American House Village Bloomfield Director of Community Relations, Kyra Jackman on left in conversation with Affinity Senior Care CEO, Chris Zayid, on his podcast show Connecting the Community with Chris.

The Benefits of Aging in Place: Insights from Kyra Jackman at American House Village

Welcome to another captivating episode of Connecting the Community with Chris!

Join us as we explore the numerous advantages of aging in place at a premier assisted living facility, specifically American House Village at Bloomfield.

In this enlightening conversation, Kyra Jackman, the Director of Community Relations at American House Village, Bloomfield, joins our host Chris Zayid to shed light on the significance of proactive research and the key factors to consider when seeking a long-term residency solution.

Watch the complete podcast or read the transcript below.

Chris: Hello and welcome to Connecting the Community with Chris podcast show. We have an exciting podcast today with a special guest, Kyra Jackman. I am honored to have her. She is a specialist here in our community, a Senior Residence Expert who helps our seniors and their families understand the dynamics of multi-living while aging gracefully and within their financial means and managing them and making sure that they age in place. So, welcome to our show! I’m happy to have you.

Kyra: Thank you. Thanks for being here today at American House Village at Bloomfield, our brand-new community. We’re happy to have you here.

Chris: Thank you, it’s beautiful.

Kyra: Thank you.

Chris: And anybody who would like to have a tour over here, I swear, you have to set up a tour if you’re thinking about connecting your parents in the right living experience.

So, today I’d like everyone to know about American House and Kyra, your role, how special it is here in our community. So, tell us how did you get in into the industry?

Kyra: Well, it’s kind of an interesting thing that happened, but it seemed like the natural trajectory for me. I actually started out managing Rite Aid Pharmacies and so that got me into working with seniors. So, I’ve always worked with seniors since my 20s, but now I bring eight years of experience to American House and Senior Living and I’ve worked in all levels of care, so I have a good understanding of what it takes to understand the different levels where people are at and what’s the best option for them.

For me personally, I’ve had the experience of having my own father happily living at American House and really enjoyed his days at American House. So, me coming here sort of makes me feel like full circle to work for a company that was so good to my own father, and I also understand the levels of care because my mother went from independent living with services with my stepfather, and when couples are together, they age differently, to moving on to a higher level of care in Assisted Living.

So, I can really help families navigate those different levels and oftentimes we don’t prepare ourselves for this. So, this is a really important conversation to have and I’m glad you’re here to have it today, something that I feel like we almost should have learned in school how to navigate that last phase of life and how we’re going to, where we’re going to choose to spend those days. So, I’m glad we’re having this conversation today and I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to bring peace of mind to families by educating them or helping them navigate, sometimes the very emotional waters of moving to Senior Living.

Chris: Yeah, it’s so important. I know that we all don’t ask enough questions, where our parents just took care of us and that we never prepared for the time to actually take care of them, until life actually hits us where we have family and friends and our kids, and so much going on in our lives, but we never actually asked the serious questions like what are we going to do with our parents if they age in place and prepare that. So, that’s really important for everyone to understand today that when your parents are independent, it’s good to ask the questions when there’s not too much stress going on in their life. And that’s what we want to do – connect you with the right experts to be able to talk and have these conversations way ahead of time, so that way you don’t have to feel overwhelmed when it’s time for your parents to live in assisted living.

So, today I wanted to talk about and go into an important topic. As a Community Relations Director you help our seniors and their families. So, how exactly do you help our community?

Kyra: Well, there’s so many ways, so many layers to what I do to help people, but I think because I bring a background of having worked in skilled nursing admissions and also worked in all those other levels of care, I understand like all the elements that come with this. So, when I meet with families, sometimes, I’m meeting with their financial planners, their financial advisors, there are State Attorneys. There’s a lot of different key stakeholders and there’s a lot of different situations. So, some seniors have no one, some seniors have 10 family members involved and so it’s helping them navigate the different processes of looking at options, knowing what resources are available to them. Some people aren’t aware of Veterans Benefits or Medicare or waiver or like our affordable housing option here at American House Village at Bloomfield.

