Dad is 88 and contemplating the next step which eventually will be moving out of his home of 50 years (he is by himself) to another place, And that might well be assisted living. He has driven and visited his friend at her assisted living facility. He said they get up in the morning, eat, go to an activity, then go to lunch, then go to an activity, then eat, then go to an evening movie, then they sleep. Then they get up and do it all over again. He said to me, do you call this LIVING? This with the implication that it was not 'living'. I had to scramble to respond to him. He is very very independent. I said it would be up to him to make friends, decide what activities he would or would not do. In addition he could have his friends pick him up and drive him to other activities. He could take a taxi to events. He could email and use the phone to connect. He could use the internet.

But that was the best I could come up with. Yes, at 88 there would be RESTRICTIONS, and you need to live within those restrictions, it would not be like the way it was at 50 years of age.

Do you have any advice on how to respond to my dad about living in such an assisted living community and how he could still feel independent and 'alive'?

D. Varga

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I'll offer some support rather for the concept of why AL or IL isn't the same as being in one's own home, so perhaps some insight can be gained why someone makes the statement your father has made.

My father has always been active and still goes out to his workshop even if he can only work for a short time. He walks down to the lake, stopping to visit younger neighbors, some of whom invite him for dinner or bring him food after they become acquainted. He walks to the house of a neighbor who's always doing some remodeling or building, and offers advice on his experiences, particularly since he owned that house before it was eventually sold. He visits with other neighbors who have young children.

He's in a community with a range of families from those just starting out to others in their 70's. He's not with people his age all day, nor does he want to be. He wants to know families who represent the future. He doesn't want to be with older people, especially ones who are focused on their ill health.

If he were in AL or IL he'd have no workshop to go to, no neighbors who've lived in the area for decades to visit, no young children to greet, no remodeling projects on which to advise. He couldn't go to his workshop and rearrange his tools or start a new project.

He plans his own activities and will never ever be able to finish everything he plans. BUT, and this is the major factor, he can still plan. In AL or IL there would be no need to plan unless he finds a place that has a woodshop. They don't offer the same hope that many people need.

I have a friend who feels the same way, as do my cousin and I. If we can't do the things we want, and that means what WE want, not planned activities, then what's the point of trying to adapt to an environment we know we'd hate?
Helpful Answer (8)

GardenArtist, you have so beautifully summed up what I was trying to say in my prev post :~)
Davidas ~ I think your Father was very brave to ask you that question, hard though it is.
There comes a point in time for some people when "life" is no longer living, but merely existing through the days.
To the outside world the perception is that all is well. We have food & shelter, we're looked after medically and we are with people who are in the same boat. What could be better for us? Ask our caring loved ones, desperate to keep us here and wanting us to be happy.
The slogan of a local Children's Hospice sums it up for me "What is important is not the days in our life, but the life in our days."
It must be the quality of our days, not the quantity that counts. It's hard (on both sides) to say goodbye to loved ones. But it's hard to, to exist where once you lived.
Before people misunderstand and think I'm against AL or IL I'm absolutely not. They have their place and thank goodness for them. But the same shoe does not fit every foot no matter the style.
To all who are faced with this kind of decision from either side you have my understanding and my empathy.
I am trying to find the right place for my BIL at the same time knowing my own days of independent living in my own home with my 4 adorable/adored cats is very limited and at 58 I could have a long time yet of filling in the days.
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You've gotten a lot of good advice here. I don’t have much to add, but feel compelled to say something because I currently care for my 91-year-old Dad with severe dementia. I brought him to my home just over a year ago when he could no longer live alone and home aides could no longer cope. We had to hide the car keys around the age of 88 but by then we had already removed all of the “reasons” for him to need to drive, so he didn’t even notice. My Mom is no longer alive but I have a vivid recollection of when she wanted to move into 55+ living decades ago and all my Dad would say after visiting a site was, “That’s the nicest nursing home I’ve ever seen!” so I get where your Dad is coming from!

You are blessed to have your Dad still able to recognize the limitations of growing older as evidenced by those around him. But he sounds vibrant, mobile and alert and there are many people with good genes like his who live several years longer at a relatively high level of functioning, so I understand him not wanting to “give in” to the more sedentary lifestyle he finds in senior living. The good news is that senior living is not a nursing home—for that he can be thankful and a friendly reminder of the difference may be warranted.

