Retirement is a reward for a life well-lived. It is not a punishment. And no part of it should ever feel that way. Unfortunately, for all too many seniors, that is exactly what their latter years have become. They are punished by so many things including the following:
- Loss of vision
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of mobility
- Income that feels more broken than fixed
- Aches and pains
- Children that don’t visit or call
- Death of friends
- Healthcare expenses
- Loss of independence
This is not how it was supposed to turn out. The brochure showed octogenarians waterskiing out on the Florida Keys. There was no mention of the bland oatmeal or the lady down the hall who is convinced she is Queen Elizabeth. They never warn you of how painful the feeling of betrayal is when the kids take away your car keys and cut up your driver’s license.
For many, the worst indignity is being told they can no longer live independently. They have to sell the family home and move into a retirement facility. The choices range from upscale retirement communities for the rich and famous to full-on nursing homes that barely pass inspection on a good day.
When it is time for your mother to face this unwelcome moment in her life, it is up to you to make sure she is happy and well cared for in her golden years. Here are a few things to look for when reviewing communities:
Some seniors could teach you a thing or two about technology. After all, they were once young and enjoyed learning new things. As we get older, we lose a little of the enthusiasm we once had for learning new things. We need things in our lives that are predictable and reliable and that make us feel competent and not helpless.
Something as simple as a TV remote can make all the difference in how a senior feels about watching television. Check to see that the retirement home TV is large enough to enjoy and easy to use for people who don’t want to be overwhelmed by the tech.
At the same time, you want them to have all the tech necessities of the modern day like computers and modern phones for communicating with the outside world and easy access to social media. Human connection is one of the most precious gifts for seniors. Make sure they can easily connect with all the classic entertainment they love, and all the new friends they are yet to make.
Options for Special Dietary Needs
Special diets are a fact of life. You don’t have to be a senior to know what it is like to be locked out of some of the greatest, gastronomic delights the world has to offer due to a food allergy. Some people can’t have nuts, or berries, or bread, or cheese, or… The list goes on. It is not enough to know that the kitchen serves healthy options. That should be a given. The kitchen needs to be flexible enough to offer options for special needs eaters. If they can’t do that, you need to keep looking.
Loneliness is not just a matter of feeling sad. Loneliness kills. The pandemic didn’t create that fact. It just exposed it. Visitations are still somewhat dicey due to the danger of non-symptomatic spread to a vulnerable population that remains largely unvaccinated. That means the retirement community will need to make up for it by offering a strong sense of community and the ability for residents to keep in touch with loved ones. Be sure they have the bandwidth to handle things like FaceTime calls.
You want a place that offers a variety of social activities that keep the residents not just entertained, but engaged. While they long for the familiar to give them a sense of grounding, they still want to learn. Look for retirement communities that offer classes for things like learning a new language, or yoga, or pottery. Make sure that mental engagement goes along with social engagement.
No one wants to leave their mother at a retirement community. But many seniors would rather be at a retirement facility than feel like a burden to their children. If you are in the position of searching for the perfect retirement community, see to it there is a suitable tech offering, special diet options, and a strong sense of community for mental and social stimulation