So, these are the things where I’m able to connect the dots for people, this is my industry, but also, it’s something I’m really passionate about. So, when people come to me sometimes maybe this isn’t the right fit for them, but I actually just took a call on the way in here, witnessed by one of your staff members, that they were just looking for resources and was able to just put them in touch with the organization that could help them. So, it’s a many layered process of helping the families and oftentimes it is being more of a support to the families who are trying to guide the seniors, because a family I spoke with this morning, they said that you know their family members were still stalling and so I said well, there’s some articles you can read about how to help your family members to navigate this process, because it is a big decision and we have to understand that. We really have to provide some empathy and understanding for this being such a huge piece of their journey. So, there’s a whole bunch of different layers to the education piece, to understanding the resources, to helping them get in touch with the right people who can maybe help them get signed up for Veteran Benefits that may help them afford the different things they’re going to need. The financial piece for care or for housing, different things. A lot of people come to me thinking that Medicare pays for housing. I mean, this just shows us that people really need this education, which is again why we’re having this conversation for sure.

Chris: Yeah, it’s important when it comes down to cost factors. We all think that our health insurance is going to cover every single scenario in our life, but the supplemental insurances like health insurance, life insurance, and long-term care insurance are just three different entities that a lot of people don’t understand, and also understanding Medicare services. So, I wanted to learn a little bit more about what are the concerns that you’re seeing now, that family members are facing when they are moving into a community like this?

Kyra: It’s a great question. Number one concern is always cost, almost everyone, that’s their number one concern. The challenge there is, that means the focus is on cost not value. So, that’s where I come in to play oftentimes, hoping to get them to come and see us first in person. People will often make these calls around what’s the cost without understanding the value of community. So, yes, it may be a little bit higher cost than your home, maybe that’s shocking up front, but oftentimes we don’t think about when we own a home, yes, we have a mortgage, or maybe our mortgage is paid off, but we’ve got maintenance costs all year long. We’ve now had to hire people to come in and do snow removal or cut our grass or come in and clean our house. All of these are added costs. So a lot of times the numbers are what people focus on and those numbers can be jarring, like, oh, it’s going to cost X but then not really you know, factoring in, you have food costs, that you’re going to get meals here, you’re going to have amenities and services when you’re living here in a community, other things that maybe don’t factor in right?

Chris: Home repairs and …

Kyra: Home repairs and some of those things that you’re getting here are going to have other added benefits that you’re not thinking about. So, it is sometimes hard to come over that hump of cost – what’s it going to cost me? But oftentimes when you can get people to come in and meet the residents and see the community and feel the value, the cost will make more sense. Other times people want to think about the long-term cost, how long is this going to last me, and that’s where I come into play, saying, do you have a financial advisor, do you have someone that’s kind of like helping you navigate these waters, do you have a long-term care policy like we talked about, are there any of these things that can help you in the long run, or even knowing, like, someone says, I have a limited amount of finances that are going to carry me for a number of years. I can let them know what’s available after that. What resources, what community organizations might be able to help with those things. So, that’s really an important part of the conversation, but that’s a huge factor.

Chris: Now I noticed a lot of family members making this decision, and like you said, it’s hard. Now, there are some perks to downsizing as well too. So, you also have to tell them how it’s valuable to be able to switch.

Kyra: 100%

Chris: What are the exact perks that you are explaining?

Kyra: Well, there are a lot of perks, but I wanted to touch on one more thing – another big thing is loss of independence for people. So, people talk a lot about, well, I’m losing my Independence. Our parents’ generation, the golden ticket was to own your home and have it paid off right? So, when you’ve got that in your focus, you think, okay, now I’ve got to stay in this house. That could be the worst thing actually in many cases to stay in that house because it can be isolating, familiarity can paralyze us. So, when they come across to see our community, they think, well, it’s independent living, but you’re providing me meals and you’re doing all these other things, I’m still losing my independence. Well, no, actually you’re gaining independence because it’s not about where you live, it’s about how you’re living, and we’re able to provide them with resources and amenities and services and things that can come to them. So, they’re really not losing their independence, and oftentimes actually, they walk better because they’re not afraid to go out on their stairs in the winter, they can walk here, it’s always 72 and sunny inside here. So, there’s not that loss of independence, you actually gain some independence, and you don’t have to call your kids as much for help because you’ve got people here that can help you.

So, these are the conversations they have. The other thing that’s really hard for people is change of environment. They’re leaving behind a house that oftentimes they built, they worked on, they raised their kids in that home. There are ways to help that a little bit. So, some of the ideas that we present are, if you’re moving from a house and you loved sitting on the back porch, take a photo, blow it up, put that photo up in your apartment. You had a favorite room in your house, it was a certain color, bring those colors back some other way or bring that favorite piece of furniture. So, these are some things that I think help us get through those things that people are navigating, those hurdles.

