Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

A question you hear a lot in senior living is “which is the right fit—independent living or assisted living?”

The answer to that question lies in the definition of each community type. By fully understanding the two terms, you’ll be able to better understand which is the ideal place for you.

Independent Living Defined

Independent living is for older adults who don’t need assistance in their daily lives. Residents receive access to services and amenities, such as dining, maintenance and community programming and activities. Independent living communities are designed to help senior residents live healthy and active lives.

You will likely come across communities that offer independent living in addition to other care levels. Those communities are called continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) or life plan communities, and their goal is to provide a continuum of care to residents in case their health needs change.

Assisted Living Defined

Assisted living is a residential option for seniors who need a little assistance with daily activities. Assisted living communities provide housekeeping, meals and personal care and support services as needed.

Assisted living is generally a good fit for seniors who may need help with one or two activities of daily living (ADLs), but don’t require 24/7 skilled nursing care.


Related: What Are Activities of Daily Living?


Assisted Living vs. Independent Living: Which Is Right for Me?

One way to think of assisted living is that it’s like independent living for those who need a little more help. Residents in assisted living communities still have a lot of autonomy but receive the support they need to stay safe and healthy.

In general, when deciding which is the best fit for you, ask yourself: Do you need help with routine tasks like dining or reminders to take your medication? If the answer is yes, it may be a sign that it’s time for assisted living. If the answer is no, you may want to look into independent living.

However, keep in mind that moving to assisted living does not mean losing your freedom. It may not have it in the title, but an assisted living community still offers independence. In assisted living, you can wake up when you like, eat when you like and do what you want, when you want.

Some assisted living communities may also offer a different rate for those who wish to move into assisted living but don’t need assistance with ADLs. For example, Whetstone Rehabilitation Center, Skilled Nursing & Assisted Living in Columbus, offers what’s called a “lifestyle rate.”

Why do people choose to “move in early” to an assisted living community when they don’t need assistance with ADLs? Because when they do, they can enjoy the convenience of having meals prepared, events planned and maintenance taken care of for them. Should they ever need assistance due to changing health needs, they can receive it right in their apartment without having to uproot their lives and move.

The MacIntosh Company: Assisted Living Communities in the Columbus, OH Area

When making your decision between independent living and assisted living, it’s always a good idea to discuss it with family and friends, as well as your doctor. They’ll be able to help you decide which is the best fit for your needs.

Five of our seven MacIntosh communities offer assisted living to seniors in the Central Ohio region. Learn more about each community by following the links below:

Canal Winchester

Mill Run

New Albany




How to Help Dad Move to Memory Care

Dear Allie,

After trying for years to help my dad stay at home, my wife and I have determined he’s not safe in his home. We’re moving him to memory care at West Park in Columbus.

However, he doesn’t want to move from his home. How can we make the move easier on him?

How can we make him more agreeable to the move? Should we move all his things and just take him there?



How to Help a Senior Move to Memory Care

Dear Gary,

Most older adults don’t want to move from a home that has so many memories. Many seem to believe that they will remain safe and healthy at home even if facts indicate otherwise.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers some advice on moving. However, since your father is already scheduled to move in, it’s important to acquaint him with the community and offer him some level of choice.

Tour the Community with Your Father

If he didn’t tour West Park with you, bring him over for a tour. Give us a call to find out what entertainment or activities are taking place, so he can participate if he’d like.

Perhaps, in addition to services at his regular church, he’d like to attend a church service here. As a resident, he can attend any of our programs.

During his tour, ask him questions to interest him in his new home.

  • Where would you like your room to be located?
  • Where do you want to hang family photos?
  • Do you think your armchair will fit better here or here?

Our staff and residents will be sure to greet him and give him their names, so he’ll know some people there. Team members have received special training in how to communicate, too.

If you make us aware of his interests in advance of your visit, we’ll know of a resident with similar interests to whom we may introduce him.

