Moving into a retirement community doesn’t have to spell the end of your close bond with friends and family – in fact often it only serves to strengthen it.
Chimen Bhoola has always enjoyed an active social life and saw no reason for that to change when he took up residence in a retirement community.
While he already had an abundance of extended family living in and around the Brisbane area, Chimen’s friendship circle grew exponentially when the popular 87-year-old moved to Aveo Robertson Park two years ago.
Some older adults fear their relocation to a new home may be detrimental to their social lives and Chimen was understandably nervous about whether his ability to maintain these relationships would be curtailed as a result of his moving into a retirement community.
He needn’t have worried, however. Soon after moving into his new unit, Chimen began receiving visitors and is now equally at home cooking dinner for his family in his unit or watching them read a book in the library onsite as he is heading down the street to catch up with friends at nearby restaurants or theatres.
Most retirement communities recognise that humans are hard-wired for social contact and close interaction. They understand that maintaining close relationships as we get older is as good for our physical health as it is for our mental wellness.
And there is much evidence to support the role friends and family play in keeping us fighting fit.
In addition to showing that socialising can strengthen the immune system and help us to recover more quickly from illness, a clinical review of nearly 150 studies found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent better chance of survival (regardless of age, sex, health status, and cause of death) than those with weaker social connections.
In acknowledging the important part that friends and family play in the lives of residents, many forward thinking retirement communities have designed communal spaces specifically aimed at encouraging social interaction between residents and their guests.
As well as making units available with spare bedrooms or additional living spaces, many also provide additional guest parking to ensure friends and family have the freedom and flexibility to come and go at their leisure or even enjoy a short holiday with their loved ones.
Some retirement communities actively encourage new residents to invite a family member or close friend to stay over a couple of days to help with the transition from their old home to their new one.
While ensuring resident safety remains a priority, most stop short of having an open door policy and some may have limitations on the length of time guests can stay.
To ensure residents continue to enjoy visits from those important to them, many retirement communities encourage residents to bring their families in to share a meal in the restaurants or cafes onsite or invite their grandchildren or other non-resident guests over for a swim or to use the shared facilities onsite.
Others offer access to barbecue areas and function facilities for large family gatherings or to celebrate milestones with friends.
Many retirement communities also put on special concerts, host resident performances or invite loved ones in for shared meals en masse to acknowledge the vital role friends and family play in residents’ lives.
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