There are many reasons why people might decide to move into retirement communities, senior living, or continuing care facilities. Some of these reasons are medical issues such as reduced physical capacity, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When not medically motivated, however, the decision to move could also be driven by a fear of being alone or worrying about being a physical or financial burden on loved ones. Still, others may enjoy being closer to people with similar interests. Easing the transition to community living is often an overlooked, but critical need.
Whatever the driving factor behind moving into a senior living community, it is important to remember that the process of moving can cause tremendous strain. Anyone could quickly find themselves in the shock of trying to acclimate to a whole new environment. While some may thrive in this environment, many will struggle with isolation and bouts of depression.
How the Pain of Pride Plays a Part
Pride is loosely defined as having deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements. A senior who has lived independently can feel as if their ability to be self-reliant was a positive accomplishment when compared to other seniors of a similar age or degree of infirmity. When a prideful senior comes to a realization that they can no longer be self-reliant, it can cause a powerful sense of disappointment in them.
Accepting a transition into a community environment as a common step in a very natural process can be very difficult. In this instance self-worth can quickly become connected to self-reliance and when one goes, so too, does the other.
Those who are struggling with their pride may lash out at people who want to help or they may show excessive moodiness. These are symptoms of the pain their pride is causing, but the sub-conscious goal is actually to cause isolation so that they can protect themselves from the discomfort of knowing that they are in an environment that is no longer in their control.
It is important to note these are natural human responses and ones that many people, not just seniors will have similar reactions when their control is challenged. These feelings are often manifested in loneliness and depression.
Is Décor a Cure?
Is décor a cure for depression? It sounds strange to make any kind of claim that decorating can improve the mood of those suffering from depression. When operating in a vacuum, decor by itself doesn’t cure anything. However, adding attractive design elements can offer some sense of familiarity and comfort while becoming accustomed to a new environment. In this case, decorating can absolutely play a role in how quickly someone can adjust and feel as if they are a part of the community.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), being able “… to make a contribution to his or her community” is one of the defining characteristics of mental health. When we examine the WHO definition of what it takes to experience mental health and well-being, it is only a small step to tie directly into the fact that emersion in one’s environment, including interacting and contributing to it, can definitely have an impact on depression or other issues related to a lack of mental health.
Networking Comfort Zones
A comfort zone is defined by psychcentral.com as “…a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person, and they are at ease, and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress…” On the surface, it is easy to say that one of the main goals of senior living is to encourage socialization, but we have to look deeper than that to really understand what is going on and how to positively affect it.
When easing a resident’s transition into a new facility it is essential that they are able to first create their own comfort zone. As their familiarity with the environment grows and they begin to make contributions to expanding their comfort zone, these zones will begin to overlap with those of other residents. These overlaps serve as a common area of comfort and will allow the most opportunity for socialization.
By evaluating where the most comfort zone overlaps occur, for all residents, it’s possible to identify where the most effective social spaces exist. Once these areas are identified, any efforts concentrated here to make the area as comfortable as possible for all of the overlapping and interconnected social zones will pay huge dividends in mental health and socialization. When comfort zones are interconnected into a facility-wide network of comfort zones, the facility can finally complete the transition into what everyone from residents to administrators want; a thriving community.
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