Amenities gone wild
Now and then, I agree to leave my safe, dark hole under the porch and interact face-to-face with actual residents of actual long-term care communities. I did this yesterday, wandering freely through an independent and assisted living campus seemingly inhabited and staffed by levelheaded people who were very glad to be there.
One couple I talked to are in their mid-70s, and moved in expressly to rid themselves of the responsibilities of maintaining a home and property. These are not people driven by necessity and the need for care — after all, he golfs 18 holes a day, walking. They simply made a choice, and are loving the quality of life it made possible. I finally had to go home for the night, but for all I know, they're still sitting in front of the in-house theater, next to the ice-cream parlor, just upstairs from the bank, fitness room, pool and restaurant, gushing about their favorite amenities.
To continue the tirade from my recent Dependence Day blog, they're poster seniors for what I consider true independence — the willingness to swim upstream against the disproportionate value society places on blind self-sufficiency. When told of their decision to radically downsize to a retirement community, friends were shocked, concerned and baffled — and said so, sometimes vehemently. But this couple held firm, selfishly and irrationally choosing personal happiness over concern about what people would think.
The prevailing bias against what I call strategic dependence is largely generational, in my humble opinion, and the tide is turning. Many people I know of my fringe-boomer vintage would love to kiss their domestic responsibilities good-bye and move into a retirement community like this as soon as possible. Like right now. Like where do we sign? I'm not afraid of losing my independence, but I'm scared to death I might not be able to do it soon enough to really enjoy it.
The executive director of the campus I visited calls this kind of living “independence with choices,” and I like the sound of that. It's a welcome inversion of language that puts personal values first, and the setting decidedly second. By ramping up the marketing of attributes like safety, convenience, amenities and service, providers are changing the mind-set, fighting the stigma and investing in a bright economic future. A future with my name on the waiting list.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, who cobbles these pieces together from his secret lair somewhere near the scenic, wine-soaked hamlet of Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.