Seasons Magazines

Seasons Magazines

Today’s Senior Lifestyles: A New Chapter Where Seniors Can Truly Thrive

Whether it’s a decision someone has to make for themself or an adult child overseeing decisions for a parent, the question of how and where one is going to age and live out the latter years of their life is inevitable. Decades ago, the main choices for older adults were either living with their adult children or other family members, or going into a nursing home, but it’s safe to say that the landscape for senior living has changed dramatically, especially in the past 10 years or so. And when it comes to modern-day senior living communities? They’re a far cry from the places our grandparents wound up in! If you didn’t know any better, you actually might think you were walking into an all-inclusive resort as opposed to a retirement community when visiting one of them.

We’ll take you on a journey of just how much the times have changed for the better for older adults, and we’ll showcase the new face of senior living. Today’s seniors are so fortunate to be presented with more options and choices, and also to have the opportunity to age on their own terms.

Today’s Senior Living Communities Are a Far Cry From Those of Years Past

Seabury

Seabury in Bloomfield is a life plan community for adults 50 and over that offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care. The campus is set on over 66 acres and offers a variety of housing options with stunning views of the Connecticut hills.

One of the things that truly sets Seabury apart is it’s “life care” membership program, which has a structured contract with an entrance fee and a membership fee, and where residents first come into independent living and then can progress through the other stages of care that are available at Seabury as needed.

Christine DuPont, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Seabury explains that the type of clients who come into the life care program are people who want to actively plan for their future and be prepared. She notes, “This is a model where the cost proposition is more affordable because you can budget it in rather than being subject to the market rate when you arrive.”

Another thing that differentiates Seabury from other senior living communities is their “Seabury at Home” program. Marketing Counselor Danielle Needle explains, “This is a life care program at home, which is wonderful because a lot of people in their 50s or 60s are not really thinking of moving into an assisted living community at the current time, but they want to have the security of knowing that they’re going to be covered in the future for their long-term care costs. It’s similar to long-term care insurance, but it’s a lot better because we have personal care coordinators who are assigned to individuals as their health care navigators for the rest of their life.” With Seabury at Home, people can have the peace of mind knowing that they have in-home care and facility-based care down the road when it’s needed.

DuPont adds that the program has been a game-changer and says, “We launched it in 2008, and at the time, we were the fifth in the country for this type of program, and we were the first in our state.”

Walking through the halls of Seabury makes you feel like you’re in a luxury hotel rather than a senior living community. Residents enjoy countless social activities, including exploring the campus’ walking trails, group exercise classes, a spacious indoor pool, various clubs and committees where they can interact with residents who have similar interests, fine dining with gorgeous views, and there’s even a salon and day spa where they can indulge in a little pampering to look and feel their best.

Even upon pulling down the driveway of Seabury, there are residents out enjoying the fresh air while walking their dogs, as other residents stop to say hello and chat. Needle notes, “It’s just such an active, vibrant community with so much going on. This is the farthest thing from someone going into “a [retirement] home.” Our residents are so active.”

Duncaster

Duncaster is another senior life plan community in Bloomfield that offers independent living, assisted living, long-term Care, rehabilitation, and memory care. Lisa Greene, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Duncaster explains that life plan communities used to be called continuing care communities and notes, “They’re really communities where people can go and live actively and know that there is the safety net of additional care when the time comes.”

She explains, “Residents live in independent apartments, that are their own homes. They bring everything and make it their own home, and they live there independently. So they can come and go, but there are many activities here on campus, and they don’t have to worry about dealing with maintenance of a house. There are many enriching activities here like speakers and healthcare, exercise classes, a swimming pool, and art classes. It’s a community, and there are many people who have similar interests and passions. It’s a place where friendships can be formed at a time when many people who live at home begin to feel isolated. It’s such a different concept than what our parents and grandparents lived through.”

Greene explains what sets Duncaster apart saying, “I think one of the things that makes Duncaster special and unique in the community is we are fully independent, not for profit, and unaffiliated. So we don’t answer to a higher order in terms of faith or anything else. We have a mix of backgrounds, and we celebrate that not just in our residents, but in our staff as well.”

McLean

McLean in Simsbury is another life plan community that offers assisted living, memory care, independent living, and also short-term skilled nursing rehab for post-acute rehab services, long-term skilled nursing, and a home care agency and hospice. The memory care program is one of the things that truly sets it apart from other communities. Carlene Rhea, the Director of Assisted Living and Resident Services at McLean, says, “One service that we’re so proud of is our memory care option in assisted living. McLean, early on, recognized the need to help those in the community that were struggling with memory loss, and we created an entire neighborhood just dedicated to memory care. In 2020, we were so honored to be awarded the first purple flag for dementia care in the state of Connecticut. This was from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Connecticut assisted living Association. And it holds us to provide the highest standards of memory care.”

McLean also gets involved in the local community to help those who are aging, as Ann Pavano, Campus Liason and Volunteer Coordinator explains, “We support our community at large with many needed programs that serve those still living at home some of the programs that we offer, like our community cafe. We offer caregiver support groups, and dementia support groups, as well as a social model day program. So these are all important programs for people in the community at large.”

McLean strives to create a community of inclusion for all. Rhea notes, “We really believe everybody’s story is unique. Everybody coming through our door has a concern of one kind or another. And we have a resident-centered philosophy of care, and we provide residents and family and staff with person-centered care. We are mindful of a person’s body, mind, and spirit.”

