The first of the baby boomer generation began reaching age 65 this year, a phenomenon which brings with it many challenges for the U.S. healthcare system and senior services across the country, including those offered by retirement communities.
At Seacrest Village in Encinitas and Rancho Bernardo, expansion has always been the answer to the greater number of older adults requiring or desiring Seacrest’s services, which range from independent living facilities to Alzheimer’s/dementia care offered in the Katzin Residence, and everything in between.
Seacrest’s CEO Pam Ferris shared her insights on America’s aging population and what to look for in a retirement community.
San Diego Jewish Journal: What are some of the issues facing older adults today?
Pam Ferris: As America ages, the demand for products and services that relate to the care of seniors is growing exponentially. For example, people 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population, and of those people who reach 85, it is estimated that half will be affected by some form of dementia. That is an overwhelming statistic that some refer to as the “Gray Tsunami.” Our community must grapple with [this] and work together to continue to make the needs of our elderly a high priority.
SDJJ: What should one look for when evaluating a senior community?
PF: There are many things to look for and questions to ask when choosing a senior community, because when you find the right fit, there is a tremendous amount of relief. What is the tenure of key staff and of the caregivers? What is their reputation in the community? Do they have specific visiting hours? Do they offer trial residencies whereby seniors can stay a few days to experience the community before making a decision to move in? Do they have residents you can speak with to learn more about the community from their perspective? Do you see staff interacting with residents? Do they appear friendly and caring? Are residents up, dressed and out of their rooms for activities and meals? Is it clean?
SDJJ: How does one know when the time is right to start considering living arrangements for aging parents or grandparents?
PF: Talking to our parents about their choices later in life is critical. All too often this important discussion is avoided, overlooked or attempted, but with great resistance. Do our parents want to stay at home? Move to a senior living community? If so, which one? Have they ever toured one? What things are most important to them? If they need rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility, have they selected one where they would like to go? Do they have an estate plan; a durable power of attorney for healthcare? Who in the family will make these decisions if our parents have not? Where are all their important papers? These are difficult questions at best, yet they become far more difficult during a crisis situation, so it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive.
SDJJ: How has Seacrest prepared for the “Gray Tsunami” phenomenon?
PF: Our Leichtag Family Foundation Campus is a 10-acre full service campus. It offers independent living, now with two product types (apartments with kitchenettes), and one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and washers and dryers. Kosher food, assisted living, memory care and a healthcare center that offers short term rehabilitation stays sets us apart from other facilities. Hospice care is also available.
The most important quality a senior community can have is its staff. They are our greatest asset. They interact daily with the residents, encourage them, provide them tender loving care, treat them with dignity and compassion, offer a sense of security and reassure their family members they are safe.
We try to choose employees who have a passion for the elderly. You can generally teach someone skills, but not compassion.
For more information on Seacrest Village, visit www.seacrestvillage.org or call (760) 632-0081.