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When seeking a senior living community for yourself or a loved one, an essential question to ask is: Does the facility promote the independence of its residents by allowing them to care for themselves, when able, and to do the things that bring them joy?

At Crestavilla, a Kisco Signature senior living community in Laguna Niguel, the answer is a resounding “yes!” What’s more, Crestavilla takes its philosophy on independence to the next level by offering an on-site physical/occupational and speech/language therapist to help residents remain as functional as possible — for as long as possible.

It’s a unique service rarely found in senior living communities, says Deborah Santiesteban, clinical director of physical therapy at Crestavilla. “Most of the time, communities don’t have that service, and families have to take time from their busy schedules to find a therapist in the community. So having the service here is very convenient.”

Therapy services enable Crestavilla residents to enjoy an exceptional quality of life, provide opportunities to rehab — which may mean avoiding a temporary move to a skilled nursing facility — and continue to perform activities of daily living (ADL).

In addition to one-on-one therapy, Santiesteban also teaches small-group classes that range from chair exercises to mind-body work to education on stress reduction. Starting this summer, she’s launching aqua therapy in the community’s year-round, heated saltwater pool. “It’s going to be very exciting,” she says. “We are able to use the beautiful facility here to get more people engaged who wouldn’t be able to participate in a pool activity otherwise.”

Santiesteban also teaches a class on how to get the most out of Crestavilla’s state-of-the-art fitness equipment, designed specifically for seniors. “Sometimes, all that gym equipment can be intimidating,” she says. “If I’m teaching somebody how to use the equipment and get comfortable with it, they’ll really be able to utilize what’s here.”

She notes that therapy is designed to work on the whole person — mind, body and spirit — and may include education about the body, different aspects of exercise, or stress reduction. The overall goal, she notes, is for the senior to achieve a level of independence that allows them to age in place — an unheard-of concept just a few years ago, but one that is gaining well-deserved traction.

“Aging in place allows an individual to stay in their home environment rather than move into a different location — whether it be a downgrade into a board-and-care home or a different setting — as their care needs increase,” Santiesteban explains. “This enables them to continue to enjoy their home, whether in assisted living, like here or elsewhere, and to be able to have a good quality of life in which they enjoy all the things they like to do.”

Santiesteban recounts working with a patient who had Guillain-Barre syndrome and was unable to lift his arms or move his legs. “I worked with him for 90 days, starting first in bed, then the edge of the bed, and then parallel bars, so he could gain the strength and stability to return home.”

Over the weeks of working with this patient, she was able to recognize his need to be able to do what he loved – gardening. “One day,” she says, “as we were walking with his four-wheel walker outdoors, I had a shovel there and we started doing standing balance exercises where he put one foot on the shovel. It was such a joy, and he got to go home walking.”

“Being able to help somebody – whether it’s with strength and mobility or helping them do the things they enjoy, like gardening – makes me feel like what I’m doing matters. And it’s the best feeling ever.” To make Crestavilla your home, schedule a tour and see what life at Crestavilla entails.