Moving In

Moving can be traumatic for a senior with memory loss. Some children move their parents’ belongings with their help and some without. We encourage you to get your father involved in the move if possible. However, you know your father best, so it’s your decision.

We recommend you include as many mementos in his room as possible.

  • Hang family photos on the walls.
  • Bring his favorite armchair.
  • Put a favorite quilt on his bed.

If his room has items he remembers, he’ll feel more at home. Try to keep everything in his new home similar to his former residence.

We Can Help

We’re accustomed to helping seniors with memory loss, so we’ll help him adjust to his new surroundings. There will be a period of adjustment as he becomes accustomed to changes in his environment, but we’ve developed procedures to help him feel comfortable.

Depending on his personality, we’ll introduce him to new routines and new friends. Within a few weeks, most residents feel right at home.

During this time, it’s important that you, as the caregiver, try to reduce the stress in your life. Just remember that moving is traumatic for everyone, and your father will probably forget it before you do.

I hope this advice helps to make your father’s move as stress-free and comfortable as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions.

Sincerely Yours,

Allie Zinn
Social Services


4 Easy Tips for Outdoor Rehab

Dear Jeremy:

My husband had knee surgery earlier this month and has completed most of his rehab program that his doctor suggested. However, outside of rehab he’s been sitting a lot more than he ever has in his life. I know that can’t be good for him.

He’s always been a real outdoorsman. I’m hoping now that the weather is improving here in the Columbus area, I can convince him to get outside with me and get moving again.

I’d like to encourage him to exercise so he keeps building on the work he did in his post-hospital rehab. Do you have any suggestions for outdoor activities my husband can use as physical therapy exercises?


Using Outdoor Activity to Help Older Adults Grow Stronger

Dear Tracey:

It sounds like your husband has hit a plateau in his recovery, which is not uncommon.

Your plan to use the outdoors as a sort of “therapy gym” sounds like a great idea! We use the great outdoors in our post-hospital rehab and therapy activities when the weather allows for it.

Just getting him moving again can have a positive impact on his health. We know that sitting too much is bad for us. Sitting for long periods of time on a regular basis has been shown to increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and may even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.


Related: Key Questions to Ask When Touring a Rehab Center


Here are a few outdoor activities that double as physical therapy for knee surgery patients that you and your husband can enjoy together:

  • Walking Trails. Depending upon where in Columbus the two of you live, you can take advantage of the area’s nature trails. The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks has a website that lists a description of each trail (asphalt, track, etc.) along with the distance. You and your husband could start small and work your way up to longer, more difficult trails. Walking helps build lower body strength, as well as overall strength. Both are great for fall prevention!
  • Gardening. Another warm weather activity the two of you can enjoy together is gardening. The activity is known for helping boost the mind, body and spirit. You might begin by planting a container herb garden or a few pots of annuals that bloom all summer long. If you find you both like it, consider having raised beds built in the yard or adding a new border along your house or fence. It’s an activity you can probably enjoy from May through October every year.
  • Bike Riding. As your husband’s strength improves, you could also add bike riding to an outdoor fitness regimen. It’s a commonly recommended activity for people who have had knee surgery, but it’s a good workout for anyone. Some of the benefits of biking for older adults include lower blood pressure, a decreased risk of diabetes and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Swimming. As we make our way through yet another hot Ohio summer, it shouldn’t take much convincing before your husband is ready to take a cool dip in the pool. Unlike the other activities listed above, this is a non-weight-bearing exercise which makes it perfect for someone recovering from surgery. Swimming comes with great health benefits because even though you aren’t bearing your full weight, you’re still working hard to move through the water.


Related: Physical Fitness Ideas for Older Adults in Central Ohio


Before you get started with any of these suggestions, check with your husband’s doctor. In most cases, you should wait at least two weeks before engaging in more strenuous activities like biking or brisk walking.

