Is a Big City Apartment the Place to Age Well?

“Fast-Paced New York, Promising Safety and Comfort
to Elderly”–NY Times-July 19, 2010

Where are the best living options for seniors?
What and are the best living options for seniors?

Different strokes for different folks, right?  In our efforts to help parents age well, who knows– based on things one can control–what will be best to help aging parents live out their lives.

A city
A small town
A place in a sunny climate
One’s home/apartment (aging in place)
Living with children or relatives
A retirement /adult community
An independent living situation
Assisted living

Today I learned that a healthy, single woman in her 80’s, left suburban N.Y. and moved to a retirement community, in a small town with a highly regarded college. Well-educated, intelligent and with no family ties, she dedicated herself to searching out an affordable, appropriate option with the stimulation a college community offers; and found it 1,000 miles away.

Similarly Dad often told me that when he and mother “got old” he wanted to live in a college community–a small town with the energy and stimulation that youth (and college students) provide.  He didn’t want to be where everyone was old and getting old. No senior living for him.

He and mother (who, typical of that generation, followed Dad’s lead) never went to that idealized small town. Dad happily and proudly lived and died in the original home he and mother had built some 60 years ago, in a neighborhood bustling with young families. He knew everyone and they knew him. He “aged in place” with help after mother died, when the Aging in Place philosophy was fairly new.

R. (see SENIOR ADVISORS above) at 96 remains in her home of 60+ years with only a cleaning person one half day, every other week.  She is clearly aging in place in a neighborhood of young families, many of whom consider her like a family member.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance article, “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,” informs us that the majority of people 60 and older prefer to grow old in their homes and their communities, according to an AARP survey.  And a wide range of services is available to help them stay there.  While “pricey,” we learn the services are cheap compared to the monthly cost of an assisted-living facility.

Living in cities like New York (or other major cities with vibrant downtowns) provides almost everything for seniors who enjoy city life. To my way of thinking, living in a New York apartment building is the best old age home.  Reasons:

1. Young and old live in the building
2. It’s not isolating
3. The superintendent fixes whatever needs fixing
4. Meals/food can be ordered and brought to the doorman. Someone will get it to   you if/when necessary
5. Driving is unnecessary.  Public transportation (bus, subway, taxi)–while facing cuts in service due to this economy–makes everything accessible
6. Stores, restaurants, entertainment, culture etc. are nearby
7. Very sick?  The doorman can call a taxi, help you in it, and send it and you to the hospital of your choice.

True, every building doesn’t have a doorman, but you get the idea.

The article following the NY Times headline at the beginning of this post discusses New York’s initial efforts and well-thought-out steps to make it “age friendly” for its senior citizens.  For example, the traffic signals at over 400 intersections have been extended 4 seconds making it easier for older people to get to the other side before the light changes.

Portland, Oregon and Cleveland were other cities cited as becoming more “aging-oriented” (my term). I know of an apartment building in Portland for seniors, close to downtown and transportation that has dining facilities.  There are undoubtedly others.   Living options for seniors have expanded far beyond old age homes and may be less expensive than assisted living even when using some added services.  Taking the time to check things out will clearly help parents age well.

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