Episode One: How to Know When It’s Time to Consider Senior Living
Join us as our Chief Storyteller, Steven Farrell, sits down with our VP of Sales and Operations, Michelle Anderson, to discuss: How to know when it’s time to consider senior living.
Michelle has been helping families for over 20 years navigate the senior living journey. In our first episode, Michelle shares the importance of understanding that everyone’s life story is different and unique to them and that making the decision to consider senior living is no exception. She offers insightful information on:
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The following transcript has been edited for clarity. It’s Thrive O’Clock: Navigating Senior Living is hosted by Steven Farrell.
Steven Farrell: My name is Steven Farrell, your host. And this is Michelle Anderson.
Michelle Anderson: Good morning.
Steven Farrell: You’ve been in the industry since 1999 and you’re very knowledgeable in senior living. You are actually someone who knows this industry and you’ve done it for some time.
Michelle Anderson: And I’ve seen it change over the years. When I came into this industry, I really didn’t know much about senior living other than a great-grandparent who had lived in a community at one point. Later, it became a calling and a real passion of mine to serve older adults. And, now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the industry really evolve over 23 years into what it is today and where I think it will continue to go in the future.
Steven Farrell: Speaking about the future and to someone who’s watching this, when should we consider senior living? So starting from that perspective, where should we start off?
Michelle Anderson: So, you know, when you think about when to consider senior living, it’s different for everyone. It is so, so vastly different because everybody’s life story is different and unique to them in their situations. Ideally, people would consider senior living when they’re doing their retirement planning when they’re in their fifties and they’re purchasing a long-term care policy to help pay for senior living. You think about the natural course that a lot of people take in life. The vast majority of people go through phases as young adults and into adulthood where maybe they want to purchase a home and they purchase a home, maybe a starter home. And then they want to go into maybe that dream home of theirs or the home that they raise their family in. And then one day they may want to downsize. My husband and I downsized just a couple of years ago when our youngest daughter went off to college. So it was like the next progression.
Steven Farrell: Yeah. Or right size as they say,
Michelle Anderson: Right size, that’s right. My husband says we did not downsize. We changed sizes and it was was not by much, but it’s kind of this natural progression. A lot of people stop at that, that rightsizing home or that downsized home or their retirement home. And they think of their last house. And a lot of people kind of stop planning there and they don’t plan. And they may even plan for retirement and retirement to them means traveling and leisure. My mom and her husband just got back from an amazing, nearly three-week trip to Amsterdam and Italy and they are living out their retirement. But what happens in another 10 years when maybe they’re not able to do those things anymore and they’re still vibrant, still wanting an active life.
Steven Farrell: And how old are they?
Michelle Anderson: 70. So, that young, but, retired.
Steven Farrell: So should they have that conversation now? Or do you start thinking about that in your late sixties, early seventies, or…?
Michelle Anderson: I think if people are planning really well for their futures, they would be having these discussions in their fifties really. Wow. And purchasing long-term care policies to help pay for that phase of life. Because you think about when you’re in your early life, you’re starting a career, maybe in your twenties and you’re planning for retirement right. At 65, 67, whatever that age is now that people retire. That’s a long way away. That’s 40 years. Okay. So when you retire, you’re starting that next chapter and you maybe around the 67 68, maybe 70 age range. Well, what happens 15 years later when maybe, or, or 10 years later, or maybe five years later when you don’t, um, necessarily want the, um, burdens of the upkeep of the home. Yeah. Maybe you want the freedom and, and you look at communities that offer an independent living lifestyle and there’s so much freedom there of somebody else, um, maintaining the property itself. Um, the housekeeping there’s some meals included. There’s things like that.
