Senior years Featured

11:21am EDT October 23, 2003
There's a tendency to treat seniors as an homogenous group whose members all think and act alike.

But not everyone ages the same way, and each person's situation is unique.

So as the population ages, long-term care providers are starting to rethink the traditional retirement home model.

"The name of the game (in long-term care) is options and choices," says Cynthia Dunn, president and CEO of Judson at University Circle. "No one program is right for every person; there need to be comprehensive choices."

As life expectancies increase, aging American's want to remain in their own homes as long as possible. However, as self-sufficient as they may want to be, many seniors find themselves unable to do many of the things they once could.

"There are some people that wish they just had some services," says Dunn. "The house is getting hard to take care of ... and they need help finding someone to help."

Judson found that it could offer programs to help those who aren't ready or willing to move into the Judson community but who still need services unique to the elderly. Included in those services is a pilot program for seniors who remain in their homes but need referrals for basic house repairs and maintenance.

"This way, we know (the contractors) are reliable and that their work is good, and if there is a problem, we can help with it," says Dunn. "When you live in a house for 20 years, you don't see things, things slip away. For personal and health care there are a lot of agencies out there. What is tougher is when they need other things like house repair."

The programs create a "virtual retirement community," that includes home care, health and wellness services. The wellness component allows seniors to purchase a membership to the health facilities and programs located on Judson campus.

"These programs are targeted to people that are looking for health maintenance," says Dunn. "We have a menu of choices. Not everyone wants to work with weights or yoga, so we have a broad range of options."

Wellness programs are age-appropriate and take into consideration the issues older people face, including bone density issues surrounding osteoporosis, exercising with diabetes and physical rehabilitation. Classes range from tai chi and reiki to swim lessons and personal training. And participants can share the experience with others their own age.

"This way, they don't have to go to a Bally's. And it's never too late to start exercising," says Dunn. "With these programs, they feel better, feel more balanced and have more energy."

Judson also offers an adult day care program in conjunction with its permanent residency program, but as technology changes, so will the program options. Dunn says that with new technology, even the daycare services may go the way of in-home monitoring,.

"Technology promises to be a big part of the solution. We are hearing some exciting things that are rolling out like remote monitoring devices for heart and blood pressure," she says. "With that technology, the (long-term care industry) is ready to pop open."

The concept revolves around giving seniors and their families a host of options and some flexibility.

There are social programs, as well, with trips to the orchestra and museums, art classes and even planned care programs for residents' pets.

Dunn adds, "If we have a nude drawing class, we bring in a nude model ... It's all about keeping the body and mind healthy." How to reach: Judson at University Circle, www.judsonretirement.org


Senior sites

The number of senior and long-term care options is growing every day. Following is a list of resources for researching those options.

* American Association of Home and Services for the Aging, www.aahsa.org/index.shtml

The AAHSA represents more than 5,000 not-for-profit nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, senior housing facilities and community service organizations.

* Guide to Retirement Living, www.retirement-living.com

This online directory provides general information on choosing retirement housing, long-term care and other health care options.

* LivOn: Senior Living Online Network, www.livon.com

The site provides a searchable database of housing options that includes retirement communities, senior apartments, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities.

* New LifeStyles Online, www.newlifestyles.com

Provides information on housing options, including a nationwide database of assisted living facilities, retirement communities and long-term care facilities.

* Retirement Living Information Center, www.retirementliving.com

Provides a directory of retirement communities and senior housing options, arranged by state and community type.

* Senior Sites, www.seniorsites.com

A source for nonprofit housing and services; includes links to housing resources, information on selecting a nonprofit housing facility and a directory of national and state older adult housing associations. Source: AARP's Internet Resources on Aging