College Park Retirement Blog

We never grow too old to laugh, or to savor life’s little moments. The way we respond to stimuli may change through the years, but it’s always possible to find joy in the present moment. That’s why a good senior living community focuses, not only on physical health and wellness, but quality of life, too. Like author Phillip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

That’s why many retirement communities are starting to incorporate storytelling as a way to engage seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Instead of focusing on the stress of recalling facts and details that might be just out of reach, storytelling is a more expansive process that embraces the imagination. That creates an easy way for seniors to share their thoughts, feelings, sense of humor, and even distant associations, without as much pressure to fulfill expectations, social roles, and keep track of shifting memories.

One of the major benefits of assisted living is the opportunity to socialize, communicate, and avoiding the isolation and loneliness that can limit seniors quality of life. Storytelling is a great way to include memory care patients in the community and help them avoid becoming withdrawn from the stress of word acquisition and recalling names, dates, or other details.

Indianapolis dementia care activitiesThe process works like this: a trained professional, or even just an enthusiastic caregiver, can show individuals or groups pictures of people, animals, or different situations. Participants can then be invited to imagine a world around each image. What are the people in the pictures are doing? What their lives are like? A man in a business suit, for example, might be imagined to be on his way to work. Or residents might picture him on a top secret spy mission. Or headed home to his family. The possibilities are endless—as diverse as the seniors participating in the exercise.

Participants might not be able to tell you the name of their former coworkers, but they may remember how they felt about their business partner and ascribe that to the man in the photo, for example, or give him some of the same characteristics. Talking through those possibilities provides a great topic of discussion that is not only a cognitive workout, but keeps residents grounded in the present moment.

Similar storytelling exercises can incorporate music or even dance—anything that uses seniors’ natural creativity to share what they’re thinking and feeling with their friends and loved one. You could try painting or drawing what a song makes you see or feel. Or take a trip to a local museum and talk about what the people in the portraits on display are thinking about, while they were being painted. There are so many different possibilities, and such simple activities can have a surprisingly big impact on retirement home residents’ sense of agency and joy.

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

Published in Memory Care

indianapolis independent retirement livingIn this age of technology, not everyone realizes just how much has changed in the past century. But taking the time to tell stories to your younger relatives can be a great way to share history and life lessons. They can’t always be around to listen to what you have to say, but you can still share your life with them!

Writing down your life experiences is a wonderful way to connect with your family. It will give them tangible memories to hold on to and learn from when you can’t be there to talk to them. Angela Burton, a creative writing instructor who hosts the Oh! I Remember workshop for seniors, says, “The true gift is the legacy they are leaving their families… These stories would be lost forever, but by writing them down, we are capturing their whole persona before it’s too late.”

Delving into your past and writing it down can be good not only for your family, but also for you! Taking a look back and reminiscing can help improve cognitive function in seniors. It keeps your imagination active, and writing can give you a means of self-expression.

If you decide to begin writing about your life, here are a few things that might help:

  • Don’t get too bogged down with writing your whole life story. You have made so many memories over the years, and trying to write down every detail can be exhausting.
  • Instead, start small. Focus on specific events, rather than the whole, and write in short bursts, similar to writing a letter to a friend. This makes the writing process easier for you, and it will be easier for your future readers to take on as well!
  • Include family history and personal experience. Your family shaped who you were and became as you grew up. Talk about them, whether it be the time your older sister locked you out of the house, or when you and your father helped your neighbor chase a loose animal from the farm down the road, or when your family uprooted and moved across the country.
  • With personal experience, reflect on lessons you may have learned from the situation you’re sharing. Each event in your life has, to some extent, influenced who you are now. How did it affect you? What emotions do you associate with the event? Did it cause you to grow as a person? Thinking about these questions and including their answers in your writing can be a means of passing on important lessons to future generations.
  • Don’t focus solely on the dramatic events. Yes, those are important, but so are the seemingly mundane. Everyday life can be a great story all on its own. The people you saw every day for twenty years at the job you held, if you went to church every week, your elementary school years—all of these things and more have helped you become who you are now. Reading about these things allows your reader to identify with you and learn from your experiences.
  • Realize that it’s okay to write about sad memories as well as happy ones. No one has lived an absolutely perfect life, so why write down only the happy things? Sometimes our hardships are our greatest learning experiences; we often gain so much wisdom in times of trial.
  • Remember to respect the people you mention in your stories. Tell the truth, but don’t hesitate to change names if you feel uncomfortable talking about a specific person, or if they might be offended or embarrassed by the story you tell.
  • Remember that it is your story. If there are details or events that you would rather keep private, you don’t have to write about them! If you don’t want to start off talking about your childhood, then don’t. You get to decide!
  • Don’t be afraid to share your story with others, even as you write. Talking it out may spark memories of other details you may have missed before! And this gives you a way to connect with friends or family during the process!
  • If you have difficulty writing by hand or even typing, don’t hesitate to use a voice recorder or video camera to record your stories.