Steven Farrell: Convivium coffee company,
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Michelle Anderson: Video coffee. A
Steven Farrell: Yes. Yes. Speaking of we are here at thrive at Montvale. Yeah. And I, every single person, I’d say nine outta 10 people I meet in independent living communities. That’s why they choose to move into a thrive senior living community. Yeah. Is literally like Larry. I was in a 4,000 square foot home. I don’t, I can’t mow the, I mean, I just don’t want to,
Michelle Anderson: Don’t want to, maybe I’ve worked hard. May not even be that they can’t. Yeah. It may just be, I want a different lifestyle. I want the freedom to have the social life that I want. I want the relaxation. I wanna enjoy all the movies. I love to watch. I wanna go on trips with new friends. And so they can build people moving into independent livings, really think about the type of lifestyle that they want to build. Yeah. And, um, and that freedom that comes with that, and then the same holds true. When you think about assisted living and, and we can talk about memory care too, in a little bit, but you think about assisted livings, that decision is oftentimes spawned by a need versus a want,
Steven Farrell: Is that more like chronic health problems? It can be. Yeah. Like something that when
Michelle Anderson: Can, yeah, it can be chronic health problems. It can be, um, you know, struggles with maintaining medications. It can be maybe challenges with, um, eating. It can be maybe physical mobility challenges, but there can also be an aspect of isolation, just, oh my gosh. Yeah. Sheer isolation and where somebody who was once active is no longer as active or maybe they are widowed now. And their support system has, has changed over time. And so when I think about some of the things that I’ve heard over the years, people’s hesitancy to move to a senior living is people fearer losing their independence.
Steven Farrell: I say, you have more independence here because who wants to be alone at home, especially after two years of COVID or whatever year of COVID we’re on now. Yeah, exactly. Of the pandemic. But exactly. There’s this yearning as humans. I yearn for a community as an extrovert. I not, I know not everyone does well, but even I think you’re
Michelle Anderson: Better. These introverted people were designed to have relationships and were designed to have fellowship and community with one another. And, um, and people are missing that at home. And that, that thing they fear of losing their independence. They’re often losing it at home. They’re having family members do more and more and more for them. And if they would be willing to just come check out a senior living community and see what it’s all about, they might find that they would actually regain some of their independence by making a move like this. When you’re talking about a senior living community, like, like a thrive community that has the independent assisted in memory care, the, their focus is on the overall wellness of the older adult living with us. And so you think about what are some services that are provided in assisted living, because we were talking about some of the health challenges that may drive someone to choose to move into an assisted living community.
Michelle Anderson: Um, so they’re, they’re helping oversee that and making sure a, a great example is medication management. Yeah. You know, as, as things change and we age there’s different medications that, that someone may take and in an assisted living community, one of the services offered is medication management. And so the health, the wellness director works with a partnered pharmacy to make sure that all the refills are done, that the medications are packaged properly. And that then our care team, which usually involves like CNAs medication technicians, LPNs RNs, depending on which community and, and the size of it, they bring the medications to the resident when it’s time for them to take it. And, um, if that’s something that somebody’s been challenged with of remembering to take it, you know, sometimes the quantity, I mean, myself, I only take a few medicines and it’s, did I take my medicine this morning? I don’t remember. Yeah. And sorting it all out. And usually there’s a family member behind the scenes ordering the medicine, sorting it in the building. It’s
Steven Farrell: A lot boxes. Yeah. It’s a part-time job.
Michelle Anderson: It’s a lot to manage.
Steven Farrell: And then also makes me think of, uh, nutrition too. Mm-hmm
Michelle Anderson: <affirmative>, mm-hmm, <affirmative> they? So our, our nurses, um, which are, we call our health and wellness directors because they really are, like I said, looking at the overall wellness of the person, they work really closely with our Convivium directors, which in a lot of communities, you might hear it as dining service leader or the chef. Yeah. Um, Convivium just so you know, is all about fellowship and breaking bread with one another. So our Convivium directors and our health and wellness directors work in conjunction to make sure that our residents are getting proper nutrition and that they are coming to meals and, um, and just really thriving in that component. And, and you have to think about all assisted living communities are going to offer three meals a day. So what I would encourage a family to do is look at the overall experience of that community, because it goes far beyond the actual meal that is set in front of somebody. I mean, think about who likes to eat alone. <laugh>, you know, I don’t, it’s, it’s a lot better with other people. And so when you go into a community, you have friends to eat with friends to dine with, and break bread with. And, and it just changes the whole atmosphere and it even changes the appetite.
