Often, when we think of retirement, nursing homes or living with aides aren’t exactly the image we envision. However, as much as we can naively believe that we won’t end up in a nursing home, the reality is there may come a day when our family members will make the inevitable decision to move us into one.
Fortunately, with today’s ever-evolving world, nursing homes are becoming a thing of the past. But what’s replacing them? Something called “senior cohousing.”
What’s Senior Cohousing?
Senior cohousing communities were developed in Denmark in the early 1960s and were brought to North America in 1988. The baby boomer generation is mainly responsible for shining a light on this alternative arrangement, and it has since grown in popularity in recent years.
Cohousing neighborhoods are intended to guarantee seniors full lives where privacy and personal space are available while still being able to take advantage of the benefits of shared spaces. Essentially, senior cohousing is a space where seniors can be surrounded by friends sharing spaces like the dining area, library, fitness center, garden, TV room, and so much more.
For those considering a comfortable, social living space, cohousing provides seniors with many advantages such as greater quality of life, a real sense of community, privacy, affordable costs, and safety.
Major issues such as loss of independence, freedom, and continuity of their past life, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of privacy have been found to cause seniors living in nursing homes to develop depression.
One of the biggest benefits of cohousing is the feeling of community and having friends nearby, making it easier to be social and take part in activities, thus eliminating the risk of feelings of loneliness for seniors.
For seniors who reside in assisted living quarters, privacy is an issue for many, as room sharing can become a problem. Fortunately, cohousing provides residents with their own homes or apartments while still being able to have people nearby.
Costs are generally considerably less when compared to nursing homes or assisted living, since seniors share resources with others and ease the financial burden.
For one thing, cohousing is safer than living alone. For seniors who live alone, there can be serious risks, as they can fall and have no help nearby, which ultimately causes concern. However, cohousing communities help keep an eye on one another.
Of course, as with anything, there are some downsides to be aware of. While cohousing is a great option for seniors, it does not offer the same level of care that is found in assisted living.
While residents of cohousing help each other and lend a helping hand whenever possible, it may become difficult for someone who needs constant assistance to live on their own, but hiring someone to help them is an option.
How Does Cohousing Compare to Nursing Homes?
Although the direct care provided by nursing homes is incredibly useful, some believe the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. Disadvantages like cost, poor emotional and mental health, low-level care, loss of independence, distance, quality of food, and roommates are a few of the things seniors face while living in nursing homes.
The cost of nursing homes can be incredibly expensive, which can cause financial issues, especially for those who don’t have enough retirement savings.
The emotional and mental health of seniors who live in nursing homes or assisted living can be impacted, as they are forced to leave the familiarity and comfort of their own homes, thus promoting the feelings of loss, loneliness, and isolation.
Low-level care has all too often been the center of most horror stories regarding nursing homes. Most nursing homes are understaffed, which leads to neglect and poor supervision, inevitably increasing the risk of accidents.
For older adults, a sense of independence is important, especially for those who are accustomed to their personal routines and find it difficult to adjust to a new schedule in a nursing home. A loss of freedom can cause seniors to become depressed and lose self-esteem.
In some cases, nursing homes aren’t always around the corner or in close proximity to family members. Long drives to visit family members in nursing homes can take a toll over time, especially for those who have busy schedules. For seniors, a lack of family presence increases loneliness and depression.
Due to nursing homes’ tight budgets, there are many programs that take a hit, especially the quality of food. Limited funds result in processed meats, frozen vegetables, and canned fruits. In addition, seniors are unable to go out and buy groceries.
When seniors are forced to share a room, this can lead to a hostile environment. According to data collected from 10 New York nursing homes, common types of abuse include verbal, physical and invasion of privacy.
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There are several things to consider when it comes to deciding on senior cohousing or a nursing home. For seniors who are looking to be comfortable, they must be provided with a sense of purpose, which makes senior cohousing a great alternative for those seeking modern opportunities with community values.