents, they’re often pleasantly surprised by the opportunities available.
“They’re realizing quickly that it’s not their grandparents’ nursing home,” says Phillips. “It’s not a nursing home at all.”
Like many senior living providers, WesleyLife offers a variety of options for older adults to be as active as possible, and to maintain as much independence as possible.
“We are centered on seniors having a purposeful, meaningful life and enjoying the lifestyle they want,” affirms Phillips.
According to Phillips, senior living programming is no longer just a carefully constructed schedule of card games and Bingo. While those kinds of activities are certainly available, there’s so much more to senior living than Cribbage and Pinochle.
“We provide the avenues, but you make your own schedule,” he says.
Phillips cites opportunities such as robust wellness programming, trips, classes, and new friendships as just some of the benefits for those who choose senior living.
And the benefits of human connection cannot be overstated. Those who previously lived alone may not have even realized how lonely they were. But in a senior living community, says Phillips, older adults are no longer alone, and they often experience a renewed sense of purpose, with countless opportunities to realize their full potential and enjoy spiritual and emotional growth.
What’s more, in many senior living communities, older adults are able to maintain connections with the world outside the facility. Through WesleyLife’s “Well Ahead” programs, for example, non-residents are invited to participate in on-campus wellness classes. So people in their 40s and 50s come to campus and enjoy the quiet setting of the community’s gym, which features state-of-the-art equipment, certified instructors, and full-time therapy teams, says Phillips. These types of programs provide a natural bridge to the local community, enabling all adults to connect with one another and enjoy the amenities senior living has to offer.
Changing the Culture
In the end, the traditional view of senior living as a dreaded possible outcome rather than a positive, conscious choice can cause seniors to miss out on a life-affirming experience.
In fact, “I wish I had done this years ago” is a constant refrain from residents, says Phillips.
To change the culture, we must get past the stigma of senior living as a place people go to die, and instead view it as it really is in many communities—a place people go to truly live.
“When residents wake up, they have something to look forward to,” affirms Phillips. “They’re living longer and happier lives in senior living.”
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