The number of seniors over the age of 65 is growing. While just over 12 percent of the population was 65 or older in 2000, in 2016, that number grew to more than 15 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the ever-increasing number of seniors comes more elderly adults who are ready to enter assisted or nursing care.
If the aging adult in your life is starting a new phase and transitioning into assisted living, understanding the social implications of this new arrangement is absolutely essential. Being around other similarly aged adults is a major perk that assisted living has to offer. But with that social setting comes challenges and issues that you might not expect your loved one to face.
Before your parent, grandparent, or other elderly relative moves into assisted living, take a look at what you need to know about the social scene that they'll soon enter into.
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
You spent years hearing the, "Make new friends, but keep the old" saying from your parents. Now it's your turn to give them the advice that they once gave you. As adults age, social circles change. Older friends pass on and the seniors that are left start to feel a sense of loneliness, especially if they live alone.
Your parent or grandparent may have been a social butterfly or, at the very least, spent time with close friends or their spouse for most of their life. Now that some of the people who once surrounded them are gone (or are already in assisted or skilled nursing care), they may feel a staggering sense of isolation.
Moving into an assisted living home gives the aging adult the chance to build a new community, making friends and getting back into the social side of life again. But this doesn't necessarily mean giving up all of their former friends. The more connections your elderly loved one has, the better.
As your loved one begins to make friends and build new relationships in their assisted living community, help them to maintain past friendships. This may mean that you encourage them to call an old high school pal or help them to email former co-workers who they've remained close to.
Communicate about Conflict Resolution
An elderly adult who has been living independently for years may have become accustomed to the smooth sailing that goes along with a loner lifestyle.
Other than interacting with close family and possibly home healthcare workers, some older adults find that a decline in the amount of social situations (both positive and negative) that they've had to engage in. The result is a reduced need for conflict-resolution skills. Now that your loved one is moving into a group community, they may have to handle challenging conflicts in the social setting.
Research from the Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University found that almost one in five nursing home residents reported being part of an aggressive (or negative) resident-to-resident social encounter in the previous month. These encounters included everything from verbal altercations to physical abuse and inappropriate sexual actions.
If you're concerned about conflicts within the assisted living setting, talk to your loved one. Help them to work on conflict-resolution skills such as clear communication and listening to what others are saying. You can also speak with the staff and ask what their conflict-resolution policies are. If the assisted living community has social services or mental health professionals on staff (or professionals that visit regularly), ask about receiving conflict management and resolution help or tutoring from them.
While you shouldn't expect your loved one to engage in regular conflicts, knowing what to do in the event of one can turn a negative situation into a valuable learning opportunity.
Likewise, if you're worried that your loved one won't make friends in their new home, talk to the staff. Valuable social opportunities (such as organized classes and special activities) may be available that the residents can participate in.
Is your loved one ready to move into an assisted living setting? Contact Haven Homes Assisted Living of Stow for more information.