maze 300x225As recently as 70 years ago, when the first Baby Boomers were born, choosing the form of care for an aging spouse, parent or family member was easy. That’s because there were only two choices. There was what was then called a retirement home or rest home, if you could afford it. If not, there was the family. In the late 1950s, another choice came along – nursing homes that provided room, board and care for elderly people with diabetes, chronic illnesses, or difficulties with activities of daily living.

Today, there’s a bewildering variety of alternatives. There’s safety hardware like grab rails and walk-in bathtubs for aging at home. There are driving services, housekeeping services, home companion services, respite care services, visiting nurse services, home nursing services. There’s adult day social care and adult day health care. There are 55+ housing, Independent Living facilities, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, and Congregate Housing.

3pP35 300x200Socialization – relating with one another and building a network of relationships – is something most people associate with infancy and childhood. It’s an essential part of infants’ personality formation and in learning how to “work and play well with others” not only in childhood, but throughout adult life.

But as we age, our network of relationships narrows, turning inward and focusing on family members. When we lose a spouse or partner or become hampered with physical or cognitive challenges, that network can fray or even shatter. It’s easy to shrug this off as just another side effect of old age and to assume that this is just how life unfolds.

Easy, perhaps, but wrong.