Although we know that it’s a part of life, few of us want to talk about it: getting older.
We smooth out wrinkles with our fingers, ignore the constant pain in our knees, laugh off our growing affection for game shows. And while it’s tough to watch ourselves get older, it’s even harder to admit to the advancing age of our loved ones.
But when they do get old, certain questions arise: Where should they live? Who is going to take care of them? How will I know that they’re ok?
Like getting older itself, these questions aren’t easy to handle. But, much like advancing age, facing them is inevitable. Currently, it appears that one million families answered these questions with the decision to move their loved ones into a nursing home. About 1.3 million Americans currently live in such facilities across the country, and that number will only increase: about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day.
One of those options is Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, the largest of its kind to provide various living opportunities — such as assisted or independent living — in the country. Brookdale has more than 1,000 communities in 46 states, which means that about 81 percent of the nation’s citizens is near a Brookdale outpost. In all, about 100,000 residents call this place home, and in so doing, they have the chance to improve the quality of their lives. As more Americans reach age milestones, and their families wonder about their next chapters, Brookdale helps provide what everyone needs: peace of mind.
Shades of gray
According to the Census Bureau, about a quarter of men and nearly half of women over the age of 75 live alone. And while there are many of us with roommates who would love some space to ourselves, there are some significant downsides to older adults who spend too much time on their own. There’s the simple need for routine meals, and then the assurance that medications are being taken on time. Doctor’s appointments have to be met, and daily physical activity has to happen, too.
But if there’s no one to push older adults to accomplish these important things, then they’re likely to do what younger adults do on their days off: nothing. And if that happens every day — no one to talk to, no one to make healthy food, no one to do the dishes, no one to get dressed for — loneliness sets in. A study at the University of California, San Francisco followed 1,600 participants with an average age of 71, and even though the researchers controlled for health and socioeconomic status, their findings reported that those who said they were lonely had a higher mortality. About 23 percent of the lonely participants died within six years, as compared to the 14 percent of participants who said they weren’t lonely.
Sure, those results may highlight one end of the spectrum, but there are other dismal health factors, too: loneliness raises stress levels, which can then boost the risk of heart disease. It can lead to Type 2 diabetes, dementia, arthritis, depression, and even suicide. These are all alarming findings, but they all come from a universal feeling that happens regardless of age: the need to feel valued, wanted, and understood.
Young at heart
Since it was founded as the senior housing division of a Chicago real estate company in 1986, Brookdale’s mission has been to give older adults the recognition and care they need. The company originally went public in 1997 but went private again three years later. After a merger with Alterra Healthcare Corporation (which was once known as Alternative Living Services), the company incorporated in 2005. A series of mergers took place in the unfolding years — including with the American Retirement Corporation in 2006, Horizon Bay in 2009, and Emeritus Senior Living in 2014 — giving the scale and prestige it now has to be called the leading senior living operation in the country.
And since Brookdale, which is based in Tennessee, is esteemed for its offerings, let’s break those down. First off, there are a few different types of communities seniors and their families can choose to live in: independent living, assisted living, dementia-care, and continuing care homes. Those are streamlined into five segments. The first three include retirement centers (homes for middle or upper-class seniors that are owned or leased), assisted living (owned or leased homes with 24-hour care and daily activities), and continuing care retirement communities (leased properties that accommodate various health and mobility levels).
The last two segments, ancillary services and management services, are different than the others. Ancillary services provide hospice, outpatient therapy, in-home care, and wellness programs for those living inside and outside Brookdale facilities. Management services include communities that are owned by third parties or by unconsolidated ventures that Brookdale has interest in owning.
Brookdale ensures a home for any senior regardless of ability. Its services, especially for seniors with dementia or memory loss, give support to those who need it — which is, essentially, everyone. And we’re not only talking about physical care, although that’s important. Brookdale’s trained employees, calendars of activities, wellness education, exercise programs, technology classes, dining programs, and more produce well-rounded days. There are also services for family members, including how to transition a loved one into a senior home, to create a strong network of emotional support for all involved, too. The combination of physical and emotional well-being is what allows for safer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives here.
And that, in turn, leads to a longer life, too.
Don’t let the fat lady sing
Old age may be inevitable, but there are ways to make it worthwhile. At Brookdale, people in the same generation — each with similar memories and experiences — are there to create a welcoming home for a loved one, which is complete with reliable care.
And as a company, Brookdale will only be more worthwhile with time. Last month, seventeen Brookdale centers were named the best in its category by U.S. World and News Report, and it reported fourth-quarter earnings of more than $80 million. Competition and external factors (including this year’s hurricanes) have impacted profits, but things are still looking up. Older Americans may be living longer and working well past the traditional retirement age, but nursing homes will continue to be a viable option if ever they need round-the-clock care. According to a study on nursing home use, about 40 percent of people who live to the age of 70 will likely spend time in these facilities before they die.
Most Americans want to experience their golden years at home or as close to home as possible, and Brookdale’s large network of outposts can help make that possible. Furthermore, its unmatched options for care give seniors and their family members the comfort of knowing that everything will be ok. And when we wonder about the details of old age, that’s what matters most.
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Brookdale Senior Living Solutions is part of our Healthy Living portfolio.