Senior Living Sunday: Retirement communities adapting to cultural shifts
By John Harned
Do you realize we are living in a time defined as a longevity revolution? Gerontologists are using that term. Americans are living far longer than we ever have; one of the fastest-growing portions of our population consists of people over the age of 80.
This can make those of us who are working-age pause and wonder what retirement will be like.
There is great news developing in the delivery of aging services. Baby Boomers have begun demanding something different in retirement-community living for their parents, and that is generating change in the culture in retirement communities, particularly in assisted living and nursing care.
The changes are occurring in both the architecture and the atmosphere in which we care for our seniors.
Imagine walking up to the front door of your loved one’s home, ringing the doorbell, and being invited into the foyer. Your elderly host takes your coat and hangs it in the closet beside the door. From the foyer, you can see most of the home, which includes the study, a powder bath, formal living room, formal dining room, den, hearth room, and eat-in kitchen. As they take you on a tour, you get to fully view the kitchen, utility room, and bedroom and bath.
This describes the new household model for nursing homes and assisted-living centers, a model that is being established in some of our United Methodist-related retirement communities.
Absent from this design are nursing stations, medication carts, and long halls.
In addition to revisioning the architecture, the culture of care is evolving as well. Going away is the focus, from the perspective of the staff, on medications, meals, and baths. We instead will see a cultural growth that focuses on the simple pleasures of life for each individual.
Imagine a day when you wake up without the help of an alarm clock or cellphone, when you don’t have to leave home in a rush. Imagine what you do first. Do you pray? What will be your source of caffeine? What do you like with your caffeine? What do you like to read? What do you like to eat? Do you have a pet close by? The homes we are creating for the future in aging services will focus on these simple pleasures for our elders as individuals.
The difference is clear—this is faith-based service. Faith-based service goes far beyond service in other contexts. Service with grace enhances and adds dimension to our lives and helps us to persevere. Service with grace is truly what defines the experiences in the United Methodist-related retirement communities of Oklahoma.
The four retirement communities in Oklahoma with close ties to the United Methodist churches in Oklahoma rely on resources from strategic partners to make possible our ministry of changing the face of aging in Oklahoma. We are proud to serve more than 1,000 seniors throughout the state.
We are: The Commons (Enid), Epworth Villa (Oklahoma City), Oklahoma Methodist Manor (Tulsa), and The United Methodist Retirement and Health Care Center (Clinton).
The United Methodist Conference has endorsed a special Mother’s Day offering for May 13. "Senior Living Ministries Sunday" was approved by delegates at the 2011 Annual Conference and is one of 10 special Sundays observed each year in Oklahoma’s churches.
Funding generated from the "Senior Living Ministries" offering will be directed toward each community’s Benevolence Fund, which provides financial resources to residents who outlive their personal resources. These retirement communities do not receive any Apportionment funds.
(John C. Harned is president/CEO of Epworth Villa.)