One Year at the Old Folks’ Home

NOT in the slow lane, YET 

The blog is about living life after 70 with joy, resilience, and purpose. NOT in the slow lane, YET is a source of positive, helpful advice encouraging people to set and achieve goals  and find joy in life. The blog will cover personal experiences and thoughts and concerns. Topics of blogs will include health, retirement, fashion, travel, and  living in continuing care retirement communities. The blogs will be short and appear at least once a month on my website or by email if you choose

A Letter from the Old Folks’ Home:  After one year of living in a continuing care retirement community

I have lived in my independent living apartment  for a year. I had grown tired of maintaining a home. I  looked forward to a retirement home and  a care-free life of meals in the dining room and weekly housekeeping services. A large community art room could keep my easel,  paintings and paints instead of having the clutter in my small office. I would have more  time for writing. I am healthy for my age. My criteria is I take only one prescribed medicine, walk without assistance, and can participate in physical and social activities easily. But I had little hints that I might need more care. I walk more slowly. I have a hearing loss and new hearing aids. My thinking is slower, I get distracted more easily,  and I  have difficulty remembering names of people I have recently met. I did not like living with the uncertainty of what other changes might be in store for me. I wanted to be in a place where I could get more care if I needed it.

I had my first opportunity  to view my independent living apartment  in July 2021. It was newly built and had just gotten a certificate of occupancy. I stepped out on the balcony and shouted, “I won the lottery!”  The view was spectacular. I could almost touch a beautiful silver linden tree which was over l00 years old and soared overhead. I grew to love it for its beauty, shade, and calming effect on me. Its leaves whisper in the wind. I strain to hear its voice. It seems to say, “Be calm. Be still.” I breathe slowly. My anxieties and worries go away. What a great greeting to my new home! I often stop by the tree and give it a hug.

When I moved in a month later, I was surrounded with support. The chef delivered sandwiches on moving day,  an Ambassador Committee member called on me and gave me tips on how to adjust to the community. Maintenance services workers  hung paintings for me and installed my TV’s. Meeting new people was easy because everyone in my new building was looking for friends. We  wore name tags and neck lanyards bearing our digital door key for getting in our building and our apartments. The name tags helped us deal with memory problems. The neck lanyard door key  made me feel I was in a guarded community, like a prison. I keep it in my pocket. 

I jump into new surroundings enthusiastically. I am an Energizer Bunny. I was quickly asked to be an Ambassador and two months later was the committee chair. I ran for the resident council and won a two-year term. One of my neighbors told me  I seemed to have a “service gene.”   I chewed on that for a while. I like helping people, but the truth is I am a curious  person who wants to know how everything works.

 I found quickly that any event that included free wine, drew crowds. Monday Coffee and Chat events provided information about activities, rumors, and an opportunity to complain. Many folks have hearing problems and ask others to speak louder or use a microphone. I am one of them. With Covid masks, those with even mild hearing problems  cannot read lips and find conversation difficult. I hated the hearing aids which fit over the top of my ears. They kept falling off when I took off my mask or reading glasses. I give instructions to Ambassador Committee members to keep their presentations short because some of us have the attention span of fleas.  I was surprised at the number of people who needed assistive devices, like walkers or canes. I saw myself as one of  the beautiful, healthy people in the ads that sold  me into moving here. Ha! I realized that was a sign of arrogance! One fall would put me on a walker or, even worse, a wheelchair.

There are many activities for residents. An education committee brings in speakers weekly. Musicians and entertainers do presentations. Busses take residents to museum, theatre, and musical events as well as dinners at restaurants and grocery shopping. Everyone can become part of groups on  landscaping, social activities, recycling, bridge, book clubs and chess clubs. There are so many activities. A state-of-the art wellness and physical fitness center provides classes and training in health and physical fitness. It would be hard to be bored here.

No one reaches this age without having experienced grief, unfulfilled dreams, failure, and loss. I lost my youngest son to cancer two years ago. My husband died in December 2021. Aging is not easy. Most everyone has a medical problem, cancer, bad knees, heart disease, vision loss,  hearing loss or beginning dementia. People do not carry around sandwich boards with a written list of their losses and worries. They must feel comfortable and trusting to divulge them. That is what friends do. That is what we are becoming.

Feeling safe and making friends are high on my priorities. After a year, I felt  that independent living in a continuing care retirement community  was the right choice.