Remember “The Notebook?” In the book and movie about a love that spans decades, Noah is committed to staying by his wife Allie’s side, even though he doesn’t need to be in a care facility and she does. Their children try to convince him to come back home, but he tells them that home is wherever his sweetheart is—even though Allie has all but forgotten him due to the ravages of dementia.
For the fictional Noah and countless real couples who have spent a lifetime together, the concept of living apart can be entirely unwelcome. Though some couples may be forced to separate because of differing care needs, others are able to find senior communities that suit both of them.
Lisa Bisson, director of community outreach of Wesley Village at United Methodist Homes (UMH) in Shelton, CT, shares her insight into options for couples who want to stay together in senior living.
Senior Living Spaces
Based on apartment options and availability, it’s no surprise that finding space for two people in senior living can be more challenging than finding a place for one.
“A single person could move into almost any size apartment, but a couple really needs at least a one-bedroom,” says Bisson. “So, depending on the community, there may be a limited number of one- or more bedroom options for couples.”
With that in mind, make sure the senior communities that interest you can accommodate a couple. If you discover that couple-friendly apartments in your area are hard to come by, add your name to waiting lists now so you can get in when the time is right.
Different Care Needs
A bigger hurdle is when couples want to stay together in senior living but have different care needs. Depending on the community, though, differing health status may not be cause for concern.
“Most assisted living communities offer various levels of care that allow residents to age in place,” says Bisson. “Care packages can always be modified to fit an individual’s needs.”
For example, Wesley Heights, an independent and assisted living community at UMH, features a Lifestyle Transitions wing designed to support residents with cognitive impairment and increased social needs. Though residents have varying care needs, they share the same campus and enjoy meals and activities together.
“If your mom needed extra care she could live in Lifestyle Transitions, while your dad could live in the attached building, Wesley Heights, living more independently,” says Bisson. In this scenario, a couple could stay close to each other while not actually rooming together.
Though it’s a challenge, it is certainly possible to ensure that both spouses’ physical, emotional, and social needs are met in one community, says Bisson.
“Even though they are sharing an apartment, they are two individuals with unique interests,” she says. “There are so many opportunities and activities at our communities that it’s easy to find something to do or someone to talk with.”
At UMH, for instance, a men’s club meets to play pool, enjoy barbecues, or go to a game, while women enjoy shopping trips, luncheons on the town, and various concerts and plays. Couples’ nights are also a big attraction, featuring a special theme dinner and dancing.
In your search for couple-friendly senior living, be sure to ask how the community caters to the needs of each individual, as well as the desire of a couple to stay as close together as possible.
“Sometimes people worry that mom and dad are going to get split up when they move to assisted living, especially if their needs vary,” says Bisson. “Don’t worry! We make it work.”
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