Quick! What comes to mind when you think about retirement communities?
Did the phrase evoke a mental image of a nursing home from the ’50s or ’60s? You know, the kind of place where frail and sickly people spent their days in bed and had little to do but stare at the ceiling? If so, you’re not alone — the stereotype lives on.
But in reality, senior living these days is very much the opposite of that. With a focus on independent living, today’s retirement communities beckon to older adults who are ready to give up the tedium of taking care of a house, freeing up their time and energy so they can fully embrace their “golden years.”
While it’s true that Life Care communities such as Emerald Heights offer the full spectrum of care, including assisted living, skilled nursing and memory support, you can tour the entire community and not see anything that remotely resembles the nursing homes of years gone by.
What you will find are people ranging in age from mid-60s to late 90s or older who are active, vibrant and involved in what’s going on within and beyond the community.
Your initial thought may have been to fill in the blank with the number 50. That’s how 73% of women and 59% of men responded in a survey from TD Ameritrade conducted in mid-2018, according to a report by CNBC.
But what if your inclination was to fill in the blank with 45, or 60? The number doesn’t really matter — but what does matter, research suggests, is your perspective on aging.
A study on subjective aging published online by Cambridge University Press on April 15, 2020, indicates that the relationship between your chronological age and your ideal age (the age you would like to be) may have an impact on your physical health.
“Findings indicated that wanting to be younger was negatively associated with life satisfaction and physical functioning over time,” the authors of the study wrote.
This doesn’t mean that you’re doing egregious harm to your health if you’d like to be a few years younger than you actually are. As we hit middle-age and continue onward, most of us would like to be a little younger.
The idea, though, based on the study findings, is that people who have a positive perception of aging — i.e., those having only a small discrepancy between their ideal age and their actual age — have greater life satisfaction and better physical functioning years later.
You might be wondering how you can find more satisfaction in being the age you are as you get older. It helps to adopt the practice of positive aging, which we wrote about in our September blog post.
Basically, positive aging is having the attitude that getting older is a normal part of life, not something to deny or ignore. It’s also being optimistic that you’ll be able to successfully handle the typical challenges associated with aging.
In that same blog post, we noted the role that a sense of purpose plays in positive aging — and healthy aging, too.
People need “to feel needed, respected and purposeful,” according to Dr. Linda Fried, a geriatrician and dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. If those needs are not met, she noted, it can be detrimental to one’s health.
Some people find a sense of purpose in raising a family, or in the work they do. What happens when retirement rolls around and the kids are grown?
Those who’ve developed other ways of feeling purposeful tend to transition into retirement relatively easily. They also tend to be happier and healthier than those who lack a sense of purpose.
Without a purpose in life, or “an intention to do something in the world,” as Anthony Burrow, an associate professor of psychology at Cornell University, describes it, it can be hard to feel motivated. That can lead to inactivity, apathy, loneliness, self-isolation and a long list of physical, emotional and mental health issues.
“We are confronted with the ups and downs of life, but purpose is an active ingredient that helps us stay stable,” Burrow said in an article published on the Cornell Research website.
Finding a new sense of purpose can be a rewarding experience — just ask residents here at Emerald Heights who have discovered how much they enjoy being involved in our community.
Volunteering is an excellent way to explore activities and make connections that can lead to a feeling of purposefulness. Most retirement communities offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, and Emerald Heights is no exception. In a December blog post, we wrote about some of the many ways residents here volunteer their time and talents.
Joining a group is another great way to find a new sense of purpose, whether the group participates in activities that you are already interested in or its main focus is on something entirely new to you. At Emerald Heights, there are all kinds of groups to join.
You could even do as some residents in our community have done. You could start a new group by putting out feelers to see who else shares a particular interest you have.
The upshot is this: When you choose independent living in a retirement community such as ours, you’re doing more than changing where you live. You’re also giving yourself a chance to shift your mindset and focus on what you want to do.
If you’re in the process of looking at different retirement communities in Washington state, we’d love for you to consider a future here at Emerald Heights.
You’re welcome to join us for one of our upcoming events and have a look around while you’re here. You can also contact us to schedule a virtual visit or an in-person tour. If you haven’t already, we think you’ll get a whole new impression of what today’s retirement communities are all about.