Chris: Things that they’re holding on, that’s more sentimental for them – just bring that back here and make your life a little bit easier. So that way the next years of your life you’re enjoying.

Kyra: Because really it is important that they are navigating the process, that they’re coming to us at a time where the best case scenario is, they’re coming to us at a time when they don’t need us, but where they can make that shift and they can have a more supportive environment around them to build communities, so that they have it when they need it, rather than waiting until a time that they need it.

Chris: Exactly and let’s face it you know, I’m a specialist in the Care at home, but also, I have to be honest with them and let them know my resources are valuable just as much as you are, that home is not the right, safe place to have the last years of your life. So, it’s good to have that “Come to Jesus” talk and let them know that asset that they have in their home, they can utilize that and be more comfortable making this decision too. So, thank you for that. I really think a lot of family members really do need to hear that.

Now, the typical adjustment period for seniors – I know it takes time for them to adjust. What are you seeing when they’re talking to you and they’re adjusting to the point where they’re going to make that decision?

Kyra: Well, it definitely varies. I’ve worked with clients for a week, a day, or five years. So, part of this is though what you were talking about – the downsizing. If they’ve already done that work, that’s a big part of the process. If they come to me and they say, hey, we’re in the process of downsizing, we’ve got the house listed, we’re ready to make that move – a lot of times it is more needs based, but those people generally adjust a little bit better. Where I’m coming to some people is they’re in this point on their Journey where they’re just looking at it, they want to just know what does Senior Living look like, how much does it cost, and those might take a little bit longer, they may be months, they may be years out, which actually is good.

I’m grateful they’re doing their homework; they’re doing their due diligence, they’re getting out there and seeing what’s in the industry, seeing what it looks like, learning about the levels of care, that’s my favorite client. Because they really need and want the information and they’re just better planners, right? Like I wish I could have been a better planner like that at some points in my life, but they’re just in that journey where they’re like, okay, we just want to be prepared, we want our kids to know where we’re going to go.

Chris: I feel that they’re doing their due diligence when they’re talking to you, because you’re giving them all the flexibility in the world when you come here, you’ve already made this decision, and so I’m assuming the adjustment period has got to be actually making the decision versus when they come here, it’s more a sense of relief.

Kyra: Yeah. If they’ve done the downsizing, if they’ve learned that we have transportation here, that’s a thing that could help them, if they understand that some of the services and amenities are going to give them their time back, they’re already at that point where they’re like, okay, community is the thing that I need, that supportive environment, my house is working against, not for me. If they’re at that point, then usually even when they get to me, they’re already kind of ready. So, for some people the adjustment period is, on average it takes us 30 days to break a habit, or make a habit, but for some it’s a little bit longer.

But what we love to do here at American House is by helping people navigate that path, right before they get here. Sometimes giving them resources for downsizing, sometimes giving them a real estate agent that can help them, or an estate planner or things like that. But just letting them know that once they’re here, they’re going to have both the privacy of their apartment and they’re going to have never-a-dull moment activities calendar, so that they can be involved, socially engaged. So, we do help them adjust by introducing them to other residents, introducing them to our leadership team.

Chris: Different angle on different perspectives.

Kyra: I mean, just think about having your furniture in a different place. If you move your furniture around in your house you have to be more careful about how you walk, right?

Chris: Especially our parents, are fall risks you know, you have to think about the rugs, and how everything is situated.

Kyra: So, that’s actually something I tell a lot of people, like, please be more diligent about how you walk in your apartment when you first move in, because people do tend to trip or bump into furniture when they first move, and so there’s just a lot of different things that we as a team here do to help them to navigate that first period of adjustment.

Chris: Just call, it’s a simple phone call, you know. I think most business owners should be a wealth of resources as much as possible, and then the family members should you see that as being valuable and making the right decision.

Now, I know a lot of people will make their decision on differentiators. What differentiates you versus you know another multi-living facility like this? So, what would make American House so different?

