The spectrum of senior homes
Changing environment shifting the public’s perceptions
Contributed by Sulaiman Saheh
Although the concept of senior homes or elderly centres in Malaysia is not a new thing, it still brings much stigma and is perceived as a not-so-desirable option among society at large, particularly elderly parents and their adult children. Should the elderly be sent to live in a senior home, people often judge the children to be ungrateful and irresponsible towards their parents who had sacrificed almost their entire life to raise them.
But the reality of modern life has slowly changed that perspective as people no longer have the privilege to take care of their elderly constantly due to work and family commitments. More so if the said elderly require close to full-time attention and care for medical or physical reasons.
This is where the senior homes of today come into the picture, not as a place of abandonment but as safe, well-assisted homes that provide the elderly with a suitable lifestyle to live a healthy and enriching life. Being more than just a dorm-like setting with some staff on board to monitor the senior residents, the senior home centres of today are well-designed to create a thriving community of senior citizens with daily recreational activities planned out, common lounges for interactions, and customised medical assistance to each individual, on top of a safe living space.
Additionally, families of senior residents are free to visit and bond with their elderly to maintain relationships whilst ensuring that every one of them is living a healthy life with continuous care.
But what makes a home suitable for senior living and how far of a range does it go? There are many features and factors to making a home suited for senior living and the extent of such features present determines the level of assistance that is provided to the residents. Through this spectrum of assistance and home features, developers are able to offer a range of options whereby independence can still be maintained within a monitored environment, or, if needed, full-time assistance and monitoring for the more critical.
24/7 professional monitoring
One of the most common worries or issues one faces when it comes to daily senior care is constant monitoring. While for some it is not out of necessity, having such a service as we are assured there is always someone on board to take action should any accident or helpless moment occur. This is especially important for seniors who stay home alone in their respective homes during the day or even for most of the week as their family members are pulled away for work or other family commitments. While some may argue having 24/7 monitoring eliminates one’s independence, it should be seen more as a safeguard for any potential emergency incidents.
On the professional services itself, it can range from simple daily check-ins to dietician meal providers as well as on-site paramedic assistance. For some senior living centres, residents are able to choose according to their needs and preferences, ultimately only paying for what they need as opposed to a one-size package. For seniors who would need daily physical assistance, there is also the option for on-hand, personalised professional assistants in the form of nurses, therapists and trained caregivers. While we may wish to provide such services and care for ourselves, it is important to have such care be given correctly and appropriately to avoid creating more problems unintentionally.
Community spaces and facilities
One other key reason senior homes are at an advantage is the sense of community built within the development. This is done via the provision of common spaces for residents to converge and interact daily and be entertained and well-stimulated by activities carried out by on-hand staff or by utilising the tools and equipment provided. This can be from community Teh Tarik sessions, simple chess tournaments, bingo sessions and full-on exercise routines for all to participate. As loneliness is a common problem many elderly people face in their daily lives, readily-provided communal features and a gathering of senior individuals are the right combinations for creating a thriving lifestyle even when one has reached retirement age. Just as we commonly see the uncles gathering at kopitiam eateries chatting the day away or the aunties exchanging the latest gossip and family updates, the same can be recreated but in a safe and curated environment.
Physically-assisted home features
As we age, more assistance is needed to help us live our daily lives. But instead of actual human assistance, this can also be done by way of interior features designed to be of aid to its user. Common examples are handrails and shower seats in bathrooms, storage spaces in close reach with easily accessible handles and single-floor living spaces to avoid dangerous stairways and ledges. By having these features, senior individuals can conduct their daily routines independently and maintain one’s sense of independence despite living in a senior home or centre.
Aside from that, services catering towards daily chores such as laundry, cooking and cleaning are also provided for most senior homes. This ensures that the residents are always living in a conducive and sanitary living environment which will then boost their overall mental and physical state. Of course, for senior individuals wishing to do it themselves, such facilities are also provided with consideration given to their safety when using it.
The short answer is yes but to elaborate, the degree of difference can be made into options according to the resident’s needs. Through this spectrum, developers and service providers can create a range of homes based on the extent of services provided – from a gated senior home park to professional-assisted senior living centres. And by way of creative interior design, senior homes need not look like hospital wards or living dormitories. Instead, senior living centres are an integrated development with a mix of home and play elements catered to providing its residents with the best lifestyle one can have even at a ripe old age.
With the advancements in technology and diverse lifestyle professionals, we no longer have to face the reality of a lonely, jaded retirement life when a thriving option is available. Ultimately, families can go about their lives comfortably whilst still conducting their filial obligations. It is only a matter of perspective and practicality.