Steven Farrell: So, I mean, yeah, cause I mean, my whole life is based around food. I’m like, I’m waking up it’s same for an older adult. And I will say this, like, I, I, I used to, when I visit all the communities, I go get somewhere to eat. But like now, like I’ve eating in communities the past year. Oh my gosh. Uh,
Michelle Anderson: Our food is
Steven Farrell: Phenomenal getaway, great seafood, cuz you’re right there in Savannah, Georgia. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, I mean thrive at Augusta. Good. There’s a lot of residents like the good, like the down home country food, some like fine dining everyone’s every community is different. Every based on the needs, based
Michelle Anderson: On, based on the needs and where the people who, you know, who lives in that community, what you often find is your Convivium directors will work with the residents to understand what are their needs, you know, their needs are at the top of the list. Yeah. Nutrition, what they wants, you know, what are their favorite meals? What are it is so fun to have a resident come in and share a favorite recipe, a family recipe. And then for our chef to cook it either for, or even with them and um, and then serve it to the other
Steven Farrell: Residents and then keep it under lock and key because if that recipe gets out <laugh>, then they’re in trouble. That’s
Michelle Anderson: Right.
Steven Farrell: So there’s a pact. Um, that’s funny. And then also, um, I mean, what we hit on isolation and sadness, um, and also like another part I think about like assist living is, is it safe to live at home?
Michelle Anderson: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a really, that’s a good question because we have a lot of folks that come to us and their, their mom or dad might have had a fall. They might ha be living in a home. Maybe they haven’t even fallen yet, but they maybe live in a home with stairs. And that child is, you know, they have a lot of anxiety about the parent living at home alone and just their safety. It’s not a bad thing. It can be part of a natural aging process yeah. For our mobility to change. And in the way that we walk and our abilities may change a little bit. Um, and so you look for things in the home, like, do we have rugs all over the place? How is the furniture arranged? Are we in a split level home or, or things upstairs or downstairs, you know, that, that older adults are trying to navigate.
Steven Farrell: And I’ll say about independent living communities. I’ll just have this in my notes. Hey, we have non-skid bathtub services built in grab bars in the shower. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, storage placed at mid-level. Any other things I’m missing about? Cause you can’t say your loved, one’s never gonna fall. Like correct. You can’t lie that’s right now. However, shiny the commercial is like of the community. Yeah. Like
Michelle Anderson: We can’t stop someone from having a fall. But what we can do is provide an environment that is designed for an older adult to live in as safely as possible. And then we have other things like exercise classes that we offer strength and balance classes. We have onsite therapy partners. And so if someone is feeling maybe a little weakened in their mobility, we could have our onsite physical therapy partner in enroll them in, in therapy and they get it right here in their own home. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Steven Farrell: Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the, uh, we have social network directors here, which is, does activities. What would like a typical week look like?
Michelle Anderson: Oh my goodness, whatever the resident wants it to look like. I think a typical week it involves multiple opportunities for exercise, different forms of exercise. It involves opportunities for, um, spiritual growth, educational growing the mind, um, for people who enjoy arts. Um, you know, we here at thrive in, in Montvale. We have an entire art studio that is just phenomenal and well lit and it’s just gorgeous.
Steven Farrell: Here’s a video all overlay the video here it is. It’s beautiful.
Michelle Anderson: And for the movie lover, um, we have cinemas and here again at thrive at Monville we have an indoor movie theater and an outdoor movie theater. I know it’s fun. Um, and then, then you think about trips, every one of our communities and in, in senior living, this is very common, um, for people to go on outings and to go on, you know, and, and they design it based on the people who live there. And so you will not find what you won’t find here is boredom. That’s true. You will not find boredom.
Steven Farrell: <laugh> there’s always options. Yeah. Yeah. You can stay in your room. That’s fine. But there’s all the it’s like being in a resort. That’s, that’s how I think at this place.
Michelle Anderson: It is, I’ve heard people say it’s like a cruise ship on land. There is always something to do. Yeah. Um, there’s incredible dining options. You know, most communities have multiple dining venues. So whatever your taste is at the moment, um, there’s a, there’s an option for you. There’s always something to do.
Steven Farrell: And there’s one thing you left out, which less would beyond us about the fitness center,
Michelle Anderson: Ah,
Steven Farrell: Athlete center. Oh,
Michelle Anderson: Athlete center.
