Have you been jogging around Memorial Park lately, huffing and puffing away, only to be passed by someone at least twice your age? Surprised? You shouldn’t be. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average life expectancy was up to 77.4 in 2002, and it continues to rise. These are a new breed of adults that are surpassing the odds, living longer and having a great time all at the same time.
Who are these active adults? They are a growing collection of individuals age 55 and older, many retired, but still young at heart. They like to keep in shape, and many live in beautifully developed communities created just for them. The World Health Organization describes active living as “a way of life in which physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual activities are valued and are integrated into daily living.”
With the increase in technology, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have become serious problems for the majority of Americans today. Not only are kids at risk, but so are inactive adults and older persons. The organization believes that when individuals have reached middle age, it becomes even more important to keep fit and in shape to reduce or even prevent physical ailments that often go hand in hand with advancing age.
Independent versus assisted
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a driving force behind the active lifestyles around the nation. It is an organization dedicated “to serve, not to be served.” With this in mind, they try to facilitate older persons by providing links and information for those that would like to consider living with or without help. According to AARP, “Assisted living residents can get as much help as they wish, but not more than they want.” For instance, if someone would like to skip cooking a meal, or would like a little help getting to the store, then people are available to lend a hand.
There are, however, a few differences between active or independent living and assisted living. Independent living is designed for the senior who is healthy, can take care of himself or herself and would like to live on their own without aid. Generally, these individuals can be found in communities that have been created with them in mind. These people do not require the need for onsite staff, and generally like to live among their peers.
Assisted living is for people who need assistance with a few everyday activities. These individuals are not able to live completely on their own, but would still like to live as independently as possible. The facilities include helping with eating, dressing in the mornings, bathing, housekeeping and medications. While this may sound like a nursing home, assisted living is more of the intermediary point between the two.
Nursing homes are designed for those who can no longer take care of themselves, require help with all activities of their daily lives and may have several health issues. On the other hand, the assisted living arrangements provide as much help as needed by the clients without being too intrusive.
Several facilities around the Houston area have been developed to accommodate the active adult by offering living arrangements as well as unbeatable amenities. The Woodlands and Cinco Ranch, to name a couple, both offer neighborhoods in master-planned communities with hiking trails, tennis courts, fitness centers and swimming facilities exclusively for the use of older individuals. Houston’s own RidgeLake Shores even provides private beaches and extensive land and lakefront properties for their older residents. These planned neighborhoods are limited to individuals age 55 and older and must have someone within that age group occupying the home in order to qualify to live in the area.
The best part for many of these individuals is the opportunity to mix and mingle with others of their own age and outlook. Not only are they stimulated mentally, but now they also have the opportunity to try new things that may not have been available prior to community living. These are not people that are sitting around and playing a game of bingo, they want to experience nature and enjoy themselves.
Luckily, these neighborhoods thrive with activities like fishing, horseback riding, golf and hiking trails for their residents to enjoy. Singles also have the chance to develop new relationships and create lasting friendships in a comfortable environment surrounded by their peers.
As the number of active adults continues its steady rise, so too do the number of individuals interested in communities that offer an upbeat lifestyle rather than completely assisted living arrangements. With so many choices now available, people can choose their best fit and decide, on their own, what amount of assistance they want. Besides, with people like Mick Jagger, Meryl Streep, Sir Paul McCartney and Martha Stewart (age 56 and older) leading vivacious lives, its no wonder there are so many others who would like to do the same.