Seniors Seek to Age in Place, Want Amenities, Say Experts

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When it’s time to start looking for a senior living community for your loved one, how can you make sure you’re choosing the right facility for them? With so many things unsure—finances, health and more—it is easy to get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of the details. However, at the heart of the issue is whether your loved one will enjoy the people and activities of the community.

“Communities have different personalities. It’s like going to college,” said Paula Sotir, owner of CarePatrol Baltimore. “It’s really about matching it.”

The first thing seniors are looking for is the ability to age in place, said Jennifer Rynbrandt, aging life care manager at Ferretto Eldercare Consulting. Most people would like to age in their own homes. However, for many, that is not practical due to cost and accessibility. The solution is a senior living care facility that includes all levels of care from independent to skilled care (previously called nursing) that will allow seniors to stay in the same facility throughout the entire aging process.

The next big desire is access to appropriate care within their budget, Rynbrandt said. “If they’re going to need care, Baltimore is a great place to get that care,” she said. “We benefit from the research institutions, better hospitals, the academics that surround those hospitals and feed those hospitals with top notch up and coming physicians.”

Achieving appropriate care requires a lot of research into which facilities offer various care plans and an analysis of cost. Rynbrandt said that one marker she uses to determine the quality of a facility is the turnover rate for staff. “Facilities that have less employee turnover are usually good indicators of their care,” she said.

Another factor is amenities, both Rynbrandt and Sotir said. One of the most common amenities is an evening meal, said Rynbrandt. This allows people to socialize and eat at the same time.

Beyond having the meal, many people may be looking for menus. “They might be looking for a little bit more varied menus at a care facility,” Rynbrandt said. Or they may opt for a facility that has a chef rather than a standard cook. “Particularly people of faith [who] are looking for gluten free, no pork products, or fish on Fridays during Lent. Most of these communities will go above and beyond to make sure dietary preferences and observations are kept,” Rynbrandt said.

A second amenity people often search for is activities and transportation. “Some of the continuing care facilities will have really fun cultural outings, lunches out, museums, shows, concerts. For people who lived a pretty exciting life before retirement, they want to continue that and look for communities that really share those values and that level of entertainment,” Rynbrandt said. “I feel the days of old folks’ homes and bingo – that’s kind of passed. Most people don’t want to watch TV all day. The facilities that are really engaging their residents are going to offer a lot of activities and education and exercise. [They] are appealing to resident’s lives.”

In terms of activities, “Most people want an afternoon event like a happy hour or a time to get together before dinner. A lot of people now are interested in more educational seminars that bring people from the colleges in and they talk about a series…about World War II or about Baltimore,” Sotir said.

There are many ways that seniors can be matched with a community that is suitable for them. One way, such as Ferretto Eldercare Consulting, is with clinicians who assess seniors to match them to the most appropriate facility. These kinds of businesses typically are paid by the client, family or a trust. The other way, such as CarePatrol Baltimore, is with representatives who are not paid by the family but take referral payments from the facility in which families are placed.

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