Whatever outdoor activities you choose, remember to bring water with you to stay hydrated. You can stick with the usual “eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day” rule, or use this hydration equation of dividing your body weight in half and drinking that amount of ounces.

We’re getting into the hottest days of summer, so be sure to keep an eye out for dehydration, as well. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

One last note — in addition to staying hydrated, remember to apply sunscreen every four hours.

Good luck, Tracey. I hope you and your husband have a safe and healthy summer!


Jeremy Evans
Director of Rehab


7 Tips to Keep Your Senior Active Physically & Mentally

Staying active and engaged with life as you grow older can help you stay both mentally and physically fit. People who stay connected are less likely to develop illnesses ranging from diabetes to hypertension. In fact, health experts have identified isolation as a health risk for seniors. If you are an adult child or caregiver for a central Ohio senior, there are steps you can take to make it easier for older adults you care for to stay active.

Helping a Senior Loved One Stay Active and Engaged

Here are some suggestions to consider:

  1. Brain games: Engaging in new hobbies and playing interactive games can give your brain the equivalent of an aerobic workout. AARP’s online game center provides older adults with a platform for safe gaming at no cost. Working crossword puzzles and word searches are another option.
  2. Reading: Staying up-to-date with current events by reading the newspaper is another way to keep your brain fit. It also helps to read books and magazines. Your local library is a good source for free books for your senior’s eReader or tablet device.
  3. Walking: Most communities have groups of older adults who walk at local malls or wellness centers together. Joining one can provide your senior with an opportunity to socialize while working on their physical fitness. If you aren’t sure how to find one near your older family member, contact the senior center nearest them. They are usually aware of programs and resources for older adults in the communities they serve.
  4. Silver Sneakers: Many Medicare health plans offer members free memberships in Silver Sneakers. This will entitle them to participate in a variety of wellness activities at local senior centers, YMCA organizations, fitness centers and more at no cost.
  5. Stretching exercises: Staying flexible and strong can help older adults prevent falls. Programs that utilize stretching and toning exercises while building core strength, such as Chair Yoga and Pilates, are good ones for seniors to participate in.
  6. Socialize: Staying connected and engaged with friends and family helps to prevent depression in seniors. You can support their emotional well-being by encouraging them to volunteer with a local non-profit, join the senior center and to take life enrichment classes such as painting or pottery.
  7. Computer literacy: One final suggestion is to show them how to connect with friends and family by email or through social networks such as Facebook. Skype or another video chat service can help. It might take a few sessions of tutoring if they aren’t comfortable with computers or tablets, but the idea that seniors aren’t able to master technology is false. Older adults are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook and have been for several years now.

We hope this information gives you a few ideas for helping the senior you love stay active and engaged! Need more information on keeping your senior loved one active and engaged? Contact us today at 614.345.9500.


20 Ways to Protect Your Joints

Keeping your joints healthy is an important part of successful aging. While most of us know there is no cure for arthritis, what most of us aren’t sure of is if there are proactive steps that will help keep joints in good condition. Here are few recommendations:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Every extra pound you carry around puts four times more stress on your joints, especially your knees.
  2. Practice good ergonomics at the computer. Keep your monitor at eye level. Make sure your keyboard is at a height that allows your wrists to relax while you are typing.
  3. Make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet.During central Ohio winters, you may need to talk with your primary care physician to see if they recommend any supplements.
  4. Aquatic exercise is a great way to get an aerobic workout while keeping your joints safe. Most YMCA organizations host a variety of water fitness classes on a regular basis.
  5. Try to balance fashion with function in footwear. Wearing high heels only for short periods of time can take pressure off of your back, neck and knees. Opt to wear lower heels with good arch support the majority of the time, especially when you will be doing a lot of walking.
  6. Avoid lifting overly heavy loads. When you do lift or carry heavy objects, use your strongest muscles and joints to carry the load. For example, lift from your knees instead of bending over and picking something up off the ground with your fingers and back.
  7. When you are carrying anything that weighs more than a few pounds, hold it close to your body. It creates less stress on the joints.
  8. If you are a smoker, kicking the habit can help improve joint health. Smoking is linked to lower bone mass, which can cause osteoporosis.
  9. Practice range of motion exercises. You can find a variety of videos to make that easier online. As is true with all new forms of exercise, talk with your physician to get their approval first.
  10. Exercises like walking, Pilates and Tai Chi can help improve strength and bone health. Many area senior centers and fitness centers offer these programs.
  11. Eat a well-balanced diet. Not only will it prevent the weight gain that is hard on joints, but it also helps keep your bones healthy. When you don’t get enough of the right nutrients in your daily diet, your body pulls them from your bones. That can lead to osteoporosis and joint problems.

