Assisted Living

11/1/2023 | By Kari Smith

This day in the life of a typical resident of an assisted living community can help you envision what life would be like for you or a loved one. If you’re pondering a move, picture yourself as part of a day like this one.

As Paul slowly awoke, he reflected on the difficult decision he and his kids had recently made. “I bet this move was harder on them than it was on me,” he thought as he rolled slowly out of bed.

Truthfully, life in an assisted living community was an improvement for him, albeit an adjustment. Although it was hard for his kids to imagine him as anything other than the vibrant, strong young man of their youth, Paul actually felt like less of a burden on them in this space.

Their mother, his wife, had passed a year ago, and he had recently begun to feel anxious about living alone, as his pace slowed, he managed a hip replacement, and his mobility issues had become more unpredictable. After a fall in the shower, he began wanting help in bathing, or at least someone he could call in case of an emergency – someone who was just steps away instead of miles away.

Paul shuffled sleepily to the door, where a knock indicated the arrival of his morning meds.

“Good morning, Mr. Blankenship,” nurse Bianca said cheerily. He swallowed the pills with a few sips of water, grateful that he no longer had to remember when to take his medications on his own – something that had become more and more difficult.

“Ready to eat? The ‘breakfast club’ is going to send out a search party for you soon,” she teased lightly.

meal time in an assisted living community, as seniors sit at a table and a nurse socializes with them. Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

The “breakfast club,” as the nurses jokingly called it, was a small group of men who sat together at “their” table each morning and awaited made-to-order meals. Although Paul enjoyed being able to wake up whenever he chose, he didn’t like to miss breakfast, because who knows what new bit of gossip he may miss? Truth be told, he enjoyed the social engagement and he preferred it to the lonely quiet of his previous home. He dressed himself and headed down to the cafeteria.

After ordering a healthy and delicious breakfast, Paul ate and chatted with the group until it was time for his physical therapy appointment. It was nice to walk down the wide hall to his appointment, especially with the walker he sometimes used, rather than to depend on someone drive him to an appointment, as he had when he lived at home.

Although physical therapy was challenging, today he had lunch with his son to look forward to. His kids couldn’t come often – busy corporate jobs and kids – he treasured those times together and enjoyed knowing that his support team could collaborate with them and share plans and ideas.

He also enjoyed being able to leave the facility, with his kids and when the facility’s shuttle took residents to destinations and activities around town.

Lunch with Paul Jr. was a quick affair, but a fulfilling time to catch up and see the most recent pictures of his grandkids at their soccer games and dance recitals. Paul updated his son on how things were going for him, and how he was adjusting to life in the assisted living community. He saw relief in his son’s eyes as he described the support that was in place for those difficult mornings when he struggled to dress himself or get to the restroom.

He arrived back at the facility just in time for the chess club. Although he was a bit rusty, he appreciated that playing the game kept his mind sharp. After the activity was over, he returned to his room and noticed, relieved, that it had been tidied and his laundry had been washed. After his wife had passed, Paul had struggled with cleaning and with preparing regular meals. Although selling his house had symbolically felt like losing some independence, amenities like these assured him he had made the right decision.

Dinner was different from eating with the breakfast bunch – the “club” seemed to scatter at the later meal, some eating with spouses or significant others, some eating with visiting family, and some choosing to eat in their rooms. That was OK with Paul – it gave him the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. On nights when his hip was particularly moody, Paul preferred to have his meal brought to his room. On Friday nights, he always hoped his hip would cooperate, as the facility’s activities coordinator arranged fun activities like movie nights, Bingo games, and even monthly hymn sings.

As Bianca knocked on the door once more with his post-dinner medications, Paul glanced at the family pictures on the wall by the door and thought how fortunate he was to be in the best possible position in this everchanging season of his life.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith