For all life can be

To lay the foundation for Life Fulfilling Communities® such as Westcott Lakes at Southwood, planners abandoned the experience of traditional “retirement communities,” and set a visionary goal – to create communities where members pioneer a new community culture of meaning and purpose with a focus on what psychologist Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization.” Community cultures where members not only find meaning and purpose; but experience frequent energized moments of profound happiness and harmony, which Maslow referred to as peak experiences.

In Maslow’s renowned hierarchy of needs, he describes self-actualization as “the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can be.” The Life Fulfilling Community (LFC) vision is in stark contrast to what older adults envision when someone suggests they consider a “retirement community.” In short, self-actualization is reaching one’s greatest potential, whether 50, 60, 70, 90 or older.

LFC leadership teams believe one reason self-actualization is elusive to many is the loss of self-esteem that all too often follows “retirement.” This event negatively affects how people feel about themselves and their future. When a person leaves their job behind, they may lose a feeling of purpose and see “retirement” as a time of decline and loss. Years of negative aging stereotypes fuel these feelings and can result in self-fulfilling prophecies, which lead to premature dependency and even memory loss if not mindfully addressed.

The Challenge

Today’s exploding number of older adults is increasingly unwilling to accept this second-class citizenship. They are seeking new and innovative ways to counter ageism and redefine later life as a time of growth and personal development. When they hear the term “retirement community,” many think of an institutional culture with its rules, regulations, and generally restrictive environment. While yesterday’s “retirement” communities filled a need, they have not kept pace with the changing culture of a nation that is now more senior than junior for the first time in U.S. history. This new generation of older adults includes increasing numbers that view life’s second half as a time for growth and enrichment, rather than one of decline and loss.

One answer has been the creation of the active adult community with a focus on fitness and athletics. These communities are a step in the right direction, but still focus primarily on the physiological and social domains of life while generally ignoring the mental, spiritual, financial, and emotional domains. As Albert Einstein warned, “You cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.”

The “problem” with traditional “retirement communities” is not the absence of large fitness centers, theatres or other amenities, but the limited opportunities to enhance one’s autonomy and positive aging self-image. While traditional retirement community models focus on catering to and caring for residents, few focus on opening gateways to peak experiences and life fulfillment.

The LFC Solution

LFCs changed “retirement living” rules by focusing first on the creation of community cultures that nourish a positive aging self-image – to create safe havens from ageism and negative aging stereotypes. A community model that fosters meaningful opportunities for personal growth and enrichment thus functioning as gateways to self-actualization for those living for all life can besm regardless of age.

LFC’s are grounded in the belief that one pathway to self-actualization is to lead a fulfilling life, which is unique to every individual. Fulfillment is not something a community can give to a member, but rather what members bring to a community where there are multiple opportunities to learn, contribute, and grow. The synergy that results from member/operating team relationships creates a positive culture wherein those interested can pursue self-actualization.

According to Maslow, self-actualizing people (those most likely to be interested in the LFC model):

  • Embrace the facts and realities of the world rather than denying or avoiding them;
  • Are spontaneous in ideas and actions;
  • Are creative;
  • Are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others;
  • Feel closeness to other people and generally appreciate life. They have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority; and
  • Are discerning and able to view all things in an objective manner.

A LFC begins creating gateways leading to new opportunities for growth, learning, meaningful service and life experiences well before construction of the community begins. Not surprisingly, those who choose LFC’s are people who love adventure, have a passion for leadership and service and value relationships with others who love life.

Toward Peak Experiences

In other times and cultures, elders were the means by which younger community members learned how to age successfully. They were the storytellers and wisdom-keepers. Elders served as docents – informed tour guides on living with integrity and purpose. With an eye to restoring the role of respected docent, LFC’s begin by recruiting team members that respect and admire the accomplishments of their elders.

The LFC leadership teams believe “retirement” is not so much a time of life as it is one of life’s many crossroads. From this crossroad, travelers have many paths from which to choose – active or inactive, enriching or stagnant, involved or disengaged. Travelers entering the LFC gateway are generally not seeking to retire to a sedentary life of leisure, but to explore new pathways on which to live for all life can be!

LFC operating associates make it a priority to discover who community members are, where they have been and where they are going from their very first visit. The goal is to assist travelers as they discover that growing older is the best protection against just getting old and needing extended care. While quality healthcare services are conveniently available on every LFC campus, the focus is on personal growth, enrichment, and well-being programs that nourish the body, mind and human spirit. In short, providing multiple opportunities for members to pursue peak experiences on life’s pathway is a shared goal with LFC community members.

Added Value of LFC Cultures

What is your view of life’s second half? Is it positive, neutral, or negative? Life’s second half can last thirty, forty years or more with today’s medical advances and active lifestyles. According to research, with a positive life plan, those pursuing an active social life and possessing a positive aging self-image benefit by living up to 8 years longer than those who do not.

The foundation of the LFC culture is grounded in the Six Keys to Living Wellsm (mental, social, physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial). The Six Keys help future LF C members address their needs as a whole person, not as an old person, from the day he or she first visits.

LFC’s are havens for those committed to living for all life can be, fighting ageism, and avoiding the self-fulfilling prophecies of aging, which too often result in premature dependency, memory loss and death. In short, the LFC declares war on aging stereotypes and replaces them with the principles of positive aging.

While health setbacks may periodically create detours on life’s pathways, the LFC’s offer members a way to take control of future decisions and possible long-term care expenses with a Health Assurance Guarantee. When and if members need healthcare or rehabilitation services, LFC professionals focus on doing everything possible to return members to the highest level of independence possible in the shortest time while addressing their mental and spiritual well-being as well as their physical health. The traffic within the LFC continuum is two-way and can lead to increased independence, not just increasing decline and dependency perceived by many to be inevitable in “retirement” communities.

Moreover, once accepted as a member of a LFC, any concern that one may have about running out of money is over. If a LFC member should run out of money through no fault of your own, the community’s benevolent fund covers expenses allowing members to focus on self-actualization regardless of what the future may hold…and live for all life can be!

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