Quality of Life for the Elderly

When the elderly could no longer care for themselves, they used to end up in a long-term care facility to await death. A paradigm shift is slowly taking place as the focus is changing to caring for the individual in enabling quality of life rather than just providing basic care till death. People are living longer and the expectations of old age are much different than 20-30 years ago. They are no longer willing to settle for having only their physical needs met, but require a more holistic approach.

Most people are taking more responsibility over their personal health and well-being. Research has shown that keeping the mind and body active gives people a quality of life, even as they get older. The government has changed the age of retirement so many seniors continue working, some out of necessity and others out of a choice to continue doing what they love. With vast amounts of information available via the Internet, people feel more empowered to make informed decisions about their life choices and refuse to settle for what used to be the “expected” progression of aging.

My mother’s main concern in getting older was that she wanted her mind to stay alert. In her mid-70’s she learned how to use the computer. It was amazing how quickly she mastered the skills needed to send and receive emails or chat on Messenger, even though she used only one or two fingers to type. It opened up a whole new world to her and gave her a social network that would not have been possible before; it gave her a way to stay in touch with her children and grandchildren all around the world.

A few years later she moved into a long-term care facility. The computer was her life-line as she learned how to use Facebook and started interacting with friends and family in a new way. She learned how to do Google searches whenever information was needed. This resource was particularly helpful when she took over the task of care-giver to the finches in the home. She found out how to provide proper care, raise baby finches, etc.—and it wasn’t long before they had some to sell! She has a quality of life, an activity that gives her purpose, a network of friends and family to give her a sense of connection to the world. There is no longer a need to feel isolated and alone as once was the case when people moved into a care facility where they felt abandoned and forgotten.

There is a new initiative taking place where she lives called Eden Alternative and she became the resident representative, providing input to the committee overseeing these changes. This initiative is being implemented in stages and follows the guidelines of the Eden Alternative philosophy. This organization was started in 1991 by Dr. William Thomas, a Harvard-educated physician and board-certified geriatrician. They are “dedicated to eliminating the plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom that make life intolerable in most of today’s long-term care facilities.” Their goal is to shift the control over one’s own life back into the hands of the individual rather than from top-down decision-makers who know “what is best.”

Whether long-term care facilities adopt the Eden Alternative philosophy or another one like it, this change of focus must happen. As more and more baby boomers become elderly, there will be a demand for a more holistic approach to care including pets, gardens, interaction with children and continued learning. Some facilities are creatively sharing space with a preschool or kindergarten enabling interaction between the two ages. Larger institutions who for financial reasons can not do extensive renovations, smaller feasible changes are being made such as creating smaller neighborhoods of 10-15 residents where they share a smaller dining room and lounge. They have access to a small kitchen for coffee or tea and snacks. Through grant programs, computers with Internet access is available for residents to communicate with friends and family. Visionaries are beginning to realize that thinking outside the box is a necessity to meeting the social, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of the elderly as they seek to continue living the best kind of life they can with whatever ability they have.

Changing the focus to the living of life and away from illness and death alone improves a person’s quality of life. The places that have made these changes notice that a person who is enabled to stay active and involved in real-life situations experiences improved health and regains an interest in what is going on around them. The elderly have so much knowledge and expertise to share with the world that it seems a shame that it often does not get shared with the younger generation. With proper care they can continue to interact with others and live a fulfilling life. Through the medium of the Internet they can also teach and mentor others in many meaningful ways.

Just as my mother, who now has an opportunity to share her life with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, others can have an impact on their own world in whatever way they choose. If they are a writer, they can write down their stories and share them with others (perhaps even through HubPages!) If they are interested in continued learning, they can sign up for free online courses offered to seniors. The elderly may not have the physical stamina or the health that they once did, but they have much to share with the world and we need to honor them by providing a quality of life that shows they are valued and cared for. Always remember, one day that will be you—choose now how you want to live when you are old.

