Independent living communities are geared towards older adults who can't live safely on their own, or who need help with day-to-day tasks such as light housekeeping and meal preparation.
These residences come in a variety of sizes, shapes and price points. Some follow the traditional model of senior housing of an apartment-style building with centralized services, while others take a less traditional approach. Here are several types innovative independent living communities designed to cater to the specific needs and interests of aging adults:
Learning as a lifelong process: Learning new things and keeping the brain active as one ages can play a pivotal role in preventing certain kinds of cognitive decline, according to several studies. It's unsurprising, therefore, that a growing trend in the independent living arena are communities that offer college-level courses for seniors who don't want to stop learning. Some bring in professors to instruct residents in everything from public policy to physics, while others, like Lasell Village, a senior housing community in Newton, Massachusetts, are inserted directly onto college campuses. Seniors living in Lasell are required to participate in at least 450 hours of activities each year. Acceptable activities include: taking courses at Lasell or another academic institution, independent study, physical fitness programs and mentoring Lasell College students. "American Revolutions and Revolutionary Thought," "Lovers of Literature," and "Our Foreparents, Ourselves: Facing Life's Difficult Challenges and Finding Renewal" are just a few of the courses offered at the college.
Nurturing an elder's inner artist: Art has immense therapeutic value for individuals of all ages. But, unleashing one's inner creative can be especially beneficial for older adults who are dealing with chronic ailments and the emotional challenges that accompany aging. The number of independent living communities geared towards cultivating artistic expression in the elderly is increasing. One such community is the Burbank Senior Artists Colony in Burbank, California. A film-making studio, theater, multiple art studios, a gallery and a sculpture garden are all meant to foster the creative spirit in seniors, and much of the artwork adorning the walls of the colony was created by its residents.
Celebrating seniors' multicultural roots: Aging Americans with deep cultural ties don't need to abandon their heritage to seek the security of an independent living community. Senior housing complexes are being built to satisfy the needs of older adults who want to stay connected to their multicultural roots, but remain physically close to family and friends. ShantiNiketan and Aegis Gardens are two such communities. ShantiNiketan caters to elderly individuals of Indian descent, offering Indian cuisine options, televisions that pick up Indian channels, a prayer room for practicing Hindus and movie nights with a Bollywood theme. For aging Chinese-Americans, Aegis Gardens aims to fuse the two cultures into one with calligraphy instruction, native food options, mahjong tournaments, tai-chi classes and staff members who speak multiple Mandarin dialects.
Combining camping and care: Some decide to take to the road when it comes time to retire, selling or renting out their home and investing in an RV to drive around the country. But, being on the road makes it hard to meet the needs of a senior who requires extra assistance. The Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, Texas assists those aging adults who want to keep living in their RV, but who need some extra help. Technically labeled an adult day care facility, the center offers meals, a doctor's appointment scheduling service (complete with transportation to and from the office), a part-time nurse and a room where elderly RV-ers can gather and participate in activities and discussions.
Traveling with a waterfront view: Cruises offer older adults the opportunity to travel to multiple exotic locations in a relatively safe, efficient manner. (Some seniors, like Beatrice Muller), have taken cruising to the extreme by setting up near-permanent residence on-board.) Now, certain cruise ships are being converted into retirement communities, complete with hospitals, meal preparation services and housekeeping. These floating senior living communities may stay docked in one place for a majority of the time, or be on the move, with residents being allowed to vote on where the vessel goes. The expense of cruise ship retirement varies, but the typical financial arrangement requires an elder purchase an apartment onboard and share in the communal costs—laundry service, meal preparation, healthcare services, ship maintenance, etc. There are cons to constant cruising—small living spaces, an increased risk for contracting communicable diseases and limited access to highly-specialized healthcare—but, for aging adults in relatively good health, cruise ship living could be an option.