Your dad is getting older and you’re worried about him living alone in a house that takes a lot of upkeep. Last year you got worried when he didn’t pick up the phone, so you drove over and found him cleaning out the gutters on the roof, maybe not a great place for an 80-year-old to be.
When he didn’t have enough energy to push the lawn mower around anymore, you had to talk him out of buying a riding lawn mower—dangerous for a steep slope and a bit much for a quarter of an acre.
So finally, you broach The Subject. As gently as you can, you mention, “Um, Dad, maybe it’s time to think about you moving to a senior facility –“
“A SENIOR FACILITY?!!! Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m not moving to a senior facility. I’ve been living here for 45 years and you can’t tell me that I’m not competent. . .” and so on and so on.
Oops. That didn’t exactly go as planned.
What Went Wrong?
Maybe it’s because you used the F-word. Facility.
Those of us who were born after 1960 may not realize how emotionally charged the word “facility” is. People who were born in the 1940s and earlier remember a time when people with disabilities of any kind were hidden away from the general public in facilities or institutions. They were marginalized, segregated, treated as a nuisance or an embarrassment. Suggesting that your father might move to a “facility” implies that he is no longer welcome in society. NOT what you wanted to convey!
Among people who work in the senior services industry, “facility” is known as the F-word. We avoid it at all costs. Other loaded words to avoid are “home” and “institution.” The word “home” harks back to “nursing home” or “old folks’ home” where older people were parked to live out their days in obscurity and boredom. The word “institution” brings to mind orphanages and juvenile detention centers, with white walls, plain surroundings, stern attendees and patients who slowly shuffle from room to room. Yuck!
In fact, “old folks’ homes” and “nursing homes” no longer exist. Many retirement living communities strive to cultivate the ambiance of a lively cruise ship. There are dances, parties, incoming entertainers, exercise classes, movie nights and group trips to various local events and attractions. Residents don’t need to cook or concern themselves with repairs, maintenance or upkeep. They don’t need to drive since transportation is usually provided. Best of all, there is an active social life available just outside their front door. They can get help if they fall or get the flu. But the strongest pull is the social interactions and the fun of just living there, compared to the solitariness and limited opportunities of living at home alone.
One type of senior living that still uses the word “facility” is the “Skilled Nursing Facility,” also known as Rehab Hospitals. A small percentage of seniors live in skilled nursing facilities. Most residents are there temporarily to recover from a health altering event. A rehab hospital has occupational, speech and physical therapists available while still offering social activities and entertainment.
A Better Way
Retirement living is a whole new style now-a-days. Retirement communities often allow visitors to enjoy a meal together in the community dining hall, to meet other retirees, and sometimes allow a day or two stay on site, to get a feeling for the ambience and opportunities in the community. So, a better approach to the subject might be to suggest to your dad that you visit some retirement communities together, just in case he ever needs a little more help. It’s possible that he’ll realize that living in a community is a lot more fun than being stuck alone at home with a television set as his only companion.