December 9th, 2020 | Senior Living
The Greatest Gift Is the Gift of Independence
Around this time of year, virtually all religions celebrate significant events of birth, new beginnings, festivals of everlasting light and sacred histories, our identity as a people – who we are. Also universal is the tradition of gift-giving to one another. The tradition may symbolize the spiritual gifts we all enjoy without condition. One of these is Independence. As the founders expressed it in our Declaration of Independence, we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” meaning they are given to us at birth.
Independence is at the very core of our identity as human beings, whatever our cultural origins. To be deprived of it is to take away our identity. To get it back is one of the greatest gifts we can get. We made Independence 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 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 about aging and write a new history that provided for the particular needs of seniors and independent senior lifestyles – where the necessary care or new solutions for memory-related disease and cognitive challenges could be provided for by modern, effective, compassionate methods.
The first innovation was private apartment living, but as part of a residence 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?
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 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 residences. Wider halls, numerous resting and conversation places, handrails, strategically designed apartments, abundant natural light and well-designed color schemes all aid mobility.
Some people seem born to be caregivers. 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 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.
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 residence. They can tell the difference between someone who thrives in privacy with their reading or crafts – and shares the experience – and another who is more socially active.
For either resident, we always work 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.
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.
Independence is not a decoration to hang on a tree, a keepsake we take out once a year and look at with nostalgia. It is the shining light of individuality we are endowed with at birth, that which makes us who we are, and that shines on, everlasting. It should grow brighter with age, and never dim. That is life at Legend. Visit the living room just off the entrance at any Legend residence this time of year. There, next to the glowing fireplace, a towering tree stretches its branches heavenward, populated with many shining lights. Many lights, one tree, a perfect symbol of Independent, happy individuals coming together as a community. May your season be as bright as our hearts this year.