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Independent Living

Independent living is the hallmark of the American spirit. However, the longer we live, the harder it is for us to maintain an independent lifestyle. This article introduces some ideas to help you think through your options for maintaining your independence at a level that does not overburden you or put you at unnecessary risk.

Once people retire and the bonds to their community dissolve, they look for a better, more comfortable life elsewhere. Many healthy and active senior citizens find such a life in a retirement community. There, private residences provide the independence that the owners are accustomed to. And, by being oriented toward senior citizens, these communities can provide services not often found in the

general community such as social, craft and sporting activities geared for older adults. Many communities also coordinate on the homeowner's behalf the mundane and labor intensive chores normally associated with home upkeep (for example, lawncare, home cleaning and maintenance).

Senior citizens can pass many enjoyable years in retirement communities, but because of illness, declining health or mobility, or loss of loved ones, independent living may become more difficult. Two approaches to consider are:

  • Assisted living technologies that keep independence from becoming lonely isolation. For example, a simple device such as a medical alarm can be used to contact a live person at the touch of the button, who can then assess the situation and send help as needed.
  • Assisted living communities that provide an appropriate level of care and support for the semi-active and mostly independent elderly. The most frequent problems assisted living people face are related to falls in the home or needing help with medications.

Assisted living communities feature individual units (homes or condominiums or apartments) easily accessed with nearby parking and medical staff on the premises. Residents of these communities are free to come and go, even drive, yet still have the amenities of an in-house restaurant, store, activities center and swimming pools.

When the residents feel they need more help, for instance when they become bed-ridden, a move to a Skilled Nursing Facility may be in order. Often the assisted living community will be affiliated with or adjoin a skilled facility which offers 24-hour nursing care, rehabilitation and other more demanding medical attention.

Finally, an interesting blend of these two is starting to appear: skilled nursing facilities with an assisted living wing, often attractive to those in the assisted living community who need a brief recovery period, or those making the transition more gently.

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