Kyra: Well, American House for sure. I mean, like I said, my father lived in American House. It’s very family oriented. So, one of the things that we love every day is when families call us and say mama’s so happy there, or they’ve adjusted so well, and they’re making friends and one I think, it was about 30 days in, like I said, we’ve only been here since October 31st, 30 days and I heard a couple residents reminiscing about the movie they watched already. So, it’s like, that’s the kind of stuff, that’s like, yes, that’s why I do what I do, and so I’m so grateful for that. But for me knowing that my dad felt like that family atmosphere at American House and knowing that our other American Houses have that same kind of community, family atmosphere. It’s also very important to all of us here, you know. All of the leadership has been in senior living and really understands why that we love what we do. Why we do what we do and that we’re passionate about it.

But for our community here specifically, because we’re brand new, we have some things that we’ve learned in Senior Living that people want. We have full kitchens in our apartments with stainless steel appliances, including dishwasher, full-size appliances, and a washer and dryer in every apartment, everyone has a patio or a balcony. So, these are some nice things that you can put into a brand-new building when you’ve learned what people want. We also have a lot more shared common spaces for people to utilize as an extension of their own apartment homes.

Chris: So, you know, they want to cook and clean on their own and be independent, you have the luxury to be that way, instead of it being served and go downstairs anyway. You like to cook for your husband a cooked meal, you can get that accomplished.

Kyra: Exactly.

Chris: The resources, let’s dive into that. I’d like to learn more, what resources are available here? Say, now, we made the decision and now we are living here and so what are all the resources for someone to expect?

Kyra: Good question. So, that’s one thing I love about independent living with resources versus other levels of care, and as I mentioned, my mom, my stepfather were in that, especially for couples who age differently, they need resources and amenities and activities. Because one may not be able to get out for activities as much, but they can still enjoy the amenities and the services, so we’re big on having resources for people.

We partner with an on-site private duty here team called Ready Care. So, they’re on site and available 24/7. They can provide private duty caregiving services to residents, even for those that come in not needing it, it’s here for them when they do, even if you had like a post-hospitalization and just a short-term need, you can turn it on, turn it off, right? So, it’s a la carte. It’s going to save you some more money because you’re only going to use it when you need it.

We also partner with Fox Rehab. They do on-site Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy for our residents.

And then we partner with Home MD who comes on site for on-site Physician Services. And then we give options for other partners. There are local partners, that they can get a ride to a physician, different things like that. We even have Podiatry through Home MD that comes on site. And then any other variety of resources that residents might need or ask for. If it’s skilled services, pretty much everything can be brought on-site now, and makes it for an age-in place option, right? What if a resident needs a pet services to come on site or something like that …

Chris: You do allow pass.

Kyra: Yeah, and we’re big on providing resources to help them with whatever their needs are at the time.

Chris: That’s great. So, any house call service, you treat it just like if you’re living at home. So, if you like your visiting doctor to come at your home here, they can still come, right? Just like Home Health Care Services as well.

I want to learn more about the tours. So, is it just a phone call away, they can set up a tour?

Kyra: That’s the best way. I wish everyone would do that. So, some people are a little bit shy about talking about it, which is why they usually prefer the online chat or maybe look at the website, which is fine. You can go to American House Village at Bloomfield and take a look at photos, floor plans, and that kind of thing. But honestly, the best thing to do is to come in for a tour by making a phone call, so I can make sure that I have enough time allotted for them and it’s going to be a more personalized experience, because I’ll know more about what their family need is, what their particular individual need is, right? Because not everybody is looking for the same thing for the same reason, so it’s better if we can plan ahead, make sure that, sometimes people want to have lunch, food is important to them, so, we’ll offer a lunch tour, they can have lunch, and then have a tour, right? Or they want to see what the activities are, like you want to schedule it during happy hour.

Chris: So, you could bring your mom, have lunch here. So, just say, hey, I’m going to take you to a special place and have lunch here, so they can just get the feel.

Kyra: But I understand the reservation about making a phone call. You feel like you’re going to get pressured. Honestly, I am all about education, like, that is what I’m so proud of, is to be able to have the knowledge, to be able to share. I’m not here to make any kind of pressure, suggestion. I can just look at your situation, kind of help you, guide you, educate you on what our options are.

Our place isn’t going to be right for everyone. Just like you said, right? It’s like staying at home with care isn’t going to be right for everyone. But if it’s not, I also have resources and partners in the community that I can share.

