The best of senior community living is the community itself
Moving out of the family home into an apartment isn’t always the first choice for older adults. Many seniors and their family members try to stay at home for as long as they can, even while fighting with everyday tasks such as home maintenance, mowing lawn and moving snow.
Often when people retire, they are excited by the freedom to finally spend some time by themselves, enjoying hobbies like reading and gardening. Many of these soon long for the social interaction of their workplace. Even those not in the work force find their circle of friends gradually diminishes, and living alone adds to the isolation.
The opportunity to make new friends and enjoy new experiences is an often-overlooked benefit of moving to a senior residential community.
Just ask the women at Downtown Estates in Springfield.
“The people,” are the best of apartment living said a group of women — ages ranging from 60s into their 90s.
They love the friendship, camaraderie, and their social gatherings.
“We know how to laugh,” said Virginia Stoering.
They laugh often.
The women get together daily — sometimes just for conversation and coffee, and often for group activities.
They play Bingo on Tuesdays, and sometimes on Wednesdays.
They work on puzzles.
Card games are played every evening. “We always know that somebody is in the community room from 7:00 to 9:00, and they come,” said Elaine Miesen. If there are several gals present they’ll play cards. Thirteen Card Rummy and Skip-Bo are two of their favorites. “If there’s only a couple of us, we’ll visit.”
There’s a gathering and celebration for all sorts of occasions. “We don’t miss any, and sometimes we come up with our own,” said Miesen.
They decorated the community room for Christmas.
On New Year’s Eve they had a party from 3:30 to 6:00 with a potluck supper complete with champagne, and games before and after the meal.
On Halloween they decorated the community room, dressed in costumes, gathered and filled bags generously with candy and had great fun handing them out to more than 100 little ghosts and goblins.
St. Patrick’s Day is occasion for their biggest and best party. “You have to wear green,” said Mary Quinlan. “We consider everyone Irish that day,” added Stoering. “We look forward to it,” said Miesen.
They watch movies together often. How often? “It depends if it’s cloudy, rainy, snowy, dark, or otherwise,” said Miesen. Eleanor Teicher, who has lived in Downtown Estates the longest of the group — since July 1, 2012 — is “our matriarch, the organizer, our recreation director” the women responded quickly, one after another.” Teicher arranges for the DVD movies — some from the library — and others from a collection gifted to the group.
On Wednesday mornings the Catholics usually go to St. John’s Circle of Care to attend Mass in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Afterwards they go to Fritz’s Place for hamburgers and coffee. Friends of other religions sometimes join them there.
“We exercise,” announced Mary Quinlan. “Mary is our leader,” they announced. “I was very ill in November and was hospitalized,” Mary explained. “When I got out of the hospital I went to St. John’s Circle of Care to get my strength back. I learned to do some exercises. I had several sheets with drawings and explanations of the exercises. “I had my health aid make extra copies. They are easy-to-do exercises for all — they’re all done while sitting in your chair.”
Downtown Estates has 20 apartments: 19 units with renters and one unit reserved for guests.
Although there are many things to love about senior community living, most agree that the best thing is the community itself.
Downtown Estates is the distribution site for the Meals on Wheels program. “That caught my attention,” said Miesen. She admitted that loneliness was another reason for her move to the apartment complex.
“It’s the location,” said Mary Lou Lang. “It’s close to the library, grocery store, post office, central business district, and churches.”
The only negative, they said, is lack of transportation, something that is a problem in most small towns. Those who own cars said it would be nice to have a garage.
All 19 Downtown Estates units are currently occupied. A few men reside in the apartments, although none showed up for picture and interview for this story. When it comes to senior living community populations, women generally outnumber men. The men usually find that, after retirement, community living helps them reconnect with a new sense of identity — friendship.