Regardless, it sounds like you and your sister live somewhat nearby to your father. Nice. If I were in your position, my sister and I would sit down with your Dad at his home, arranged by explaining you’ve been thinking more about what he meant when he said, “Do you call this living?” and you want to talk about it. While there, get out a piece of paper and tell him you want to hear what it is he’d like to be able to do in the next 10 years so he would feel like he was “living”. Tell him you’re going to sit with him for however long it takes to hear what he would like to say about what it means to be truly “living”. After he brainstorms (you can put on his favorite music softly in the background!) and you write down (i.e. acknowledge) all of that, start a 2nd sheet of paper and ask him, “What do you think you’ll need help with over the next 10 years in order to live the way you want to live out the rest of your life?” and write out those points. If he asks why you are writing everything down you'll tell him "because what he is saying is really important to you and you don't want to forget anything he tells you." Next sheet of paper: “What can Sis and I do to help you live the way you want to live for the next 10 years?” Next question doesn’t need paper: “If you could live anywhere, can you say where it is you would you want to live?” If the answer is no, I would say “Where should we start looking together?” If his answer is yes and he tells you where he wants to live, pull out sheet #2 (what he would need help with) and re-visit point by point whether where it is he would like to live will also provide the items on sheet #2 (Meals on Wheels or on-site restaurant? Home Aides or alternative?) and if not, talk through how to solve those issues.

The goal here is to get your Dad to verbalize everything that’s spinning around in his head at this pivotal stage of his life, get it all out on paper, and provide some foundation and point of reference for moving forward. The fact that he can still think through these issues is a treasure, and you will cherish your role in partnering with him at this time in his life.
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You answered him perfectly. It will be up to him to make a new life for himself if he is as independent as you say and wants to remain that way.... perfect answer.
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What is it he does at home that he feels he would have to give up in assistive living? "They get up in the morning, eat, go to an activity, then go to lunch, then go to an activity, then eat, then go to an evening movie, then they sleep" sounds like a pretty typical day for many retired people, in fact most living independently don't even get to have the afternoon activity!
I would compare assistive living to a buffet, there is house keeping, meals, laundry service, social contact and group activities and more if he chooses to take advantage of them. But if he lets staff know his preferences he can still veg in his room or sleep until noon if that is his style. Often they can keep a little fridge in the room for beverages, snacks and light meals, and when he wants to spend a night out on the town all he needs to do is let someone know so they won't be worried about him. And someone WILL be worried about him if he breaks his normal routines, that is one of the advantages!
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In the book (On Being Mortal) a woman asks her dad what he always wants to be able to do, or it wouldn't be worth living. He replies he wants to be able to eat ice cream and watch football on TV. Not, admittedly, that not a full active life. But she wanted to know, if there were a choice that SHE ever had to make for him, what his bottom line was. It turned out that it was very useful information when his surgery took an unexpected turn.

These are hard coversations to have. Wishing you well.
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When we age, our chidren tend to make us feel like their years of hard work has ended in being baby sat. Tell him you support him and drop it. I do know how you feel- but allow him to age with grace until he is not able. Love him, vidit, take him meals- and when its time you will know.
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Thank you all for your thoughtful input. I could see how I would feel and thus how he would feel. I will not even subtly try to persuade him to move, but support him. IL and AL will come up in conversation, but I will let it drop when he lets it drop. He is very smart and will contemplate changes himself and should not be prompted by others. Yes he has been very involved in the community and still is involved in two volunteer areas. And he needs to putter around his garden and walk to his neighbors. And get in his car and see various people. Loss of driving the car will be a huge one for him. Also I read the summary of On Being Mortal and the idea of moving into a facility that might be his 'last could would be quite terrifying'. And to be aware that our need to have them safe could be in opposition to their need for autonomy. In contemplating this about my dad, I am also contemplating my own situation, just further down the road for me. Thank you GardenArtist, BabaLou, Nana2Nany, and LucyCW!
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D, your profile doesn't say anything about your dad's impairments. If he doesn't need CARE or ASSISTANCE, perhaps he would be better off in Independent Living or even a Senior Apartment. I would try to analyze what his actual needs are before making a move.

When we realized that my mom couldn't live alone anymore, we thought that AL (assisted living ) was the answer. It was more than mom needed at the time, and the wrong kind of assistance.

Does your dad need assistance in remembering to take his meds( AL can assist with this), help with showering (again, AL). Or does he just need to be somewhere where there are folks around for socialization, meals prepared and served?

What restrictions is he chafing at? ALs are not prisons and in most of them, one can come and go as they please. What is it that would make it "living" in your dad's eyes?
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Dave, I'm curious why you OR your father thinks that it's your job to come up with these answers. That's just something for you to chew on.

Can your dad pinpoint for himself what would be missing from his life if he moved to a Senior Community?

I would also suggest a book for you both. On Being Motsl, by Atul Gawande.
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