Lathrop Fosters Community Approach to Aging in Place

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”

At Lathrop, aging in place could be more accurately described as aging in community.

“Neighbors are all very willing to help each other in any way they can, and everyone benefits from the culture of mutual support,” said Lathrop Wellness Coordinator Erin Curtin.

With both the Northampton and Easthampton campuses designated exclusively for Independent Living, aging in place has unique implications at Lathrop.

Unlike many senior communities with a continuing model of care, whereby residents move to different care levels on the same campus as their needs change, aging in place at Lathrop means having proper implements in independent townhomes and, most importantly, a strategic plan that prioritizes safety, accessibility and structures and services that will allow residents to remain in their homes for as long as possible.

On a daily level, it also means being able to manage one’s own personal care, meal preparation, household chores, financial affairs, medications, healthcare appointments and safety in their home and community.

As such, most townhomes are without stairs and feature wide doorways, grab bars (unless residents request not to have them), emergency pendants and level, stable floor transitions. For residents who need a little extra support, The Inn provides Enhanced Living.

Along with caring, supportive staff, residents themselves are personally invested in their ability to safely age in place.

As a committee, several of them devised a “wish list” including such things as robust transportation options, cutting edge Internet capabilities and machine learning technology (think “Alexa”) and some aspects of universal design. Universal design is the design and composition of an inclusive environment to be accessed, understood and used by all people to the greatest possible extent.

“Residents are very passionate and vocal about this topic,” said Erin, who, along with Director of Wellness and Care Coordination Rob Olmsted, helps them navigate changes in status, determine new needs and arrange appropriate resources, services and/or home modifications if there is a fall, hospitalization, rehab stay, etc. The team also conducts home safety assessments and offers residents useful tips to avoid injury, maintain dexterity, strength and mobility and adapt to their environment.

“We’re here to respond to residents’ needs, whatever they may be,” said Erin, an occupational therapist recently certified as an aging in place specialist. According to her, occupational therapy is key in that function is at the root of aging in place. What does one need to do to live safely and independently, and how will they get there?

Lathrop residents are extremely motivated to answer those questions for themselves and each other. “Being in an exclusively independent living environment is very attractive to them,” Erin remarked.

Indeed, the strategic plan for independence is top of mind and growing more important all the time. At its heart is a highly motivated, close group of neighbors (both geographically along their cozy lanes and emotionally in meaningful friendships) who look out for one another in their quest for continued self-sufficiency in their current residences.

“This is an amazing group of people,” remarked Erin, a native of the area who grew up aware of the highly regarded Lathrop community. “They’re curious, kind, stimulating, surprising and nothing like the stereotypical senior citizen.”

Learn more about aging in community at Lathrop.
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