If you want to learn more about joint health and osteoarthritis, The Arthritis Foundation can be a good source of information. Among other resources, they developed the Walk With Ease program to help older adults learn how to safely and effectively use walking to maintain joint health and decrease the pain of osteoarthritis.


Busting the Myths on Aging

There are many myths associated with aging. They range from the belief that seniors can’t use technology to the idea that growing older means your health will decline. We decided to help bust some of the more popular myths about aging.

Aging Mythbusters

Myth: Older people are crabby

Fact: A study led by Arthur Stone, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University, proved just the opposite is true. They found that worry and stress affect people less as they grow older, with age 50 being the tipping point. Happiness begins to increase at age 50 and keeps improving for another twenty to twenty-five years.

Myth: Aging brings poor health

Fact: We know now that lifestyle factors largely determine how well someone will age. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and protein is important. Exercise that incorporates strength, balance, flexibility and endurance can also help promote health aging. Not smoking is critical. Drinking alcohol in moderation also plays a role.

Myth: Old dogs can’t learn new tricks

Fact:  While seniors may learn differently than younger adults, they are able to continue learning new things their entire lives. It is well-documented that doing so can help prevent or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other related forms of dementia. Learning a new language, tackling technologies like Facebook or a blog, or picking up a musical instrument are all good examples that have brain health benefits.

Myth: You will feel old by the time you are 60

Fact: A 2009 survey Growing Old in America showed just how false this myth is. Their research found that 60% of people over the age of 65 felt 10 to 20 years younger than their actual age!

Myth: Old people don’t have much to do

Fact: The baby boomer generation has rewritten what we think is possible during aging. From starting their own small businesses to volunteering their time at local non-profits, they are active and engaged with life. In fact, a study by Dane Stangler of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation showed that Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 started new businesses in greater numbers than those aged 20 to 34 every year since 1996.

To receive updates on aging and wellness, please follow our blog.


Exercises for More Energy

Dear Kara,

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had since growing “older” is maintaining my energy level. I just can’t do everything I want to in a day. Now that I’m retired and finally have time to pursue my hobbies, I’m just too tired most days.

I think getting more exercise might help. But I’m not sure what types of exercise might be best. I’m really hoping to overcome this feeling of being tired all of the time!

Do you have any advice?

Alison in Columbus, Ohio

Dear Alison:

Great question! And it sounds like you already know that exercise may be the answer. We are fortunate to have many options for older adults in the Columbus area to participate in.

If you are looking for exercise programs that also help you get out into the community and connect with other seniors, here are a few suggestions:

  • Many local fitness clubs have programs just for seniors. They range from water aerobics to Pilates.
  • Check with your insurance provider to see if you are eligible for a Silver Sneakers membership. If you are, these classes take place at YMCAs and other fitness clubs all over the Columbus area.
  • Local senior centers and churches also offer senior wellness activities. Most are free or have a minimal fee. Classes typically include Body Recall, Chair Yoga, and stretching.
  • Some area shopping malls also have groups of seniors that walk early in the morning before the stores open. Call the mall nearest you to see if there are any opportunities for you there.