So, that’s what they can expect, is that basically whatever their needs are, I’m going to answer to those on their tour, and hopefully provide either an activity or lunch or something that they can experience to understand the community and have an opportunity to talk to residents. Because they’re the best people to talk to.

Chris: If you can build a connection, that’s the number one thing, with your residents too, so they can share each other’s experiences, and they’re not alone. Being at home we could be lonely. A lot of our seniors they’re at home and they’re depressed, there’s nobody to talk to. Here it’s just, they’re a neighbor they can go to. It’s kind of like going on a vacation. You have people here and you have all the resources in order to enhance their full wellness.

Kyra: And if they can’t get here, we can do a virtual tour, or I can go to them with photos, like, I’ve visited people at skilled centers to provide them with some information up front or bring my computer and show them.

Chris: Very nice. So great. So, you come to them and show them some photos.

Now, dining. I know a lot of our seniors, they love to eat, and the food is a big differentiator. So, how do you navigate that? Like you said, they can come here and have lunch and just hang out with everyone and then just leave back home and see, get a feel of the food.

Kyra: Yes, definitely the food is important, and we serve, we include three meals a day. So, for us, it’s continental breakfast, then midday meal is the main meal of the day, which is actually a very healthy way of eating, and the residents do seem to enjoy that gathering time. And then the lighter fares in the evening. But our culinary team is actually outstanding. Like I was mentioning to you, our Chef has been with American House for many years, and he ran his own kitchens before and he’s very keen on providing a great resident experience in addition, so he makes them laugh and he has a good time.

Chris: So, he actually comes out of the kitchen

Kyra: Oh absolutely!

Chris: Engages.

Kyra: Absolutely!

Chris: That’s great.

Kyra: And the residents really love this time, I mean the food is great here, and I eat the food here every day, someone asked me that, I definitely enjoy.

Chris: That’s a good testimonial.

Kyra: Yes, and it must be true because I see a lot of Resident family members that come again and again to eat dinner here, or to come on the weekends or during the week and eat with their family. But it’s important to us to have home-cooked meals. We use fresh ingredients, we use fresh meats, and fresh fish, and fresh vegetables.

Chris: It’s a nice bonding experience, sitting at the dinner table with your parents and being able to still do that, even when they leave their home, and they could do it here. It’s probably one of the joys, family members can come, especially, I love coming here during Christmas time or holiday. So, you’re not skipping a beat whatsoever. You’re coming downstairs and having a special time.

Kyra: I love to go into the lunchroom and just in the dining room and just talk with everybody and ask how they’re doing, and they’re always smiling and enjoying each other’s company. It’s a beautiful experience, it’s an important part of the day. Some residents will just come down and maybe get their food to go because they’re not hungry at the moment, but they’ll enjoy just talking with other people and sit and talk for a while, but still bring their lunch or their dinner back or something like that, but it’s proof that the social engagement is a key factor. So, it is beautiful, and then he does some demonstrations of how to cook things and does some fun themed meals.

We just have some different fun things we like to do at American House that are engaging with the residents, so we do happy hour and special themed appetizers and barbecues.

Chris: So, beer is offered too?

Kyra: Yeah, beer and wine for happy hour. We do that at least once a week. And then we do other parties too. So, birthday parties and stuff like that.

Chris: It’s really no limitation. We want them to have good quality of life that’s normal, just as if they’re living at home.

So, activities let’s go into that. It’s important to understand that what are the activities that are offered here.

Kyra: We have a wide variety of activities. One of the things we do when we welcome a new Resident is we learn about what activities they like, and we incorporate the resident’s interests too into our activities. And so, a lot of times, like, resident feedback is really what drives the activities, even though we do have a lot of themes and things like that that we do at American House company wide.

We are proud of the fact that the residents drive the experience. So, if they like a particular game or if they like a particular entertainer, whoever’s the crowd favorite, that person is going to be back here at American House Village at Bloomfield, because you know, there are certain games that seems like this group really likes, and so that’s what’s incorporated.

But we do bingo, we have entertainers come in at least once a week, we celebrate birthdays, we celebrate all the different… St Patrick’s Day, we just had a big party, and then, we have a lot of different fun things we do, like a hoedown, and some of the residents were dancing, or dressed up and you know, they’re here.

Chris: I love that.

