July 2nd, 2020 | Senior Living
When our founders conceived the principles that would become a Constitution and fought for an independent nation, there had never been anything like it. The concept of Independence as a unifying principle was so new to human history and so foreign to the ancient conventions of monarchy that the Declaration of Independence landed like a cannonball in the court of King George.
Independence is at the very core of our identity as a people. And Independence is at the core of our mission at Legend Senior Living. It’s the first word in our three key values for a senior’s quality of life: Independence, Dignity and Purpose.
Independence was also the cornerstone principle when Legend Senior Living founder Tim Buchanan pioneered the very concept of Assisted Living more than 30 years ago. At the time, seniors and their families just could not reconcile the love of their lifelong homes, and their personal freedom and dignity with living in a place that seemed opposed to the very notion of independence: the nursing home. it took a fiercely independent entrepreneur to say, “You’re right. That’s just not good enough. There has to be a way.” And if there was no way, then we would make one.
But what would this look like? We had to throw out all of the conventional notions and write a new story, our own Constitution that provided for the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness particular to senior needs and independent senior lifestyles and where the needed care or challenges of memory-related disease and cognitive challenges could be provided for by modern, effective, compassionate methods.
The first revolutionary idea was private apartment living, but as part of a community that saw to all of the requirements of the complete individual lifestyle. The very idea of the “Individuality of aging” was a revelation. Before this, the organization was designed to serve the facility, not the resident. No matter one’s level of mobility or cognitive functioning, everyone lived in the same, sterile surroundings. No wonder seniors compared it to warehousing. Who cares what the merchandise feels like?
“When you look at Legend and any other senior living company, you’re looking at two very different approaches inside and out. And the difference all begins with the concept of Independence.”
This history is important because it tells the story of how the proper mission with the right innovations can grow and evolve. The more we know about medical science and cognitive functioning, the more we can apply that knowledge to assisted living and memory care. And we’ve seen those innovations at Legend. They have shaped our architecture, our therapy, our hiring and training, even our very management structure. When you look at Legend and any other senior living company, you’re looking at two very different approaches inside and out. And the difference all begins with the concept of Independence.
When you hear the two words together, the mind may leap to “being able to get around.” We tend to think of that as the measurement of the end of independence. “Mom’s not able to get around on her own anymore.” Mobility is one aspect of physical independence, one that plays a big part in the purposeful design of our communities. Wider halls, numerous resting and conversation places, handrails, strategically designed apartments all aid mobility. These features have a deeper purpose, too.
Anyone who has worked for a large company in a large corporate building knows that the feeling of confinement feeds a loss of individuality. This has led to modern open-work environments that not only make it easier to “get around” but that foster socialization, communication and frequent stretching of the legs. Physical independence and mental independence are, well, interdependent, inseparable. And our community designs give space to such activity and openness, space that a company more concerned with profit per square foot than the well-being of seniors would consider wasted. It’s far from wasted or merely cosmetic. For those in memory care, for example, the circular floor plan permits the tendency to get up and move without the risk of wandering. These qualities are less apparent than ever-present medical assistance, physical therapy, exercise facilities and sports that our residents enjoy, but their effects are essential to a longer, more independent life.
“If we were not making the most of having more than thirty years of experience in senior living, we’d be ignoring one our greatest assets …”
Some people seem born to caregiving. Others acquire a sensitivity and understanding over years of paying attention. You’ve known these people. They always know what to say. They put you at ease. They seem to be able to calm and “heal” with a look. If we here at Legend were not making the most of having more than thirty years of experience in caregiving and senior living, we’d be ignoring one our greatest assets, the rich insight into how we live as we age and how we cope with loss and change, what simply keeps us going and what truly brings us joy. We thrive as a senior living provider on our dedication to the science of aging and cognitive research. The difference that human understanding brings sets us apart. We look for and cultivate this innate talent in our Legend Associates, who earn their status as Legend Experts in Senior Living™ and Legend Experts in Memory Care™ with training, mentorship and through a work culture that encourages friendship and love of community.
“A Legend Associate can tell the difference between someone who thrives in privacy with their cooking, reading or crafts, and another who keeps to themselves out of a cycle of inertia and depression.”
So, what does all that have to do with mental independence? Ironically, mental independence relies greatly on others. The first thing to understand is that being independent does not mean being alone. A caring, skilled Associate can tell that someone may still be dealing with the loss of a spouse not long before they’ve made the move to a senior living community. They can tell the difference between someone who thrives in privacy with their cooking, reading or crafts – and shares the experience – and another who keeps to themselves out of a cycle of inertia (e.g., endless TV watching, not coming to meals) that comes with depression. These tendencies can lead to decline, physical and mental, and the best therapy is sometimes to draw the person out into the broader community. Naturally, Legend is endowed with entertainment and exercise amenities, theaters and game spaces, but we also dedicate a management professional to Life Enrichment. The single focus of this position is growth, socially, culturally and spiritually. Residents choose their interests and explore them in activities, outings and events. They live their independence through expression, communication, volunteerism and by simply being recognized for who they are.
Mental independence has special significance in Memory Care. Passive memory care seeks to “deal with” the senior suffering dementia. Legend Memory Care, instead, is a dynamic, proactive practice of using the brain’s own ability to form new pathways to actually improve cognition and form new memories. This is what most of us, along with the scientists, would consider the seat of the independent mind. The benefits of decreased agitation, prolonged quality of life and connection with loved ones are more likely to be achieved naturally than through heavy dependence on pharmaceuticals.
“We refuse to let Independence be one of the lofty words that we repeat so often it loses its meaning.”
Legend Senior Living owns and operates over 40 Legend and Windsor senior living residences in six states. This article may have been an unusual way to describe them. We haven’t described a single piece of furniture or told you about the patios and bistros, after all. But that would not be describing what Legend is. Not at our heart. Every residence has its own character and is reflective of the locale and the culture, whether it’s Jacksonville, Florida or Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In that, we’re a lot like the individuals who make their homes here. You should meet them. The description should come from them. It will be as individual as their own happiness, their own experience of Dignity, Purpose and Independence.
We refuse to let Independence be one of the lofty words that we repeat so often it loses its meaning. This time of year, the word Independence still lights up with the blast of color in the starry July sky whenever we say it. Having been at Legend and in the company of our community of seniors and Associates, we tend to see deeper shades in that burst of an idea. It tends to linger a little longer on the vision and yield a little more slowly to the night.