When the weather is bad or if you prefer to exercise in the privacy of your own home, here are a few forms of exercise to consider:

  • Purchase a Wii gaming system. In addition to Wii Fit, you can also enjoy of variety of programs that get your heart pumping such as golf, tennis and dancing. An added bonus is it will provide you with a fun activity to do when the grandkids visit!
  • Exercise DVDs are another good avenue for getting fit. You can practice Tai Chi, Yoga, Low-Impact Aerobics, Pilates and more in the privacy of your own living room.
  • Don’t overlook using household chores to get a little extra cardio in. Turn on your favorite music and get moving while you clean!

I hope these suggestions help you find a fitness program you will enjoy and that will help you increase your energy level, Alison. Best of luck to you!

Kara Beamish, Director of Rehab


My Mom Has Become Mean. What Do I Do?

Dear Kimberly:

My mother has always been so kind and considerate of everyone’s feelings. She was someone that everyone loved being around until the past year or so when we noticed some behavior changes. She’s become very difficult and, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes, she is downright mean. There is just no reasoning with her when she is upset.

I’m confused by her behavior and what might be triggering this change. Do you have any suggestions on what we can do?

Friends and family members are noticing the change and starting to avoid her. It breaks my heart to see that happening.



Managing Difficult Behavior in an Older Loved One

Dear Alice:

It sounds like you are going through a tough time. Adult children may have a difficult time adjusting to a change in a parent’s disposition. What makes it even more challenging is that it is often the people who do the most for a parent that are the target of their animosity.

While aging can exacerbate personality quirks, it typically doesn’t change a person’s personality completely. For example, if your mother was always a little short-tempered, it wouldn’t be uncommon for her to become more so as she grows older. In your mother’s case, however, it sounds like she’s going through a bigger change than that.

There are a variety of reasons that might explain her change in disposition including:

  • Unmanaged pain you aren’t aware of

  • An adverse reaction to a medication or an interaction between two medications

  • An undiagnosed infection of some type, such as a urinary tract infection

  • Depression or a case of the blues

  • Early sign of some forms of dementia

  • Untreated thyroid disease, which can cause moodiness and mood swings

My first question in trying to help you is to ask if you’ve spoken with your mother’s doctor about the changes you are witnessing?

He or she will likely want to perform a complete physical exam to see if they can determine the root cause of her behavior.

It might be something that is easily treatable, like an infection or a problem with her thyroid. Her physician may be able to prescribe an antibiotic or thyroid medication that gets her back on track and feeling like herself again! So the next best step is probably to schedule an appointment with her primary care doctor.

I hope this helps, Alice!

Kind Regards,



Rightsizing for Assisted Living

The current generation of seniors is known for staying in their homes for many decades. When it is time to move on to a new chapter in life, helping them downsize can be a real challenge for their adult children. In fact, seniors and their families often cite this as a reason for putting off a move.

5 Tips for Downsizing a Senior Loved One’s Home

  1. Create a Familiar Environment: While it might be tempting to buy new furniture and accessories for your loved one’s new apartment, what might help ease the transition is to create an environment that feels like home. That likely means bringing some of their favorite items from home.
  2. Make a Plan: Ask one of the staff members at the assisted living community your loved one is moving to for a copy of the floor plan for their new apartment. Be sure it lists the dimensions for each room. Knowing those sizes will allow you to measure each piece of furniture and determine if and where it will fit.
  3. Most Used Items: If your loved one is moving from a large home, try to determine which furniture and belongings they use most and which items have sentimental value. This might make it easier to figure out what should make the move with them and what will need to be given to family members or donated to charity.
  4. Start the Process: Once you have a general idea on what household items will be making the move and what won’t be, start your downsizing efforts in the least frequently used rooms in the house. Label boxes so you can sort items in each room according to their final destination: Family, Charity, New Apartment, and Trash.