More by this Author


Comments 15 comments

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

As a senior...let me re-phrase that - as an older senior, I really appreciate your bringing this topic to life. You are a marvelous voice for the elderly.

This is the first time I've heard of the Eden Alternative and it sounds like an amazing idea. Wish I had found this sooner so I could cast my vote. So, I cast my vote for you wonderful lady!


FloBe profile image

FloBe 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

thebluestar...it is too true that the care of the elderly is sadly lacking in many cases. My hope is that people will start to take the issue seriously and help to bring about change that will make it better for the future care. I know that funding is scarce but it is necessary to show the elderly that they are valued in society...if it wasn't for them, we would not have the life we now have.


thebluestar profile image

thebluestar 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

I work as a community worker and love my job but especially I love the people I care for. Unfortunately the care the elderly receive in many residential homes in this country is horrendous. Many elderly sitting rows deep in chairs staring into space. Many valuable lives who where once an important member of the community are now just awaiting their fate. If I can assist any of our elderly citizens to stay in their own homes instead of being put into residential care, then I feel I have done a service to humanity.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

hubpageswriter...thanks for your comments...elder care still needs a lot of improvement, but each generation can make strides toward a better life as we age, especially now that people are living longer.


hubpageswriter 5 years ago

The quality of life for the elderly has to be improved for sure. I hope that more importance will be shown in areas of health especially. Well said and such a well thought out hub.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

pinkdaisy...you're right, quality of life is important for everyone and those who can't advocate for themselves need people who care enough to do it with them! (Not for them, because everyone should be able to voice their own desires)

Thanks so much for stopping by. Nice to meet you.


pinkdaisy profile image

pinkdaisy 6 years ago from Canada

This is a great hub on a very important issue. I love the Eden Alternative philosophy, I have never heard of this before.

This is a great alternative to traditional retirement homes. I would love to see this philosophy extended to homes for the developmentally challenged.

Quality of life is SO important!

Thanks for sharing this.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

NCBler...it's the one initiative that provides training and consultation to institutions to help them make the transition and I've seen first-hand how it can really work. So, thank you for carrying forth the message and for stopping by.


NCBIer profile image

NCBIer 6 years ago

Great hub! The Eden Alternative sounds like an excellent alternative to the standard retirement facilities I am familiar with. I will link to their site from my own whenever appropriate. Quality of life is important at all stages and ages, but making it a priority becomes even more critical as we get older.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

BobbiRant...you're right, there is still a LOT of change that has to happen before the elderly will be secure in proper care...we have to try to make a difference in our own areas and eventually change will come! Thanks for stopping by.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

This is a great article, unfortunately the majority of nursing homes are not Eden Alternative ones and 90% of nursing homes are simply awful. I have worked nursing homes and have seen too much wrong with the traditional ones. All traditional ones need to become Culture Change homes.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

carrie450...I sometimes volunteer teaching seniors how to use a computer and it is exciting to me when they discover the ways they can connect with family and friends and how easy it is. Then they wonder why they were so afraid of it! Thanks for stopping by :) Blessings.


carrie450 profile image

carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

This is a wonderful hub FloBe. The computer is my lifeline also as far as keeping in touch with family and granchildren outside of the city. It's amazing what I have learned on the computer in the last 6 years. I nwould love to see more seniors try it out. It's a whole new world, thanks


FloBe profile image

FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Carol Ende...thanks for stopping by and adding this information. I think that this is a good way to encourage better elder care in those locations and perhaps the incentive will encourage other areas to join in as well!


Carol Ende 6 years ago

Help us grow the Eden Alternative in other organizations

Vote for our $250,000 grant proposal "Refresh and transform 5 nursing homes." You can vote each day.

Here is the link: http://www.refresheverything.com/transform5nursing...

Start spreading the news to your friends and family and have them vote for the Eden Alternative idea every day throughout November. They can now vote by mobile phone too using your unique text-to-vote code, available on our idea page.

Voting ends the last day of this month so there's no time to lose.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working