As people age, the community around them becomes more and more important in their lives. Watch this lesson to find out about the importance of a social convoy in late life, as well as the housing options available for seniors.
April is worried about her mother Lorraine. Lorraine is in her 80s, and April isn't sure that Lorraine can handle living on her own anymore. Sometimes, Lorraine forgets things, and April worries that one day she'll leave the stove on. Lorraine also isn't as mobile as she used to be, and April wonders what would happen if Lorraine fell and hurt herself while home alone.
Lorraine is in late adulthood, or the time of life after age 65. During that time, many people begin to evaluate their life and living situation. The people around them (family, friends, neighbors and spouses or partners) become an even more central part of many people's lives. Let's look closer at the social context of aging, including the social convoy and senior housing options.
April might be worried about Lorraine, but Lorraine herself isn't worried. She's got lots of people around her: her neighbors, her friends and April. She tells her daughter that it's rare that she goes a full day without seeing someone.
A social convoy is made up of the group of people who go through life with us. These can be friends, family, a spouse or partner, a neighbor or a number of other people. A person's social convoy changes during their life, as people drift apart or pass away. For example, Lorraine's husband Charlie was a part of her social convoy until he died a few years ago.
The social convoy becomes even more important in late adulthood for two reasons. First, people have more time to socialize. When they were younger, most people were busy with work and family. But as they age, they retire and their family grows up, so they are free to be around friends and family more. Lorraine, for example, meets some of her girlfriends for lunch twice a week, something they never would have had time to do when they were younger!
The second reason that the social convoy becomes important in late life is that people come to depend on others more as they age. Lorraine needs help with some tasks that she physically can't do anymore, like changing light bulbs. She also needs the social support offered by her social convoy.
Social support is important at all ages. It reduces stress, which has a positive effect on a person's physical health and psychological well-being. Whether you are three or ninety-three, that's important! But in older adults, who might face more physical challenges and psychological issues relating to the end of life, social support is especially important.
Senior Housing Options
Lorraine has a lot of social support from her social convoy, but is it enough? April still worries that perhaps it's time to change Lorraine's living situation. But she's not really sure what options she has.
There are essentially five types of housing options for people in late adulthood.
1. Aging in place
This is what Lorraine is doing now: staying where she is and continuing her life. There are many benefits to aging in place, including the fact that it tends to offer a psychological boost and help people feel young and autonomous. But, as April has noticed, not everyone is cut out for aging in place, and sometimes people need a little extra help.
2. Independent living
Independent living is housing designed for seniors. Sometimes independent living facilities are called retirement communities or senior housing. Essentially, it is a community of houses or apartments that are only available to seniors. Sometimes there's a clubhouse or community center where people can socialize, and some places offer services for seniors. This might be a good idea for Lorraine because she can keep her freedom but still have a tight-knit community around her.
3. Assisted living
Assisted living, also called congregate care or residential care, is a senior living facility that has the added bonus of having staff to help with some activities of daily living, like dealing with medications. Residents of assisted living communities give up a little bit of their freedom in order to have some help, and it is good for people who need support on a daily basis but who are still able to manage most of their lives okay. Lorraine might consider this an option as well since she can get help with things like changing light bulbs and remembering her medicine but still be able to run her own life.
4. Nursing home
When a person needs a lot of support, particularly medical support but doesn't need to be in a hospital, a nursing home is often the best option. In these facilities, medical staff oversees all aspects of a person's life. Nursing home residents have the least freedom but also the most support. Lorraine doesn't need a nursing home because she's still relatively healthy. But one of her friends with Alzheimer's disease had to move to a nursing home last year.
5. Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
CCRC's are special communities that provide independent living, assisted living and nursing home care in one location. In that way, as people age, they can move from one type of home to another without having to make a big move from a completely different location. CCRC's are good for people, like Lorraine, who are healthy now but might need a higher level of care in the future.
Late adulthood is the time of life after age 65. During that time, a person's social convoy becomes an important source of social support and help to them. In addition, many people in late adulthood find that they need to make changes in where they live. Senior housing options include aging in place, independent living, assisted living, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities.
When this lesson is done, you should be able to:
- Explain social changes in late adulthood
- Describe the different types of support available in the social convoy
- Tell about various housing options available to seniors