Be proactive when considering Kansas senior living options

Inform family of decisions made
Access to transportation is one of the most important factors in staying independent when one grows older. A van takes residents of Atria Hearthstone on outings.

The line between independent living and assisted living isn’t hard and fast. A spectrum of services means individuals can search for the level of assistance that suits their needs and goals of living as independently as possible.


The No. 1 tip that local experts in senior living offered in interviews on the topic was to plan ahead. Doing so can help one stay in one’s own home longer or retain more independence and control over housing and other decisions.

“We often think, ‘This could never happen to me,’ and we always procrastinate,” said Jocelyn Lyons, executive director of the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging. “You have to be proactive.”

Being proactive can mean everything from downsizing one’s belongings sooner rather than later to exploring senior living options. The goal is to ensure such decisions aren’t made hastily later on, with little time for consideration and preparation.

At the same time, it’s important to inform family members, such as one’s children, about these decisions and plans, Lyons said.

Depending on where an individual lives in northeast Kansas, resources for remaining independent vary. Some areas have publicly funded and private for-pay transportation options, for example, and some have active networks of volunteers ready to assist those who no longer can drive.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends planning ahead, for example by familiarizing oneself with local transportation options before such services are needed.

Related: See the digital copy of the 2016 Retirement Special Section here.

For individuals and families seeking answers to these and other questions, free-of-cost resources are available with the mission of providing information on local meal delivery, in-home services, transportation, home modification, legal planning and other needs. Services range from help with making one’s home more accessible or transitioning residences, to assistance with shopping, cooking, bathing and laundry.

Just a few key northeast Kansas resources that are funded with public dollars, private donations or a combination of the two include:

• Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, which can be reached at (785) 235-1367 or (800) 798-1366 and serves Shawnee, Jefferson and Douglas counties. Call with questions, schedule an appointment for in-person advice, or visit the organization’s website, The website includes county-by-county resource lists, including more than 20 in-home service providers for Shawnee County, for example.

• North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, which serves 18 north-central Kansas counties and has offices in Manhattan, Salina and Emporia and resources for nutrition and in-home services, among other needs. This area agency on aging can be reached at (785) 776-9294. Its website is

• Douglas County Senior Services can be reached at (785) 842-0543 or toll-free at (877) 295-3277 for those seeking local and rural transportation options, meal delivery and other assistance or referrals. Its website is

• Riley County Seniors’ Service Center, (785) 537-4040 or, offers meals and other services.

Jami Ramsey, director at Riley County Seniors’ Service Center, notes that improving or prolonging one’s mobility and flexibility is a key part of staying independent. To that end, the Riley County center offers free strength training and other classes.

Senior living complexes are another option for individuals seeking out such resources, whether they choose to live in independent living or assisted living apartments. In addition to dining and linen services, transportation and other daily chores or living needs that these facilities can help with, they sometimes connect residents with other groups and organizations.

Atria Hearthstone, a senior living community in Topeka, can provide families with information on services to help with decluttering and downsizing. Community sales director Ed Roach says downsizing is often a key source of stress for seniors considering moving into apartments.

“We try to make each step a little bit easier for them,” Roach said.

Residents at Atria also have access to transportation to medical appointments, grocery stores and recreational destinations.

RELATED: Read more retirement stories in our special section here.

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Prime Time, a special section in Sunday, Oct. 10, 2016's issue of The Topeka Capital-Journal, explores the issues facing individuals as they approach retirement age, including downsizing and housing options, financial planning, questions to ask when transitioning into an independent living or assisted living facility and caregiving considerations.

The special section also features a directory of amenities at independent living and assisted living facilities in northeast Kansas, as well as a list of community resources that senior citizens and their families may find helpful. Additional stories and photos can be viewed at