Steven Farrell: <laugh> I give myself two marks for that one. <laugh>
Michelle Anderson: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, everyone, everyone has an athlete inside of them just waiting to come out. And so whether exercise is your thing or you want it to become your thing, we have beautiful athlete centers in all of our communities that that residents can go and enjoy some exercise. And, and the great thing about it is it can be part of a formal class, or it can be on your own. Sometimes you, you may not want to be part of a formal class. And so you just go in and exercise yourself. That’s totally
Steven Farrell: Fine. I love just going to the gym and snapping a selfie and then immediately leaving <laugh> or just, you know, going to the spa and
Michelle Anderson: Exercise to osmosis. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go there and then go to the salon. Um, or the spa
Steven Farrell: And speaking of spa salon, mm-hmm <affirmative> beauty and the barber
Michelle Anderson: Beauty and the barber. I love,
Steven Farrell: Love that. I love, I truly am the, but I’m the beast and you are the beauty. My lady, it’s a
Michelle Anderson: Great name. That is so great. You know, most communities offer a salon. And, and what I love though, the intentional design here of beauty and the barber, most, most salons in senior living communities are really designed with the woman in mind, which is great. That’s true. I don’t true. I don’t mind
Steven Farrell: That. I, I usually do see more women yeah. In senior living communities than men’s. That makes sense. It does. But how, how is this one different?
Michelle Anderson: Because it, it offers an actual barbershop, uh, for the men. Ah, and so that is great. But I also here, you know, you go back to, why do people choose to move to a senior living community? And I, I have this burning desire. I only have so many years left work. <laugh> I have this burning desire to change the mentality from have to, to want to, from, we had to do this to how exciting that we got to do this. Yeah. And, and you think about something as simple as beauty in the barber, that is another point of socialization for our residents. Think of movie, still Magnolias. The ladies and the beauty salons sitting around talking gossiping is what they were doing.
Steven Farrell: I love some hot tea, gossip, gossip. Yeah.
Michelle Anderson: <laugh> and um, if you wanna know what’s going on in a senior living community hit the salon <laugh>, that’s where you find all the juice. Um, no, it’s really, you think about why people choose a community and, and again, going from that half to, to that want
Steven Farrell: To, well, I was gonna add that a lot of people, I mean like, why didn’t I do this sooner? Because it’s the stigma. Oh
Michelle Anderson: Yeah. It is. There is a stigma and you know, there, a lot of times people, what we hear, and this is something, again, just drawing on, you know, more than 23 years of hearing family stories and different situations. And, and there’s a few common threads and it is often, once someone moves in with us, the common sentiment is why didn’t I do this sooner? And sometimes people wait too long. They wait to a point where they really do need that nursing home environment.
Steven Farrell: Why do they wait so long?
Michelle Anderson: I think it, I think oftentimes people don’t know what they don’t know. They maybe, maybe their only experience with senior living is a nursing home of 20 or 25 years ago. And they’ve never seen what senior living communities are like today, or maybe it’s I promise my mom, I would never do that, but I’m but if they, if they kind unwind that they made that promise when their mom didn’t need it. Yeah. Or maybe it’s,
Steven Farrell: It’s a lot of the media, too, everything I’ve seen as a kid. And as, as you know, my, you know, it’s, everything is, uh, in the news in a movies portrayed a negative way.
Michelle Anderson: Yeah. That is true. And you know, you think about, if you, if you, again, kind of unwind it and take the bigger picture, isn’t everything in the news, they, they very rarely share whether it’s about
Steven Farrell: Flowers or anything else tonight at 7:00 PM.
Michelle Anderson: Yeah. I mean, if they would focus on the good and there is so much good, is anyone perfect? No, we’re humans. Will we let a family down? Yes, we will. Will we do it intentionally? No, we will not. Yeah, because we, there is so much good in the senior living communities and, and families, you know, you even there’s times where it’s, I promise my mom, I would take care of her or I promise my husband, you know, perhaps we’re looking at a, a memory care situation where someone has an advancing form of dementia and, and you have either an adult child or a spouse who’s feeling guilty because I promise them I would take care of them. Well, what does taking care of someone mean? You have to redefine what that means. It doesn’t taking care of someone doesn’t mean keeping them at home. It means making sure they have the best care yeah. Provided by people who are trained to provide that type of care. And I think that’s where people get mixed up. They think, and they’re doing the best they can. I really believe people do the best they can with the best intentions. They just don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s why we’re doing this so that we can start rolling out things that will help educate the, the general public about what senior living offers.
