By Steve Moran
This is a problem that seems to be never talked about in the senior living sector.
Senior living has a narrowing problem.
It is already rattling around your head, isn’t it — just like what happened to me when Fara Gold McLaughlin mentioned it to me. For the past year-and-a-half she and her husband have been living in a swanky independent living community, and they are, in the next few months, going to throw in the towel and move someplace else.
When we are growing up, our age limits us, but we learn pretty early on that every year we grow, and that accompanying that growth is an opening of the world. This happens physically into our 20s or maybe even into our 30s, at which point that stays more or less status quo, and the world can narrow or widen depending on how we live our lives physically and mentally.
At some point as we age, we all experience some narrowing. Elite athletes start slowing down, our hearing range narrows. Weirdly 17,400 Hz is a frequency that only teenagers can hear. In fact, by age 18, most people cannot hear sounds at that frequency — something that a few stores have used to keep teens away.
For older people the big narrowing happens when they can’t drive anymore or don’t have the energy and will to do things they did when they were younger. And that is where senior living comes into play.
The Senior Living Promise and Peril
Senior living at its best promises to create a life that is focused on what older people can do and in effect minimize the narrowing impact of aging. There are some narrowing aspects of aging that senior living does a spectacular job of helping with: safety, security, activities of daily living, medication, and transportation sometimes.
The peril is that inherent to senior living being cost-effective, there are many aspects that are narrowing. Meals are served at specific times; activities are largely limited to those who live in the community. Activities are largely limited to the capabilities of the community.
There are simply lots of rules that residents must live by. More rules than at home.
It is important to acknowledge that as we grow older, homes can also be super narrowing. No one there to make sure meals get fixed and meds get taken, to provide transportation and companionship. We tend to think of home as perfect and senior living and something less, which, of course, is not true at all.
The big goal has to be for us to keep the narrowing problem as small as possible while continuing to expand the opportunities.
Kudos to my friend Fara Gold McLaughlin for inspiring this article.