How independent living protects seniors from safety hazards
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggests that, rather than relocating to a senior living community, as many as 90% of seniors prefer to stay at home, also known as aging in place. This statistic exemplifies the difficult choice many folks must eventually confront. Often times the choice to stay at home is a decision that is made based on emotions, rather than logic. Unfortunately, the right decision usually only becomes clearer and more urgent after a serious accident or close call occurs. Before an accident occurs, it is recommended to relocate your elderly loved one to an independent living community, which is the first level of care in the senior housing spectrum. Below is a brief description of independent living, as well as 4 examples of how independent living can prevent a safety hazard that could easily happen at home.
What is Independent Living?
• Independent living is any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors, typically those over the age of 55, where the individual lives without assistance with activities of daily living (assisted living).
• Independent living communities are usually “senior friendly,” meaning they are easy to navigate, require little to no maintenance or yard work, and have mobility safety precautions, such as handrails, elevators, wheelchair ramps, etc.
• Residents live independently, but within a community that offers activities and amenities such as recreational centers, clubhouses, arts and crafts, education classes, movie nights, bingo, etc.
• Usually independent living communities do not provide medical care or nursing staff, but it is still possible to hire additional care.
How Can Independent Living Prevent Safety Hazards?
1. No Maintenance or Yardwork
Maintaining the house and yard is often some of the most difficult and time consuming activities for seniors still living at home. It is also one of the most dangerous because one out of every three Americans over the age of 65 fall every year (Source). Freeing yourself of house and yardwork is one of the best reasons to choose an independent living community, as one could expect to not have to shovel in the winter, mow the lawn, rake and remove leaves, etc.
2. Prevent Senior Isolation
More than 11 million seniors over the age of 65 live alone, which constitutes 28% of the senior population overall. Senior isolation can cause medical problems such as higher mortality rate in those over 52 year old, cognitive decline and dementia, long-term illnesses, depression, high blood pressure, and unhealthy behaviors regarding diet and exercise.
Not every senior living alone will suffer these outcomes, however independent living communities do increase the chances of preventing senior isolation. Seniors engage with their peers more often on a day to day basis, are not separated from others because of a lack of transportation, and benefit from social gatherings such as bingo, movie nights, etc. Gaining more social interaction is one of the biggest positive bonuses to choosing an independent living community.
3. Fall Prevention
The risk of falling down is a major concern because every year in America 1/3 of those over the age of 65 fall at least once. The good news is that many independent living communities are designed with the fear of falling built into the living accommodations. They often have minimal stairs, bathroom safety equipment such as grab bars and walk in tubs, wide hallways with handrails, and ramps for walkers and wheelchairs. If one does fall, the elderly individual has the comfort of knowing that either a friend or staff member would most likely notice their absence. If one was living alone in their home, there is no timetable on being found. So, if you know a senior that has a fear of falling, choosing in an independent living community could offer them peace of mind they would not have while aging in place.
4. Assisted Living and Memory Care
One of the biggest concerns for those who love an elderly person is the looming concern of Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and mild cognitive impairment. Even worse, many seniors actually hide their memory loss, which makes diagnosing and treating the illness even more challenging. This problem can be alleviated by independent living communities because peers and staff members are present to observe them on a daily basis. Many times families and friends have to rely on phone calls or sporadic visits to evaluate the health of an elderly loved one who is living at home. With independent senior living, you can rest assured there is knowledgeable, trained staff, and a close-knit community of other seniors all looking out for the well-being of one another.
As we age, even such simple activities as eating, bathing or driving can carry an increased risk for harm or hazard. While some seniors may view retirement communities as being prohibitive, or as a loss of autonomy, it in fact enables us to do more than we likely would have been able to achieve otherwise all alone by ourselves. To uncover other misconceptions of senior living, or to find a senior living community nearest you, get in touch!
Alex Milzer is a writer with Senior Directory, LLC