Utah seniors calling assisted-living facilities home

by Gillian King

Individuals who live in assisted-living facilities may very well be lost without them. According to Brett Burns, executive director of the Wellington Senior Residence, people most commonly enter an assisted-living facility when they are in need of more interaction, activities and care than they are otherwise receiving. At what age this occurs is different for everyone, but at the Wellington the average age of the residents is about 84 years old.

Senior citizens living in assisted-living facilities are able to engage in activities with friends who also live there. This gives them the much-needed interaction that can sometimes be lacking when seniors live alone, or with family members who may have other obligations to tend to.

“The fountain of youth is being active, both mentally and physically,” said Scott Wright, the director of the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Utah.

Assisted-living facilities can be seen as places that deter getting old, instead of places where people go once they are already old. According to Burns, keeping their bodies fit and their minds sharp with the available activities can keep the residents of assisted-living facilities feeling more youthful longer.

The care provided at an assisted-living facility goes beyond the bonds of friendship and delves into life’s necessities. Residents are helped with tasks such as medication monitoring, meal preparation and bathing.

“The bathroom is really just a bad place for older adults,” Wright said.

A decrease in mobility translates to an increased risk of slipping or falling. Fear of injury convinces many seniors to look at assisted-living facilities as an option. With the additional care that such a facility is able to provide, Burns said the risk of accidents is reduced considerably as compared to living at home.

Many facilities, such as the Wellington, provide the benefit of having balanced, nutritional meals made for residents three times a day. Burns said this gives them the essential nutrition they may otherwise be lacking due to inability to provide it for themselves.

As people age it may become increasingly difficult to care for the yard and home. Also, many seniors have reported feeling less safe in their homes as they age.

“Older adults have the highest fear of crime of any age group,” Wright said.

Taking this into consideration, it is understandable why more seniors are turning to options such as assisted-living facilities, even though Wright said the chance of a senior citizen actually being a victim of a crime is quite low.

Safety and peace of mind come with a price tag, however. Burns said cost is the No. 1 reason why people choose to not live in an assisted-living center.

“If your nest egg isn’t huge it can be difficult. On average it can cost $2,000 to $3,000 per month,” he said.

Wright said being able to live in your own home for as long as possible is what the aging community collectively aims for. However, there comes a point where it may no longer be an option. Even living with family members becomes less possible over time, because the care a person needs exceeds the abilities of the family and the time it can provide.

Individuals may also need more social interaction and activities than what they receive at the home of their family.

Putting a family member in an assisted-living facility may not always be the first route people choose, but it often ends up being worth considering.

Wright said people will generally care for an older adult longer than they will their own children.

But, there comes a time when they must make decisions about living arrangements. Burns said the Wellington sees anywhere from two to five new residents each month.