Assisted living communities are gaining favor among the country’s aging population, and for good reason.
Aging in America is a relatively new phenomenon. In 1900, the median age of U.S. residents was 23; now It’s 35.3. The 65-and-over population rose from about 4 percent in 1900 to more than 12 percent today. But the most dramatic increase has been in the 85-plus age group, which numbered 122,000 in 1900 and now sits at more than 4 million people. With these changing demographics have come many changes in the way we think about, and care for, our aging residents.
Assisted living communities are a relatively new concept designed to provide a healthy and personable alternative to aging in home or the more clinical-feeling, old-fashioned nursing home. The philosophy of assisted living is to provide highly individualized care that evolves with a person’s specific needs while allowing the resident to remain independent.
A BRIEF LOOK BACK
Before 1800, elderly people who needed help were often placed in homes along with the insane, the inebriated and the homeless. Later, women’s groups and churches operated homes for older people who had no family and little financial support. When Social Security arrived in the middle of the 1900s, so came the notion that retired people had the right to skilled care as they aged. Nursing and retirement homes that addressed the specific needs of the older residents, specifically those with numerous medical needs, became the norm.
But over the decades, Americans became increasingly dissatisfied with that type of care. It was oftentimes seen as clinical and impersonal, and the costs skyrocketed. There were few affordable middle-ground solutions for people who were aging in good health, and needed transitional housing and communities that helped them age vibrantly.
In response, assisted living was developed and has quickly become the fastest growing long-term care option in the U.S. There are now more than 30,000 assisted living communities in our country and more are being added every year. Nearly one million adults live in these communities, and many are on waiting lists.
A NEW WAY FORWARD
The concept behind assisted living is to provide privacy and independence along with daily care that is appropriate to each member’s individual needs. For example, a new resident may not need any care services at all, just a maintenance-free lifestyle in a lovely community with the opportunity for activities and socializing. As the resident ages, he or she is able to stay in the community, adding services such as assistance with bathing or dressing, as they become necessary.
When the concept was first introduced, assisted living was extremely popular among family members because it was seen as a more affordable option and one that was more palatable than traditional nursing homes, which are often considered sterile and impersonal. But after it caught on, the enthusiasm for the concept grew among the seniors themselves as they began to see the many options and amenities offered in the best of the communities.
As assisted living has continued to evolve, seniors have more choices than they could have dreamed of just 10 years ago. There are now housing options specific to differences in ethnicities, sexual orientations, and interests. Many provide opportunities for continuing education, so seniors can continue to expand their minds as they age. Work is being done on the federal level to make sure that the wide variety of the best types of housing is affordable for all.
THE SPECTRUM DIFFERENCE
At Spectrum Retirement Communities, we have taken the basic concept of assisted living, introduced in the 1970s, and brought it into the 21st century.
One of the main concerns of seniors and their families as they are pondering the next stage of life is affordability. Many assisted living communities require a large outlay of cash or buy-in fee, which is daunting to many families. Spectrum offers month-to-month rental programs, allowing residents to enjoy all the amenities without a large financial commitment. We back up our commitment to service with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
At Spectrum, our focus is on a quality lifestyle. Some of our activities include book clubs, outings for movies and shopping, cards, crafts, and so much more. If there’s something you like to do that’s not in our current program, we’ll add it. Our options include independent living, assisted living, transitional memory care and memory care, with the flexibility to transition between all of those options, or offer one level of care to one spouse, with another level for the other.
Our unique offerings include state-of-the-art fitness centers and lifestyle enrichment programs. We offer a variety of dining services that rival the best restaurants. We welcome family members to be a part of our residents’ lives as much as they wish. Dogs and cats are more than welcome; we know they are an important part of your family. And, every one of our communities employs a Director of Fun; what could be better than that?
By Barbara Hall