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August 27, 2013

Senior living has plenty to offer

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

Far from the institutional feel of nursing homes, senior living complexes offer a place to socialize with friends, pursue hobbies and enjoy living without chores, all while giving family members peace of mind, according to local administrators.

The goal of senior living is to keep its residents as independent and safe as they can be, for as long as possible, said Suzanne Brasseur, administrator at Maple Village, an independent and assisted living facility in Bloomfield Hills.

“It’s a small community where everyone knows each other, and yet you’re independent and you don’t have to know everybody,” she said. “Why not come when you still have your health, and you can still manage to participate in all the activities?”

Brasseur emphasized that Maple Village and communities like it are not “old folks homes” but are rather for retired individuals who just don’t want to cook, clean and take care of outdoor maintenance any longer.

“You can be as busy as you want to be or you can be as introverted as you want to be,” she said.

Two meals a day are provided at the center, and there is free transportation, so residents can avoid driving in inclement weather. The center also offers medicine management to help its residents keep track of what should be taken when.

“It’s not cheap to live here, but if you start adding up what it costs to have your lawn done and your snow done and your utilities,” she said it could be worth it, explaining that utilities, basic cable and the meals are all included in the price at Maple Village.

The reason for moving to a senior living facility is different for everyone, said Anne Lahey, director of ShorePointe Village in St. Clair Shores, but residents should think about it if they don’t still want to cook for themselves, clean for themselves and continue to do all the shopping and maintenance a home requires. Safety concerns are also a good reason, she said.

“There’s people out there that prey on older adults. Certainly, (there are) safety issues around using appliances when older adults’ sensory is changing — their vision, their hearing, their sense of touch, their strength in and of itself,” she said.

Lahey said older adults may also see their social network diminishing as they lose friends and neighbors. That can lead to isolation and a growing uncertainty with their own social abilities.

Living in a senior facility, on the other hand, gives residents the opportunity to socialize as much as they wish.

“Your life doesn’t have to change,” she said. “By virtue of being in a community where there’s like individuals at similar stages of life, (there are) opportunities to forge new friendships.

“It’s amazing to me how fiercely people hang on to that sense of independence when, in reality, they’re crippling that independence by shutting themselves off from the world.”

At Maple Village, all residents wear emergency response bracelets and so don’t have to worry if something happens in the middle of the night. Because of the 18-unit assisted-living section of the facility, there is staff available to provide assistance 24 hours a day.

Assisted-living facilities like that unit, which Maple Village calls “catered living plus,” is a way for those who need help with bathing, laundry and getting dressed to still be able to maintain some independence while having those necessities, plus three meals a day, taken care of.

ShorePointe Village also offers varying degrees of assistance, Lahey said, with “services to complement an individual’s abilities and to supplement an individual’s disabilities.”

ShorePointe Village has a section where residents can come stay on a temporary basis — from two weeks to two months — after a surgery or while family is on vacation.

“We hear a lot from residents who come in to our short stay. … They say, ‘This is not what I expected,’” she said, explaining those expectations range from an institutional feeling, to a place with lots of rules and no choices. That couldn’t be further from the truth, she said.

“They realize that this is really a lovely place. People are really kind and solicitous and friendly. They think, ‘This I can get used to.’”

ShorePointe Village has nine “neighborhoods” of 10 apartments each. Each neighborhood has its own private dining room, “where they have the opportunity to re-submerse themselves into a social setting that’s not so overwhelming,” Lahey said.

Most senior facilities are meant for those 65 years and older, but some offer different amenities. A community that has apartments with full kitchens where residents still cook for themselves but socialize with other residents may be less expensive, Lahey said, because they offer fewer services.

ShorePointe has residents with a mixture of abilities, she said, including residents who move in while they are still independent but plan to live there “for the long haul.”

“It’s important to shop around because it’s like choosing a physician or a beautician or a dentist,” she said. “Everyone has a certain expectation of what feels like home. They certainly want to get a sense of the type of staff that work in the community, and you can’t get that without a visit.”

At ShorePointe Village, activities range from trips to live entertainment, intellectual programs and social groups, plus groups for gardening, golfing and more.

“We try to appeal to every aspect of an individual’s palette of interests,” Lahey said.

There is plenty to do in a senior living facility, Brasseur said, from book clubs to painting classes, talks from the Detroit Institute of Arts and a historian, lunch clubs, ice cream nights and weekly cocktail parties, including “Wine Down Wednesdays.” Maple Village is a faith-based community owned by Lutheran Social Services of Michigan and has 73 independent-living apartments and 18 assisted-living apartments.

The biggest challenge, Brasseur said, is that many people don’t come to the facility, or take advantage of similar senior facilities, when they can enjoy all the services available. One resident, she said, came and looked at the apartments with his wife three years ago. But it was only this year that he finally moved in, after she died.

“Now, he’s 92 years old. He should have been here three years ago, and they would have gotten the benefit of the camaraderie and the fellowship,” she said. “For the sandwich generation, it’s such a feeling of security knowing their parents are getting everything they need and deserve, that they’re safe and happy and they’re around people their own age.”

Maple Village is located at 6257 Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Hills. For more information, call (248) 723-6275.

ShorePointe Village is located at 26101 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores. For more information, call (586) 498-4500 or visit www.beaumont.edu/shorepoint-village.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.