HarborChase at Evergreen Walk

HarborChase offers assisted living and memory care services in an environment that Hartman describes as “very resident-oriented.” She notes that the community even strives to provide an atmosphere where families can have a pleasant experience visiting loved ones, saying, “We have several dining venues, and one even has a full bar. It really caters to adult children. It’s very comfortable and they can visit with their loved ones and have wings and a beer. We also offer a fine dining restaurant that’s open Thursday through Saturday called “The Grill Room,” where residents and families can get a 4-course meal with land, sea, and air choices with wine pairings.

One thing that truly sets HarborChase apart is that it offers 24/7 Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse coverage. Many communities only have a Certified Nurse’s Assistant on duty in the middle of the night.

Communities Offer a New Beginning

Rhea explains just how much moving to a senior living community can bring peace of mind to families. “Children no longer have to worry about maintaining a home, providing care, and going to doctor’s appointments, and all of a sudden, they have peace of mind that their family members are safe, secure, and well taken care of. We make it really easy at McLean. We bring in as many services here as possible. So on site, a person can access podiatry care, dental care, and certainly their primary medical care. Our nursing team takes care of all their medications. Our entire care team oversees nutrition, personal care. But the real magic, the real special part is socialization for your mom or dad — they’re not sitting home alone anymore.”

While the nursing homes of our grandparents’ days may have seemed like an ending, moving to a senior living community can be a new, exciting chapter. Greene notes, “What makes senior living different today than 30 years ago is recognizing that people want to learn and grow all throughout their lives, and Duncaster is a community. Moving to a retirement community is not a place to go away. It’s a place to go and grow, and “starting” happens at all stages of life. It’s what keeps us vibrant and young.”

Hartman notes that while residents may be reluctant before moving to HarborChase, they go from being totally depressed to loving their new adventure, and they wind up saying, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” She adds that their adult children can also have peace of mind that they are thriving, saying, “They have a village watching their loved one as opposed to a single person. They’re with residents their own age and make friends. They get stronger because of exercise and nutrition. In a new community, bonds are formed. Everybody’s in the same boat.”

Needle notes that there are many benefits to coming to live on a community’s campus as opposed to remaining at home, particularly for someone who has lost a spouse and is alone for the first time in many years. Speaking about the range of activities at Seabury, she explains, “We have committees galore — everything from an arts committee to the trails committee to a woodshop committee. It runs the gamut, and it’s all run by our residents. We even have a thrift store here where all the proceeds are used to support the resident committees.” She adds, “When you come here, you are really living your best life.”

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Choosing how and where you want to age or making that decision on behalf of a loved one can be extremely overwhelming, as most people aren’t quite sure where to begin when it comes to researching different options. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone, and there are people out there who are ready and willing to help to ensure that you select the right choice.

Liz Cornish, owner of New Season in Life, which offers guidance about Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, In-Home Care and Senior Support Services. After spending over 30 years as a Physical Therapist, Cornish decided to start New Season in Life as a means of helping people navigate the overwhelming landscape of senior living options. If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to research, turning to someone like Cornish can be such a welcome relief.

She explains, “I have a network of people that want to age in place and stay at home. I have skilled resources and non-skilled resources, elder care attorneys, and of all different types of, of other companies to refer people to so that we can provide them with exactly what they need.”

Justin Michaud is the Director of M.R. Home Care Inc., an elder care company that has been providing quality care in Connecticut for over 30 years. He explains, “Our motto is to keep you in your home as long as possible, in a safe, clean, non-judgmental environment, where you can keep your routine.”

He notes that when it comes to caregiving, finding the ideal individual to come into a person’s home is crucial, saying, “Caregiving is an inclusive system, and you have to find the right person. We take pride in finding the right caregiver for the community as a whole.”

Cornish also emphasizes that the conversation of how someone wants to age should happen long before they’re in a position where they need to make a decision, saying, “I try to tell people, ideally, to start to have the conversation before you’re even thinking of it {making a move}. Say, ‘Hey, Mom, I know we’re not ready now. But just looking ahead, how do you want to age, and what are your thought processes as you age?’”

She notes that it’s important to reassure an aging parent that they aren’t making a move right away, but if they start to forget medications, there are changes in hygiene, or bills aren’t being paid, there needs to be a plan in place for what those next steps might be.

Rhea from McLean also says, “I think the right time to talk to families is the sooner the better, and often, so as to include their loved one in the conversation. So you could find out what mom or dad really wants or needs in a community. I think the bottom line is to talk to them sooner than later, before an event happens, before it’s more of an emergent situation that you have to address.”

She advises that another key factor in knowing when it’s the right time to make a move is whether a loved one is making poor judgment with financial or safety issues, or if they suddenly are having confusion of space and time. Rhea also adds that caregiver fatigue is another issue that is very real and should be taken into consideration.

Senior Living Is Not One Size Fits All

Making the choice of how and where to age is a personal decision and it looks different for everyone. Perhaps the best way people can help their loved ones be prepared for what comes down the road is to start the conversations early and to keep them going as time progresses and the need for care approaches. Rhea explains, “It’s good to remember that a discussion is a process and not an event.”

Whether it’s remaining at home and relying on home care services, or entering into a senior living community and starting a new chapter, everyone deserves to live out the latter years of their lives in an environment that feels comfortable, safe, secure, and like… home.