Kyra: But, you know, it’s just, it’s a fun place to be. I mean, the residents, some of them even have their own things that they do like, they do a certain craft, and they’ll share it with other residents, or one of our residents is a singer, right? So, there’s some resident-led activities as well.

And sometimes people pick up a brand-new hobby that they’ve never done before, never had time for before, and that’s one of the most beautiful things, is you’re giving yourself the gift of time back, to do with it what you want, so you can engage in those activities, right?

Chris: And they see value in that because they’re helping someone and at the same time, they’re helping other residents too.

Kyra: And they’ll have outings, they’ll go to different places, and then they’ll have some scheduled transportation to go to grocery shopping once a week and go on regular outings too.

Chris: Okay, so taking them to their doctor appointments …

Kyra: No, not doctor appointments. Grocery store.

We don’t have personalized transportation at this location, although some of our American Houses do. But we can offer some resources for that.

Chris: But, if they do want to go to their doctors, you just offer them transportation?

Kyra: We offer them a resource.

Chris: Now, the type of influence your residents have on activities, you mentioned that they have certain hobbies and interests, so you like to highlight that, and they can actually teach other residents and engage in that.

So, is there anything else offered that has to do with the roles of the families as well too? Do they help out and engage?

Kyra: It’s a beautiful thing I’ve seen at many American Houses, where the families volunteer for events or come to events and just join in and you’ll see them helping. And the families are very integral here, like I said, when the families call and give us feedback or insight as to what’s important to Residents. We have an open-door policy about that for families to come and tell us, like what the needs are of that particular person, or sharing, and sometimes it is the families who are telling us. So, I feel that we have a really close relationship between the staff and the families here, and the volunteering is a nice way that they can join in, but also just being here, and you can tell that there’s this element of like the families, like I said, coming on the weekends, or coming in the evenings, pretty consistently, and just getting to know us.

That’s really the best-case scenario, is to have involved families, right? Because that means that they care what’s happening with their family member who are our residents and that builds a stronger community.

Chris: It’s hard to do all the personal care in the home and actually still be the Son and the Daughter with your parents, versus here, it could be delegated out, where they’re coming here and having a quality time with them. I’m not talking about, hey mom, do you want me to shower you today? Probably a nice building relationship type of environment.

Kyra: One of the interesting thing is a lot of the growth of this community came from children’s parents who were moving back to this area to be near them. So, a lot of the families are close by, they live in this five-mile radius – Birmingham, Bloomfield, Bloomfield Hills. And the parents in some cases moved back from out of state, so now they’re close and now the grandkids can visit, and so they can be more involved. On the weekend, we had some little ones running around, and everyone just loves that, everyone loves to see the babies.

Chris: Yeah, that’s so nice. Everybody’s kind of become a family.

Kyra: Yeah, absolutely. To the point of like, oh, how’s so and so doing or … right?

Chris: I’m assuming that’s how you foster the community, making sure everybody’s engaged with each other, right? Everyone is happy together.

Kyra: Definitely.

Chris: So, that’s another thing to explain to others is how do you continuously foster a community here, and making it sure it’s always you know positive and everybody’s happy?

Kyra: Well, it’s like a family, Chris. It’s a work in progress, right? You’re always just taking in the elements of what it is that people need and making sure to take that feedback and do something with it. So, like if you only see two people come into a movie, probably you don’t need to have movies as often, where here, we’re the opposite. People love the movies, we’re having them more often, so it’s taking the input from people and gathering that information and then doing the best thing that you can for the residents with it. What is it that they’re wanting?

We have a resident town hall meeting coming up, we do that once a month. So, that’s a way of fostering community. They can provide open feedback to us, we take that communication, and we do something with it.

Our Life Enrichment Director also, she meets with every resident when they’re coming into the community to find out what’s important to them. And that’s how you build relationships, right? “Oh, this person, they were a teacher, and this other person was a teacher, or this person was a nurse and then you can kind of engage people that way. And like, kind of like you said, if someone comes in, you can make that connection for somebody, and so when residents are coming in, I mean even before we opened, like I said, our building wasn’t open, but we had a lot of residents that had signed up, we had a dinner, all of us together at a restaurant, to help people engage and meet each other and so it’s that social engagement started at inception basically.

Chris: It’s a community support system too. You know, you like to talk about what you’re going through with your parents, and you could talk to other family members as well too.

