By Roger A. Stevens
What would you say to a retired couple in your church if they told you that they were considering moving to a beautiful and affordable home, with wonderful and interesting neighbors and friends? What would you think when they described the quality restaurants within walking distance and daily opportunities to learn new things, participate in hobbies and activities and go to new places? What if you knew that moving to such a place could help them stay as physically fit as they are able and have access to nearby high quality health care if needed? And how would you feel when they assured you that if they outlived their money and could not pay part or all of their bills, there were reliable resources to help out?
Sound like heaven on earth? Sound too good to be true? It’s not too good to be true; it’s a mission of your church!
What is this place?
This is the place that so many people have concluded that they don’t want to go: a senior living community. Today’s communities are not what you are thinking of – the “old folks’ home” of yesteryear. Rather they are designed for a range of lifestyle opportunities with a high priority on choice and personalized options.
Jack and Evelyn (not their real names) lived in the home that Jack’s father had built. They had lived there for decades and did not want to move, but they were aging and becoming more isolated. Some of their friends had died, they didn’t get out much and their children and grandchildren did not live as close as they once had. One day, some friends invited Jack and Evelyn over for lunch and a visit to the senior living community into which they had recently moved. Jack and Evelyn were very impressed. Their friends spoke glowingly of their experience and the Christian atmosphere, and said unequivocally that they wished they had moved sooner.
Jack and Evelyn began to explore their options. Deciding if and when they might move to a senior living community took considerable research and thought. They wanted a place that would work for them today, but would also meet their future needs. They soon discovered that they had a lot of choices. They could choose the type of residence, from high-rise and garden apartments to villas and single-family homes; size of residence, from studio apartments to three-bedroom single-family homes; location, whether it be waterfront, forest view, sweeping plains or secluded in suburban gardens. Best of all, the couple could personalize their lifestyle to make an active and satisfying life. Did they want to cook or include the community’s restaurant-style dining in their monthly fee? Would they like to have the community take care of housekeeping? There were still other choices to consider.
Next, they explored the cost to live in the community and were surprised at how affordable it was – and a great value, compared to staying in their family home, after accounting for what was included, including taxes, some utilities, maintenance and lawn care. So they decided to move in, and were provided with assistance in packing, moving and staging their home for sale. They were even given the names of three realtors who were experts at selling homes in their area.
Before they knew it, Jack and Evelyn’s family home had sold – but they quickly found that they had a new home, with great friends and a wonderful life. They, too, joined the chorus of other residents saying they wished they had moved in many years earlier.
What are the options in senior living today?
Older adults have many living options, and honoring their freedom to choose is vitally important to reputable senior housing providers. Senior living communities offer an array of amenities and services including restaurant-style dining and options such as a specialty café, arts and crafts studio, library, pool, fitness center, theater, computer center, beauty salon and barber shop, banking and health care services. Senior communities differ in many ways – from their location and setting to their residents and social environment.
Among the living options most frequently offered are:
A private apartment, townhome or single home, within a community of seniors, provides versatility and freedom in a maintenance-free environment. Monthly payments in this rental arrangement cover rent and some utilities, but not personal care services. Housekeeping may be available for an additional fee. Dining services may also be available on a meal-plan option or pay-as-you-go.
Affordable and/or subsidized housing may be available for seniors, such as Jack, who qualify. Jack retired from the Navy and had some money, but not a lot. A lifelong Presbyterian, he found a great apartment right on the water through his church in the Florida community where he retired. The community’s bus takes him to church each Sunday morning.
This is an apartment, suite or room for an older adult who needs additional support for daily living. Monthly payments include rent and services with an amount determined by the apartment size and the level of care designated. This option provides assistance with such activities as getting dressed, personal hygiene, medications, transportation, meals and housekeeping in an engaging environment with regular social, recreational activities. Specialized staff and programming designed for those with memory loss may also be available.
Care center/Skilled nursing
This designation refers to private and semi-private suites with 24-hour nursing care and supportive services. Care centers are often designed in “household” environments where residents determine their daily schedules, activities and dining preferences. Whether long-term or short-term care is needed, a care center offers a full array of personal, dietary, therapeutic, social and recreational services. Long-term care costs include rent and the level of care received. State-based medical assistance may be available to cover long-term care expenses for persons who have outlived their financial resources.
Short-term care, which is often covered by Medicare or private health insurance, may be an older adult’s first experience in a senior living community. Linda fell at home and broke her hip. She was taken to the hospital where she had surgery. When it came time for discharge, she was discharged for a short-term inpatient stay in a care center for rehabilitation. Her pastor suggested the high-quality Presbyterian rehabilitation center just blocks from the church. Her pastor and church friends were able to visit her regularly.
Continuum of care retirement communities
Offering the options already covered and more, continuum of care communities (also known as continuing care communities) are attractive to healthy older adults because of the social environment and programs they provide along with the assurance of higher levels of care when it’s needed without having to relocate outside the community. An entrance deposit may be required, which can also serve as a financial resource for future needs.
Home and community services
Valuable support is available to older adults and their families that can help maintain independence. These include, but are not limited to: in-home health and personal care, therapies, homemaker and companion services, home-delivered meals, hospice, adult day-care, senior activity centers and transportation. Medicare or private insurance covers most health care services. For persons on limited income, state-based “elderly waiver” programs may be available to fund home- and community-based services for people age 65 and older who are eligible for medical assistance and require the level of care provided in a nursing home but choose to reside in the community. These services can help older adults remain in their homes, while those who choose to live in senior independent housing can access these services as an option to higher care housing and services.
The faith-based, nonprofit difference
A faith-based, nonprofit community differs from a for-profit provider in significant ways. For-profit providers are accountable first to shareholders and revenues earned over expenses are distributed as dividends. Nonprofit providers are driven by mission rather than profit. Nonprofit providers reinvest their revenues into their organizations for the benefit of residents. Faith-based organizations, many of which share a history and heritage with the Presbyterian Church, understand their service as ministry and cultivate Christian values in daily life. Most offer spiritual care programs led by staff chaplains who personally tend to the residents as their “flock.” However, regardless of their religious affiliation, faith-based organizations welcome older adults of all faith backgrounds (and those who may have no religious practice at all).
Presbyterian Association of Homes & Services for the Aging (PAHSA)
Jack and Evelyn found a new, wonderful and secure life in a Presbyterian-related active living community for older adults through the help of friends. But they just as easily could have found out more about the option of an active-living community, or any of the other options for senior living, through PAHSA’s website.
PAHSA is an independent, not-for-profit association representing organizations that provide residential communities, health care and services for older adults. Its mission is to provide and encourage networking and educational opportunities among its members, and to promote the ministries of its members.
Through service, programs and activities, PAHSA communities strive to exemplify the values of the Christian tradition and fulfill residents’ physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual needs by offering a comprehensive continuum of care, so that they may experience the fullest life their health will allow.
Pastors and church leaders can be ready to support their older adult members by becoming familiar with senior living options in their communities or in regions of the United States that a senior is considering. PAHSA offers a national directory of senior housing and services providers that have Presbyterian heritage and connections.
ROGER A. STEVENS is the CEO of Westminster Communities of Florida, based in Orlando. Roger serves on the board of directors of PAHSA, of which Westminster Communities is a member.