Steven Farrell: And you, you talk about memory care and the memory care here, um, at thrive at Mon Vale and thrive at large, I believe is trio. Correct. What, why trio? What’s the what’s that mean?
Michelle Anderson: So when you think about you have the older adult and there is no one person that is going to provide that care, you have the, the older adult who may be living with a type of dementia and there’s many, many different types of dementias. And then you have the family and then you have the team here at thrive, all working together to provide that care for that loved one. And, and the loved one is a part of that. They’re not, it’s, they’re not an object. Yeah. To be taken care of. They’re part of this process. They’re they are the one living through this and with this. So,
Steven Farrell: And it’s really, and we can cut you some images from the trio here, but it’s really beautiful place for family to come into. Oh, absolutely. And, and again, it’s, it’s about breaking down the, uh, the stigma of, of memory care and what a dementia Absolut, all that you think of just pardon my, this is where my brain goes, 12 monkeys. Think of people walking around and, you know, it’s, it’s like, it’s not a good image that they painted in movies. People. Yeah.
Michelle Anderson: It, but
Steven Farrell: This is so lovely here.
Michelle Anderson: It it’s you wanna
Steven Farrell: Vibe like I wanna be there.
Michelle Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. It, what here is when, you know, my encouragement to families that are maybe going through this and, and have a loved one who might be needing memory care at some point is it should never be the afterthought of a community. It should be intertwined in the community. It should be a part of it. And, and families should look for engaging, you know, residents who are engaged. They should look for an intentional design of the community. I I’m a firm believer that smaller is better. Um, especially in, in the memory care communities, because,
Steven Farrell: And why is that? Why mimic like a families or a homelike setting?
Michelle Anderson: That’s exactly it
Steven Farrell: Just clean it up for here.
Michelle Anderson: <laugh> to, to give it a small house concept to really make it when someone is living with dementia, the more comfortable that you can make the environment the better they are, um, in their day to day life and how they adapt and adjust. And, and, and I think it also gives our team members a chance to be more engaged with them. I think it allows us to spend more time with them. And, um, and you know, you wanna see team members who, who sit and enjoy time with the person, not just constantly walk around, checking off task list, but let’s, let’s engage the human being. And let’s have conversations. Let’s sit in the courtyard and have a cup of tea. Let’s do you know, whatever it is that that resident wants to do, let’s do it.
Steven Farrell: Which leads me to another question. What are you looking for in a thrive team member? When you’re looking to hire them in a trio like environment, memory care, like environment,
Michelle Anderson: That’s such a good question. A heart, as big as the green canyon, I was someone
Steven Farrell: The end of the, a Grinch, you know, when it grows that big,
Michelle Anderson: <laugh> a huge heart. Somebody who is passionate about knowing people, um,
Steven Farrell: Deep knowing
Michelle Anderson: Deep knowing, knowing the person, understanding who they are. Um, we train, you know, I, we can train on the different tasks. We, we do have a night certification that all of our team members go through. It’s the national Institute for dementia education mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so all of our team members are nine certified. Um, and that’s not just our care team. That is our dining team, our housekeeping
Steven Farrell: Team,
Michelle Anderson: Everyone gets nine certified because everyone’s going to interact with the residents. And, um, so when I look for a team member, I want that hard. I want somebody who highly aligns with our belief, that if a person has breath in their lungs, they have purpose in their life. And, and I want them, you know, we wanna know that they align with that. Everything else we can, we can figure out, we can figure out schedules and all that kind of stuff, but who, who are they at their core?
Steven Farrell: Good answer. Would you say the same thing for assisted living and independent living?
Michelle Anderson: It doesn’t matter. What, what type of senior living or what role it is, that’s what you want.
Steven Farrell: Well, look at that. It’s three o’clock somewhere. It is around 10:00 AM. So I would cheer you with a drink. So instead of that, we have our coffee. Here you go. Cheers. This is from Wegmans. <laugh> Vivian coffee company here at thrive in Montvale opening soon thrive at Montvale is open, uh, thrive. Senior living does independent living assisted living in memory care. If you’d like to find out more, you can go to www dot thrive, sl.com, schedule a tour, give us a call. Look through some videos.
Michelle Anderson: Absolutely.
Steven Farrell: Thanks for joining
Michelle Anderson: Us. Come experience it.
Steven Farrell: Yeah, until next time.