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Quality of life increasingly important in eldercare

‘The days of just putting someone in front of a TV are over’

Rochester is home to more than 21,000 seniors, and those individuals have multiple choices when it comes to living facilities.

Whether they choose independent living, assisted living, memory care or any of the other types of facilities available here, seniors likely will pay less for their housing than the national average, and their overall quality of life will be better, a new report from shows.

The latter point is significant because quality of life issues are becoming an increasingly important component of the senior living equation. It’s not just a question of where you live, but how you live—and what gives your life meaning.

Ranked second statewide and fourth nationally in terms of senior living and housing quality, Rochester’s senior population is privy to a low cost of living, a friendly community and health and wellness options that rival those available in a number of much larger cities.

But perhaps most important is how those senior living facilities are making strides to help Rochester’s elderly population find a sense of purpose.

Sue Webb

Sue Webb

“Living a purposeful life is what is important to all of us. It’s a universal need and it doesn’t go away when people become seniors and move into assisted living facilities,” says Sue Webb, executive director of Henrietta’s Brentland Woods, an assisted living community that is part of Episcopal SeniorLife Communities.

In fact, Webb adds, it may be more important for our elderly population to have purpose because of the numerous losses—from the loss of a home to family members to independence—they experience upon moving to a facility, as well as the experience of requiring more support and help on their journey.

“So finding or having that purpose within an assisted living facility is crucial in order to have that really good mind/body/spirit and be successful,” Webb says.

Brentland Woods has an active recreation program that connects residents with the community, whether through programs and volunteering in the community, lunches, scenic rides and other events, or bringing community members into the home for learning and volunteering opportunities.

ESLC is piloting a Virtual Senior Center, which will stream events at one of its facilities throughout each of the other facilities so that seniors can participate in events virtually.

Beading for Hope and Stitching and Knitting are popular philanthropic opportunities in which residents make jewelry and blankets for charity. An external neighborhood program connects residents with individuals living outside Brentland Woods via yoga, art classes and more.

Volunteering is a big part of keeping seniors busy and engaged. A resident ambassador program enlists the help of current residents in welcoming new residents to the facility. And some resident volunteers help hire the ESLC staff, Webb notes.

“They’re part of our interviewing group and they’ve been trained in recruitment,” she explains.

Seabury Woods assisted living and patio homes, another of ESLC’s properties, operates in the same way.

“It is a family community feel,” says Anne Rosati-Hooper, Seabury Woods’ executive director. “Our people who live independently take care of each other in their patio homes and they also will come on board with the trips and form that socialization, those relationships. They encourage each other.”

Each year Seabury Woods bestows a Good Neighbor Award on resident volunteers, who offer their time and experience both inside and outside the residence. Seabury Woods also holds a block party annually that features food, bands, clowns, an ice cream truck and neighbors outside the homes. This year’s block party had more than 400 outside guests mingling with residents of the patio homes and assisted living facility.

“We really work on a holistic approach, not just housing and food, but also looking at psycho-social, emotion and health,” Rosati-Hooper says of the organization’s efforts to give its residents a sense of purpose.

Ashley Daggett

Ashley Daggett

St. John’s Home, a St. John’s community, offers similar opportunities for residents to enjoy a more purposeful life, says Ashley Daggett, the home’s rehabilitation administrator.

“One of the ways we provide purpose is really digging deep into what makes (residents) tick,” Daggett says. “Sometimes that’s extremely obvious and sometimes it’s not.”

The agency uses a social history to determine a resident’s likes and dislikes, enabling them to provide things that would contribute to the natural rhythm of the day. All of that is individualized, she says.

“If someone really likes to do housework, we have sets of towels and washcloths that they’re able to fold and put away for us. We have some people that like to set the dining room tables for the next meal,” Daggett explains. “We see a lot better outcomes from it. We see a lot happier folks, and the days of just putting someone in front of a TV are over.”

And despite a robust recreation calendar, Daggett says activities of everyday living often remind residents of living in their own home, adding to their sense of purpose.

“I think it’s important to realize that our natural instinct as caregivers is to do for someone. Taking a step back and really thinking about allowing them to do it and encouraging them to do things they love for themselves provides them more purpose,” she says. “This comes with a lot of thought because naturally caregivers are doers. But I think it’s really important to take a step back and allow people to do what provides them joy.”

Anne Rosati-Hooper

Anne Rosati-Hooper

Adds Rosati-Hooper: “One of the most important things we see every day is a sense of loss among the residents and the families. So it’s critical that we can help them feel part of a family, but also give them that sense of purpose. That qualify of life is so important to not just the residents but their families. Because the families that come here are also going through the crisis of mom and dad are getting older and how are we going to take care of them?”

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