Seniors find community life has perks and blessings

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WASHINGTON (CNS) - After a person retires, the support and encouragement of family and friends become a crucial part of day-to-day living.

As professional relationships fade and office happenings lose their importance, seniors begin to rely on a network of their closest loved ones to add meaning and joy to their lives. Listening to grandchildren's accomplishments and laughing with old friends, seniors know that they still have a purpose after they stop earning a paycheck.

Although interaction with others can help seniors remain engaged and excited about life, studies show that aging baby boomers will have fewer friends and family to take care of them as they move into their 80s. According to a 2013 AARP study, the ratio of potential caregivers to members of this new group of seniors is projected to decline from more than 7-to-1 in 2010 to less than 3-to-1 by 2050.

With fewer caregivers to turn to, many seniors are postponing retirement.

Richard Leider, a vocational psychiatrist and life coach in Minneapolis, explained that many seniors are choosing to work well past their 65th birthday to maintain social connectivity.

"A lot of it has to do with social connection," he said, noting that seniors don't want to be "disconnected to the world and work is one of the best places to overcome feelings of isolation."

"A job gives a person a reason to get up in the morning. It connects them with other people, provides them with a schedule to follow and allows them to feel like they're making a difference in the world in some way," he said.

But working long past retirement age isn't an option for everyone. Those who don't have family members to care for them are finding that living in retirement communities not only gives them a sense of security but fills a social void by providing an immediate circle of friends and activities.

Lucille Kristanic, who has lived in one of the assisted living facilities of Cardinal Ritter's Senior Services in St. Louis for almost two years, said she was initially" so nervous about moving in."

"I thought it would be terrible being away from my home," she told Catholic News Service, but after two days, she said she "couldn't even remember" why she was afraid.

Kristanic, who had been cared for by her granddaughters after her husband and son died, is grateful for the specialized care and support she now receives.

"Everyone is so good to me here. I love the staff and residents. We all take care of each other, and I would not leave here for anything," she said.

A Catholic Charities federated agency, Cardinal Ritter Senior Services has served the aging population of St. Louis since 1960 and offers personalized care for seniors at all stages in life.

Carmella Swann and her husband moved into Our Lady of Life Apartments, a Cardinal Ritter independent living residence, because they felt they were getting too old to handle all of the responsibilities associated with owning a home.

"Houses require a lot of personal attention that seniors may or may not be able to keep up," Swann said. "Two weeks before moving here, our kitchen sink developed a leak, and it was very difficult for me to get a plumber to come to the house to tend to it. Living here one year later, I had a problem with one of the bathrooms, and the maintenance men came immediately and handled the situation very efficiently."

She also said the living situation keeps her and her husband independent without the responsibility of a home. "Instead of having to cook large meals and clean up, I can enjoy dinner and conversation in the dining room every night," she added.

Swann, who loves going to daily Mass and enjoys being an integral part of the Cardinal Ritter community, described herself and the other residents of Our Lady of Life as "blessed."

"This sense of community definitely contributes purpose and meaning to our lives," Swann said.

"There is nothing sadder than being alone. I have received as muc

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015