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Photo by Broadmead resident Erroll Hay

Life Plan Communities Offer Comfortable Options for the Introvert and Extrovert

By Brad Breeding | MyLifeSite

Did you ever take a Myers-Briggs personality test? If so, you found out where you are on the spectrum between the introvert or extrovert personality type. The principles used to create this introvert/extrovert preference within the test are based on the work of renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung. In some ways, it is a useful piece of information to know about yourself — or others — as it is a window into how people interact with others.

For example, introverts aren’t necessarily "shy," as they are sometimes characterized. Rather they get energy from within, and they may prefer spending time with a smaller number of close-knit friends. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from the external world: being involved in a lot of different activities and associating with many different people, for instance. An extrovert is oftentimes considered "a people person" or the life of the party.

Whichever personality type you favor, there are lifestyle options at a Life Plan Community (also known as a continuing care community/CCRC) or other senior living community that can appeal to your nature. There also are opportunities within these communities to challenge your nature, if you so desire.

New resident ambassadors

I’ve written before about the importance of socialization and human interaction, as well as the detrimental effects that social isolation can have on seniors. That’s why one of the many benefits of making the move to a Life Plan Community is the social aspect and the ability to surround yourself with a ready-made group of potential new friends.

Of course, some people will "click" with certain people more than others (and that is perfectly natural), but generally speaking, new senior living community residents can find someone (or many someones) with whom they share common interests and backgrounds.

To facilitate this acclimation process for new residents, many Life Plan Communities offer a new resident buddy program or welcoming committee. Such programs pair new residents with existing residents who can help them assimilate into the community.

These ambassador programs can be useful to the extroverted new resident, helping guide them to programs and activities within the Life Plan Community that they may be eager to take part in and introducing them to new people. But such onboarding initiatives can be especially beneficial to the introverted new resident, who may be less inclined to get out into their new surroundings and meet new people. It can be comforting to an introvert to have a single point-person as they adjust to their new home.

I would add that a key to the success of such new resident onboarding programs is to be sure the community is adept at matching ambassador with new resident. For example, it can be helpful to pair two people who have a shared interest — say, golf or art — giving them a ready-made connection to share their stories. By taking this extra step, the Life Plan Community shows the new resident that they are valued, making them feel even more welcomed in their new surroundings.

The Life Plan Community dining experience

Another perk of moving to a Life Plan Community, as well as some other types of retirement communities, is the availability of on-site dining services. Most independent living Life Plan Community contracts include at least one meal per day within the community's dining venues (additional meal plans can be added on as well). These meals and various dining options are yet another way that Life Plan Communities can appeal to the introvert or the extrovert.

In addition to the main dining room, many Life Plan Communities are adding cafes, pubs, or bistros for a more casual dining experience. Just like a standard restaurant, these dining facilities are set up with tables of different sizes. There are two-tops as well as tables for larger groups. It is up to the resident to choose where they would like to sit.

For the introvert, a smaller table and one of the smaller dining venues may be preferable, allowing them time to enjoy a meal with one or two friends — or even alone if desired. But the extrovert may find the larger tables and/or larger dining room more appealing, giving them the opportunity to break bread with a number of people.

Mealtime offers another perk as well. In most Life Plan Communities, the dining venues are centrally located within the community. This gives people from opposite sides of the campus an opportunity to mingle, allowing the extrovert to make even more friends and giving the introvert a chance to connect with someone they may not otherwise meet. This can be especially beneficial in large communities where residents from different areas of the Life Plan Community might not cross paths during the course of a normal day.

Communities designed for interaction

In addition to the socialization afforded by mealtimes, there are other Life Plan Community design features that give both the introvert and extrovert opportunities to find the types of relationships and connections they prefer.

Common spaces within the community are intentionally designed to encourage interaction. For instance, many Life Plan Communities will have a variety of sitting areas in their main community center. These could include intimate nooks with just two or three seats, which might appeal to the introvert who is looking for some one-on-one time with a close friend. There typically also will be larger sitting areas with several sofas and chairs that can accommodate a larger group — an attractive set-up from the extrovert’s perspective.

The pedestrian-friendly design of Life Plan Communities also encourages interaction and socialization. Taking a daily walk to the mailbox bank, for example, not only encourages seniors to get outside, get some fresh air and sunshine, and get their body moving, it also gives them a chance to see their neighbors and potentially make new friends. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you can’t underestimate the benefits on a senior’s wellbeing of a smile, a hello, or a friendly conversation.

Activities and amenities

Life Plan Communities are renowned for their many events and activities designed to keep seniors engaged and active. And there are appealing options regardless of whether you have extroverted or introverted tendencies. In fact, the best communities have realized that the more shared experiences they can create that can be tailored to residents’ preferences, the happier their community members will be.

Take exercise and wellness. Nearly every Life Plan Community will have a fitness center, many with a swimming pool, weight room, and a fitness studio for classes. The introvert may find the solitude of swimming laps or walking on the treadmill appealing, giving them an opportunity to spend time with their own thoughts. But there are great options for extroverts too, who might enjoy taking a group fitness class or joining a sports team like tennis, pickleball, or golf, to name a few.

Many Life Plan Communities also offer residents a number of educational classes such as art classes, cooking classes, guest lecturers, and more. These continuing education-type programs not only promote life-long learning, they provide opportunities for residents — whether introverts or extroverts — to find their preferred setting (and even push themselves to try something new if desired).

A Life Plan Community’s other clubs and events offer something for everyone as well. From intimate book clubs to volunteer groups to off-campus excursions (trips to the orchestra or to cheer on a local sports team, for instance), opportunities to spend time with others, in small groups or large ones, are plentiful at most Life Plan Communities.

Appealing to the introvert and extrovert

Whether you are an introvert who prefers to spend time alone or with just a few close friends, or an extrovert who can’t wait to be around others, everyone needs human interaction — a friendly smile, meaningful eye contact, a warm touch.

During the height of the pandemic, we witnessed first-hand the detrimental effects of social isolation, particularly on vulnerable seniors who either lived alone or in nursing homes that were closed to visitors. In many cases, seniors’ mental and physical health suffered from the lack of in-person human contact with friends and loved ones.

The opportunity to interact with others, on whatever terms are most comfortable to you, is among the many advantages of moving to a senior living community such as a Life Plan Community. Life Plan Community residents can enjoy time together with friends, in large groups or one-on-one settings, refilling their emotional well and reaping the health benefits that come with human contact.

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