Kyra: The residents do really look out for each other. If they don’t see someone at lunch or something, “ hey, have you seen so and so.” So, it’s definitely working, but the residents are a key part of that. They’re a key to how we’re fostering community because they really are engaging. And that’s the beautiful thing about independent living with services, is that we do have some younger people, we have people in their 50s and 60s, some of who are still working, but then you have resources that you can age in place,  and we have residents who are 101.

Chris: So, you do offer Independent Living?

Kyra: It’s Independence with services.

Chris: You can have your care here if you like to?

Kyra: You can have your car, yeah.

Chris: Awesome. You can come and go as you please?

Kyra: You got it.

Chris: But you don’t have to worry about cutting the grass and paying the utility bills, or if something breaks down, not to worry about that. Come here and show up and all the resources are here.

So, as an expert in a senior living community, we have observed some challenges.  And so, some of the greater challenges, where are you seeing now that our seniors are now transitioning into this living environment that you see.

Kyra: Well, this one I don’t want to miss any points on, because this is so important. It’s really key, like I said, to do this work ahead of time, and to be able to navigate your own path, be in the driver’s seat of your own future, I know this is a huge step for people, but you really need to be in the driver’s seat, and not letting someone else make this decision for you. And that means, start early, because one of the biggest challenges is anxiety, and emotions get into play, right? And that gets paralyzing, so this big decision that’s coming with all this anxiety doesn’t mean it’s not a good decision. That will stall people though. How many times have you made a big decision in life and that comes with some anxiety, right? You get married, you have a kid, you go to college, you choose your career, all these things come with anxiety, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision, it just means you have to be thoughtful about it.

So, one of the biggest challenges is that emotion, anxiety, like I said before, familiarity can be very paralyzing and can stall people to stay in their home way too long. The belief that independence is about where you live, it’s not, it’s about how you’re living. That’s key for me. And the idea that staying at home is the end goal, like we talked about, causes people to stay there, and then in Michigan, winters for three or four months, they don’t see people, or they’re afraid to go out on their porch steps, because it’s icy. And then you have people who can’t walk as well. I mean my own family members did this and I work in senior living, right? Stayed at home too long, and I kept encouraging, and it’s just that idea that I’m not ready, but I don’t know that you’ll ever be ready for that next step. But there are ways to be ready and to prepare. So, it’s important to realize that moving to a more supportive environment and building that community before you need it, is a great idea. It’s an absolutely great idea. It’s a hard hurdle to jump over, but it’s really important. And when I talk to most people that I’ve helped move into senior living in the last eight years, they mostly tell me, I wish I had done this sooner.

I would say over 95% of people tell me I wish I had done this sooner. But it’s hard to get somebody else to understand that, and that’s why it is often so important to have them talk to a current resident, because then they can just kind of explain to them, hey! you’re giving yourself back this gift of time, you don’t have to worry about the maintenance, you don’t have to worry about cutting the grass, or lining someone up to cut the grass, right? My own mother lived in the condo and thought that would be maintenance free, but there’s still all the inside stuff you have to do. A lot of people make that jump to a condo and then they move again, and there’s trauma in that.

Chris: Yeah, sure, I mean, if there’s stairs and they can’t go up the stairs, you know …

Kyra: So, making that decision early is just key. It’s building that community around yourself, having that support system for when you need it.

Chris: That is so nice. I tell you; our community is so lucky because if you did reach out to experts like you, they really can navigate the situation that a lot of family members now are going to face. We cannot leave this world, I really truly believe that, without facing this, whether a friend, family, neighbor, or co-worker, someone has a parent, and we were brought in this world for a reason. There’s someone, so, then, we have to make a choice, and a decision, to be able to care for them. And so, if it’s not going to be you, at least let the experts be able to connect you and actually make this decision a little bit easier.

But thank you so much for giving your insight, your advice. And what is the best way for someone to connect with you, and if they want to set up an appointment and just learn more?

Kyra: Well, they can reach out on our website, or call me directly, here at the community – we are American House Village at Bloomfield, or just stop on by. Of course, it is best to just call-in advance, so we make sure we have enough time. But you know it’s important to research your options, to get out there and look at the different elements in the community, all the different levels of care, and I’m happy to be a resource. I mean, ask the questions, right? Do the homework, get the knowledge, it is so important, it’s so important.

Chris: It is so important. Thank you so much, appreciate your time.

Kyra: Thank you, yours as well.