You never know how your life can affect the lives of others; even years after the fact, a lesson you learned can help someone else! Writing gives you a way to make that connection with future generations, and your family will cherish your stories for years to come!

Written by Chanel Bell

Published in Active Senior Living

After years of taking care of a sprawling home top to bottom, wouldn’t it be a relief to spend your time on something more fun than housework? After years of working hard to pay off your mortgage, get the latest lawn mower to keep up your yard, and repaint the place every few years, wouldn’t it be a relief to into retirement without the extra effort and expense? These are just some of the reasons than many people decide to downsize at some point during retirement. Without work and kids in the house, it can be the perfect time to create a new living situation to suit your new lifestyle!

This is the time in your life that is all about you, and how you want to spend your time. Many people pick up new hobbies and a new sense of adventure during retirement, and love the extra freedom and time on their hands. Many retirees also choose to join a retirement community so they can even further reduce the daily burden of housekeeping in exchange for more social opportunities and fun. Downsizing is a great way to save money and time for all these things.

It can be simple to start—just open a closet door. Pick a room that’s used primarily for storage of things you don’t use often—old sports equipment, guest sheets and towels, old VHS tapes, or whatever you might have piled up. Decide what you absolutely need to keep or would genuinely miss and what can go. As you go through your things room by room, keep separate boxes or bins available for each category to help you visualize your downsizing project. It would be very frustrating to move and realize you’d brought too much and have to further sort while trying to get settled!

It doesn’t need to be a stressful process. By going room to room and sticking to just a few categories to sort, you can quickly clear out your home without much hassle. As you finish sorting a room, drop the things you aren’t keeping off at charity shops, consignment stores, friends’ houses or wherever its final destination might be. Pack the rest into boxes to move. That first closet you started with can be the place you keep your boxes leading up to the move so they don’t get in your way day to day. Save the rooms with major essentials for last—rooms like the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

Be sure to set the essentials you’ll need right away in your new home aside to pack into a special box to come with you on moving day. That will be things like your pillow, toothbrush, toilet paper, sheets, a few changes of clothes, light bulbs, scissors, your medications, and anything else you can’t go a day without or will need to make moving easier. That way you won’t be regretting packing something important up or hunting through boxes as you downsize.

With a little organization a big life change can become a huge life benefit. Downsizing is exciting and can set you up to do all the things you want, and spend less time on the things you don’t. So go ahead—free yourself from the burden of the house and open yourself up to new adventures!

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Today’s retirees love an active, independent lifestyle. They may enjoy the amenities and community of a senior living facility, but they also have looked forward to a retirement full of adventure. With work, school, and kids off their plates, now is their time to travel and check items off their bucket lists. If you are one of these active, vacation-planning retirees, we have some tips to help you have the best trip possible:

· Take advantage of a freer schedule to book at slightly off-peak travel times for your destination. It can be habit to book a trip as you might have when restricted by work or the school year. You can avoid the hottest temperatures and biggest crowds this way, and even score a great deal on airfare and hotel rates

· Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts wherever you go. From train travel to restaurants to museums and more, it never hurt to inquire and offer up your ID. Organizations like AAA and AARP also offer many discounts and benefits that can get you great deals while traveling.

· If you’re concerned about speed, mobility, or simply saving your energy, do ask for assistance at the airport or train station. If you call the airline or train station ahead of time you can arrange for a wheelchair or a ride on the electric cart to ensure you reach your connections and manage your luggage.

· Find a way to make your dream trips come true. Retirement isn’t what it used to be, and neither are today’s independent, active retirees. You don’t have to take a cruise or a stay at a golf resort if that isn’t your style. There are more options than ever for those who want to go to Europe, explore Mother Nature in Australia, or jet set in a big city. Be true to yourself whether you crave a beach vacation or a hanggliding package—or both!

· Plan some downtime in between big parts of your day. You want to enjoy as much as possible, so give yourself time to rest and recover for the next item on your itinerary!

Don’t let your age or assumptions about retirement hold you back from the trips you’ve dreamed of for yours! When you have a quality retirement housing to return to and a wonderful adventure to look forward to, you really have it all!

