How changing our language and attitude about aging can help seniors

Senior homes have evolved and changed over the years. Many peoples’ idea of the senior community bears no resemblance to reality. It is based on articles and pictures that are several decades out of date. It might explain why a lot of people still talk about the aging process in a negative context. A move to assisted living facilities is seen as a loss of independence. 

How does this matter? Research has found a strong relationship between negative perceptions of aging and physical frailty. This can, in turn, lead to cognitive decline. In other words, negative language can impact the health of seniors. It can change how they feel about themselves. One recent study even found that positive attitudes can minimize frailty. It can help older adults stay mentally sharp [1].

How society feels about aging and the language we use has an impact on seniors. If you talk about senior homes as institutions or aging as a process of decline, that is what you will come to believe. No wonder most people are afraid of growing old or becoming ill!

Changing our language and general attitude about aging has many positive effects on the elderly.

Senior Homes Are Communities, Not Hospitals

Most people talk about all senior homes as if they were hospitals. The perception is that people go there when they become ill or cannot take care of themselves. If that is the case, why would a senior want to move at all? 

This perception can harm the efforts of families to provide better care for their elderly parents. The mere mention of assisted living can make older adults dig in their heels. They may not move out of their home, even in the face of health issues. 

Assisted-Living Facilities – the Reality

Let’s consider the reality of assisted living facilities. Senior homes exist in a wide spectrum. Those living in them have multiple options as to their level of independence and assistance. 

At one end, you have communities where seniors live in their own apartments or small homes. There are facilities specifically designed for catering to those with memory problems. Quite a few have multiple living arrangements. You can live independently with no assistance or in a suite of rooms with housekeeping help.

Positive language and perceptions can remove the stigma surrounding senior residences. No one faults a young family for moving to a suburb to be near other young families. It is a similar situation for older adults. Think of these communities as well furnished residences with services catering to the needs of seniors. 

If a senior wants to move out of their home, it need not always be due to a bad situation or declining health. Nowadays, many seniors move into such residences voluntarily for the benefits they offer.

Aging Does Not Mean Expired

Unfortunately, many people refer to the aging process in a negative light. It doesn’t help that older adults face a number of significant life changes all at once. A person may retire from a long and fulfilling career. They may lose a spouse to illness. They may also experience health problems at the same time. It is not uncommon for seniors and their families to view aging as the end.

But here’s the thing – aging does not mean you’re done with life. It can be a drastic change but it is not the end. Sure, you may not be able to do everything you used to as a young person. But you can still explore new opportunities and pursue fulfilling interests. You can still experience new things and cultivate new friendships.

Explore New Horizons

In fact, retiring and moving to a senior community can open up new possibilities, since it allows seniors to do things they couldn’t do before. Most people spend their adult years on their careers, children, and other responsibilities. They may have given up a favorite hobby or creative pursuit either due to lack of time or space. Well, now the time and space are all theirs!

Most senior homes have social activities like exercise sessions, crafts, board game nights, etc. Seniors can have an active and social lifestyle, without additional responsibilities. They don’t have to worry about schedules, children or grocery shopping, but can instead start a new hobby or explore online courses in an area of interest, attend seminars and host events for friends.

Positive attitudes can help seniors to stay active and fit. With better healthcare and higher life expectancy, older adults shouldn’t stop living after retirement. If a person is feeling sad about growing older, it will affect their physical and mental well-being. Positive attitudes and perceptions can stop the domino effect of physical frailty and mental decline. Remember that 80 is the new 65!