Where will you walk with friendship? – Guest columns

Herb Hildebrandt Ph.D.

The elderly have traveled several kilometres. I have tasted many foods, heard many stories, spoken many words, seen many events, and hugged many friends.

Which of this list stays on top? Did the time thief steal some, or increase or decrease the value of others?

Why ask these questions?

Because a major decision must or will have to be taken, and these questions play a role. The question is simple: Should you move to a seniors’ residence or long-term care facility, or continue to live at home?

I, your author, cheated. I left out my significant criterion, a major factor influencing the decision – share capital.

Throughout life, we have select individuals and associations that provide us with cognitive and emotional benefits from our relationships with them. These relationships provide us with social capital or positive outcomes such as new ideas, information and help.

Let me apply this concept to the dual usage of the phrase ‘aging in place’, that is, either in one’s long-term home or in the residence of a care community.

Sociologists and other researchers have discussed the obstacles that come with aging. It is not my attempt here, but rather to explore how social capital can influence the choice of where we age in place.

Aging in Place — At Home

Today, between 85 and 87 percent of American seniors want to stay in their homes as they get older. An immediate value of aging in place is the ability to continue to benefit from social capital. Friendship networks can soften a bit depending on the state of health. But a reliable network of friends is still there, along with the family.

When home care is mainly provided by the spouse or children, the cost of care is lower. Of course, there are many other positives, but also negatives when it comes to social capital, including:

  • The emotional and physical toll of the caregiver does not cease
  • Social capital can decrease in intensity. This was the case with my wife’s illness and with other aging seniors in her network. She also had fewer visitors and frequent communications.
  • Likely absence of entertainment events

Aging in Place — In a Health Care Facility

Thousands of healthcare communities are available to seniors, with a range of benefits depending on the person’s health needs and lifestyle. There are also social capital disadvantages that come with communities and other long-term care facilities, such as aging in place.

Good points :

  • A safe community of like-minded people
  • Meet others with similar interests and frequently held forms of entertainment and informative events
  • Less maintenance, possibly no maintenance required of physical facilities
  • Potential transportation for medical appointments and continued involvement in associations

A smaller age difference allows for a community of personal topics offered without embarrassment, with the recipients knowing the stories as well as the sender. In short, the daily burdens of life have diminished considerably. To be sure, there are potential social downsides to more communal living, such as:

  • Island cliques or groups
  • Costs such as apartment taxes, care costs and others are increasing every year.
  • The case for in-house medical care is often minimal, depending on the type of community.
  • Caregivers, even for independent living, are common.
  • Smaller living spaces

My comments are mostly about wheel experience rather than extensive research. It is therefore encouraging to read the increase in articles, internationally and in the United States, on research on older adults, social capital and aging in place. This new information can only help seniors choose where to continue their walk in friendship.

Herb Hildebrandt Ph.D, Hl.D., is a founder and current resident of Glacier Hills, Ann Arbor, MI.

The opinions expressed in McKnight Long Term Care News guest submissions are those of the author and not necessarily those of McKnight Long Term Care News or its editors.

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