Dear Donna:

My father lives in southwest Michigan. He’s been on his own for a few years now since my mother passed away. Dad had been the primary caregiver for my Mom for about six years before her death. Since he has been on his own, he doesn’t seem to be getting out much. When I try to talk with him about it, he gets a little annoyed with me. The best I’ve been able to determine is that he doesn’t like to drive any longer and that he doesn’t feel like he has much purpose in life. I know he misses my Mom, and caring for her kept him very busy.

When I talked with our family doctor about it (she is also my Dad’s doctor) she suggested he might be happier in an independent living community where there is a lot to do each day. Somehow he has the idea that these communities are mostly for widows after their husbands pass away. I guess I’m a little confused about independent living, too. How would my Dad really benefit from this type of move?

Kathy in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Kathy:

It’s unfortunately all too common to see the surviving spouse —especially if they have been a long-term caregiver — struggle to build a new life. As you probably know from watching your parents, caregiving is a full-time plus job. To go from being so busy to having whole days to fill can be a big adjustment.

Your father’s feelings about women and senior living are not without merit. Experts say the ratio of women to men in an assisted living community can be as high as 7:1. The simple fact is most women live longer than men. On average, women outlive men by 5 – 7 years. It is important to note, however, that most senior living communities realize men feel this way and are working hard to overcome that stereotype. They are incorporating more masculine décor, offering programs specifically directed at male residents and more.

Your family physician’s suggestion sounds like a good one to consider! If your father chose to move to an independent living community he would benefit from:

  • A full calendar of life enrichment activities to participate in each day
  • Neighbors who have experienced similar struggles and losses and understand what your father is going through
  • Transportation services to local shopping centers, community events, physician appointments and more
  • A hassle-free lifestyle that includes all maintenance and housekeeping
  • The option to purchase meal service at dinner time if he no longer wishes to cook for himself

I hope this helps give you a better understanding of independent living in Michigan, Kathy! I wish you and your Dad the best of luck as you make this decision.