Making the move to a senior living community can be a difficult transition, for both the senior and the person who is helping them with the process, typically their adult child. But there are ways to make the process go smoothly and ensure the senior finds a community where they can engage in activities, socialize with their peers and thrive.
Health and wellness
“As people age, they encounter more and more social isolation,” says
Sikirat Iyabo Tinubu-Karch, MD, MHA, founder and chief executive officer at 6M Geriatrics, which provides in-house medical services for Cogir Senior Living. “Living in a community with their peer group and with [professionals] who are geared toward helping the needs of seniors helps with that quite a bit.”
Tinubu-Karch notes that one of the most underdiagnosed mood disorders in the elderly is depression, which is often caused by loneliness and lack of activity. “I notice that, in general, seniors in these communities tend to thrive and over time, their mood improves when their activity level increases,” says Tinubu-Karch.
What to look for
If you’re looking for a senior living community for yourself, a parent, or another relative, there are some key things consider. Tinubu-Karch says you can get a good feel for the community by speaking with the director of wellness.
“He or she sets the culture,” she explains. “Once that person sets the culture, the key caregivers will follow that culture.”
Melinda Hill, health and wellness director at Cogir Senior Living of Northgate, works closely with the resident’s physicians, and ensures that each resident’s assessment and medications are administered with care.
Another thing to look for is engagement with local community activities. A senior living community that’s engaged with the outside community will be better able to offer special activities for residents. For example, singers may come to serenade them with carols during the holiday season, or a local dance troupe may put on a performance. And for seniors who are physically able, special outings keep residents connected with the community. At Cogir Senior Living, for example, staff creates activities that help residents enjoy outings to art museums, parks, plays and shopping.
When you take a tour of a senior living community, there are certain things that are positive signs. For example, as you walk past the people who work there, take notice of whether or not they’re smiling, making eye contact, and acknowledging the older adult rather than just walking past them.
Getting seniors involved
This is another area where Tinubu-Karch says communication with the director of wellness is crucial. At the right community, they’ll want to understand who the resident is and what they enjoy doing so they can tailor activities to them, whether it’s something they’ve loved doing throughout their life or a new activity they’re interested in trying.
If a resident is on the shy side, Tinubu-Karch recommends asking if they can be partnered with someone in the community who is more outgoing and loves to spread the word about activities and special events. At Cogir Senior Living, staff and residents celebrate birthdays and milestones with a party and scratch-made cakes. And residents socialize regularly at twice-a-week happy hours, and enjoy live entertainment.
Handling the transition
When a person moves into a senior living community, Tinubu-Karch says the thing they miss most is their independence. She says this can be complex to manage because a good number of residents can no longer be as independent as they wish.
“One of the greatest things you can do is help the senior understand that their lives are transitioning and will continue to transition, and you’re there to support them,” she advises adult children or caregivers.
For example, many residents experience memory issues and signs of dementia. Instead of skirting around the topic, Tinubu-Karch recommends talking honestly to the senior at a time when they’re lucid. “Talk to them about the fact that their memory is going and ask what kind of things they’d like to do as this happens,” she says.
Overall, Tinubu-Karch dispels the bias that senior living communities are boring places where you put old people when they need physical and mental assistance. “These are thriving communities,” she says. “I would say to the general public, stop in for a coffee and see where you can engage with older adults who have treasure troves of experience and who love to engage with the outside community.”
Cogir Senior Living is resident focused, safety driven and employee centered. We believe in creating harmony by building a family bond between residents and employees. We live our mission, providing individualized care services, rich programming and activities and chef-made cuisine.