The term “nursing home” has scary connotations; you may picture seniors wiling away their time in rocking chairs with little socialization. To most people, a nursing home marks the end of a fulfilling life. Today’s seniors are leading more engaged lives than ever before. They’re going back to college, helping to raise their grandchildren, even going skydiving. Many are interested in alternatives to nursing homes. They insist that their golden years should afford a chance to consider growing, learning, and improving their communities. Senior living communities give seniors the care they need, but in an engaged space where they can continue living lives of passion and meaning.
Senior Living vs. Nursing Homes: What’s the Difference?
A nursing home’s primary goal is to keep seniors safe. Nursing homes are for people who need regular nursing care, including help with medication and dressing, assistance managing chronic conditions, and careful supervision.
Senior living communities cater to a more diverse senior population. Assisted senior living communities can help with nursing and other medical needs. Independent living, by contrast, offers seniors who don’t need ongoing medical care a safe place to lead independent lives. Senior living also offers:
- A welcoming community environment that makes it easy for seniors to socialize.
- Regular community events such as movie screenings and dances.
- Educational activities and recreational classes such as yoga and aerobics.
- Outings to local attractions.
- A chance to explore the world and engage with the local community. For instance, many senior living communities offer regular volunteer days.
The right senior living community maximizes a senior’s independence, regardless of their health limitations. In so doing, senior living helps seniors lead lives that feel connected, happy, and autonomous.
Why Senior Living Communities Are a Good Alternative to Nursing Homes
Mental and physical health are inextricably linked. Seniors who remain socially connected are less likely to suffer from chronic health issues, including Alzheimer’s. Senior living communities help seniors stay active and happy. Even shy or lonely seniors have a chance to meaningfully engage, since the right community will actively encourage these seniors to participate and find a niche.
The benefits of these alternatives to nursing homes include:
- A more independent lifestyle.
- Better mental health.
- Better physical health.
- Less isolation.
- A sense of purpose and meaning. Seniors may make new friends, develop new interests, and embark on a next act that’s their most fulfilling yet.
- More buy-in from independent-minded seniors. Many senior caregivers find themselves in conflict with loved ones who are adamantly opposed to senior living. A supportive and engaging community can convince even the most stubborn seniors that a new home might not be so bad.
How to Identify Needs
Begin your search for the right senior living community by talking to your senior loved one about their goals for the future. Some questions to ask include:
- What do you want your next 10 years to look like? Focus on general goals. A senior who wants to spend time outside might love a rural senior living community, while one who wants to give back may prefer an urban community that offers lots of volunteer opportunities.
- What activities are most important to you?
- What does your ideal home look like?
- What about your life is most challenging? How could the right senior living community address this challenge? If housekeeping is a challenge, senior living can remove this barrier. A senior who feels isolated may relish the active community spirit many communities offer.
- What are your health needs? Seniors who need daily assistance may thrive in assisted living communities. Those with more modest needs may feel safer in an independent living community.
Finding the Right Community
Armed with your list of must-haves, begin your search. A relative who is in senior living, a trusted doctor, or a community center can be rich sources of information about your options. A simple Google search can also tell you what’s available nearby.
Begin your search by reviewing each community’s online presence. Are there good reviews? What does the community offer? How does it talk about its residents and philosophy? Select a few communities to visit. Then go during an active time, such as during a meal or community event. This offers a chance to appreciate the community’s culture and ask lots of questions.
If you’re ready to begin the search for the right senior living community, we’re here to help. Check out our guide on the journey to senior living to review your options, understand your needs, and talk to your loved one about their plans for the future.