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 11:43

Active Aging Week and Growing Old Gracefully

continuning care retirement communityDid you know that September 22nd to the 28th is Active Aging Week? It’s a time to celebrate the valuable role seniors play in their community, whether it’s a retirement community, a civic community, a cultural community, or a spiritual community. No matter what kind of community you’re a part of, it’s sure to keep you young. There nothing better for aging well than living well, and fully participating in the diversity of life.

Being an active participant in your communities isn’t something new—after all, you may have had a career, or been a parent, or gone to church for years before retirement. One of the challenges and rewards of growing older is to both maintain the communities you’ve been a part of and seek new ones out.

Your retirement community, for example, is a new one you might join, or you may finally have time to get involved in a new club or volunteering for an organization or joining in an activity you’ve always wanted to try. It could be as simple as forming a weekly bridge group or a group that enjoys walking for fitness together.

Active aging isn’t only about the exercise that can benefit you physically and help you stay more comfortable and healthy as you grow older. It’s also about being an active participant in the world around you. Stay positive and excited about everything you get to see and do and you just might find yourself feeling like a little kid again—wide eyed at the possibilities!

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:35

Managing Memory Care During the Holiday Season

Indianapolis memory care communitiesThe holidays can be a wonderful time to enjoy a special season with loved ones, but they can also highlight when an older loved one is struggling with memory or everyday tasks.  Winter can be especially hard on those coping with memory loss or other health issues. To help make the season merry and bright, we have a few tips for helping you senior have a wonderful holiday.

Especially if you loved one will be staying with you for a visit, plan ahead to accommodate any mobility limitations or health needs they might have. Adjust furniture placement or remove slippery rugs, for example, to prevent sudden accidents or trouble moving wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen canisters about, or simply to help your senior have the greatest ease of movement.

Many seniors, especially those with memory challenges, need something to look forward to. Although the freedom and leisure of retirement sounds wonderful to those who are still working, it can be overwhelming for some elderly people. Make sure there are several small activities woven into your holiday celebrations that your loved one can help with, such as making dinner, or an outing to see the Christmas lights in a nearby neighborhood. Bring these up ahead of time so your loved one can have the fun of anticipation.

Make sure to build in a mix of quality time and boisterous family time throughout your celebrations, so your loved one doesn’t feel lonely but also doesn’t get too stressed out. Try to anticipate when they will tire or need time to rest, and schedule some special time just the two of you. That’s one of the best holiday gifts you can give—a real sense of connection and attention that can keep depression and stress at bay.

By planning ahead before the holidays are in full swing, you can make you’re your elderly loved one has the best possible time, and help him or her stay healthy and happy. Especially if you are concerned about your senior’s mental health, this is a great time to monitor his or her behavior and consider if they might need a greater level of care, such as joining a retirement community, or going to the next level of service such as assisted living or memory care. This, too, is a wonderful gift to give someone you care about.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

Indianapolis retirement communityIt can be one of the biggest choices in your life to decide you are ready to move to a retirement community. It’s right up there with other big moments like choosing a university or buying a home or choosing a school for your child. After all, when you make the decision to move into senior housing, you’re making a proactive choice to ensure your medical, financial, and emotional health will be taken care of in your golden years. All too often seniors are robbed of that proactive moment by waiting until there is an emergency for them to pick a retirement community or seek out assisted living. However, by planning ahead now, you can make the decision easier whenever you are ready to make your move.

No matter how good your health might be right now, it’s always important to plan ahead for the unexpected. Unlike in years past, when nursing homes were only for those who were very ill and frail, retirement communities are suitable for all stages of aging and provide services that you can enjoy from early retirement throughout your golden years. If you are considering a retirement community now and are still quite mobile and independent, it still doesn’t hurt to look at facilities that can age with you should you need a greater level of care in the future.

It’s also important to plan ahead wisely so that you won’t have to “downgrade” later to a less desirable community should your health or finances change. Just as you talked to an accountant or investment strategist prior to retirement to ensure you had a financial plan for after you stopped working, you might want to check in before this next big step. You may need to sell your house, rearrange some investments to suit changes in the market, and otherwise fine tune your accounts to accommodate your new lifestyle.

By educating yourself now about the options, you’ll be able to make the best possible decision for yourself when you’re ready. Whether you arrive at that moment at your own pace or after a bout of illness, you won’t have to make a rushed decision when everything feels up in the air. Going over all the factors now also gives you the opportunity to talk to friends and family about it, prepare yourself both financially and emotionally, and truly meet this new phase of your life on your own terms. Choosing a retirement community is at its best about choosing what is best for yourself. By preparing ahead of time, you can be sure that you are greeting that choice with open arms.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

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