One final tip is, unless an emergency is the reason for their move, try to give yourselves time to work through this process. It will likely be emotional for your loved one to go through all of their belongings. Give them time to talk and share memories along the way!



Navigating a move to an assisted living community or another type of retirement living can be difficult. Contact professionals to get the best advice possible for your situation. The MacIntosh Community will be happy to speak with you and help you along the way.

24 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Assisted Living Community

When you’re touring an assisted living community (which we really do recommend), you’ll want to be sure to ask the right questions while you’re there.

But what are the right questions?

Often, whether we’re looking for ourselves or our loved one, we don’t know what questions to ask because we’ve never done this before. So, if you’re not sure what to ask, here’s a list of questions to ask when choosing an assisted living community—both of the community and yourself.

We’ve broken it down into categories and explained the thought process behind the questions, so you’ll know exactly why it’s important to ask these questions.

What To Ask When Touring an Assisted Living Community

Assisted Living Community Reputation

  • What accreditations does the community have?
  • How long has it been doing business?
  • What sorts of reviews does the community have?
  • Does the community seem receptive to resident/family input?

Why these questions are important: Right off the bat, you’ll want to make sure that the community you’re looking at is a licensed Residential Care Facility and is well-established. In the state of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health licenses assisted living communities and conducts on-site inspections to ensure that the community is complying with state rules and regulations.

Quality of Care and Community Features

  • Are the rooms/common areas clean?
  • Do residents seem happy?
  • Does the staff seem attentive?
  • What is the staff to resident ratio?

Why these questions are important: A community should be clean and well-kept. The staff should be attentive and respectful of the residents. When you tour, keep an eye out for residents interacting with each other and staff. Do they seem friendly and happy? Is this the kind of environment you can picture yourself or your loved one in?


Related: Cost Comparison Worksheet: Assisted Living vs. Staying at Home


Safety and Location

  • Does the community have required safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers?
  • Is the community secure?
  • Is the community handicap accessible?
  • Is there 24-hour availability with staff?
  • Is the neighborhood in a safe area?
  • Are things located in a convenient distance, and is transportation available?

Why these questions are important: Both private and communal spaces should be designed with seniors in mind. Overall, the location should feel safe, both in terms of neighborhood safety and on-site security measures. Make sure there’s someone on staff 24/7 to handle any emergencies and that the community has the proper safety equipment, such as a sprinkler system and emergency call system.

Amenities and Care

  • What services and amenities are available?
  • Is everything included in the fees?
  • What is the food like?
  • Is there social and recreational programming?
  • How will you meet my/my loved one’s specific needs?

Why these questions are important: An assisted living community provides assistance with activities of daily living for seniors who need a little help from day-to-day. However, that’s not all they offer. Residents also get to enjoy services and amenities that make life at the community engaging and entertaining. When comparing communities, it’s helpful to look at the different services, amenities and activities to determine which community has the best offerings for your interests or those of your loved one.


  • Can you bring pets?
  • Are visitors allowed? When?
  • How do mealtimes work?
  • Will I/my loved one need to bring my/their own furniture?
  • What happens if my/my loved one’s money runs out?

Why these questions are important: Many people come to assisted living communities with misperceptions. They assume that visiting hours are limited (like a hospital setting) or that you can’t bring a pet or personal furniture. This simply isn’t the case in most assisted living communities, which are designed to be as homelike as possible. Asking the staff about community policies will help clear things up.


Related: Choosing an Assisted Living Community: Why Continuum of Care Matters


Choosing an Assisted Living Community: Next Steps

After you’ve toured your top communities, compare the answers you received at each community. Then, you can make an informed decision on which community will be the best fit.

Remember, it isn’t just about care (although that is important, of course). It’s also about the feeling of the community and whether or not you or your loved one will be happy living there.

For a full guide on choosing an assisted living community, be sure to check out our comprehensive assisted living resource.