Choosing to Age Well
“The Art of Aging Creed: I will age with humour, serenity and to the best of my efforts, health. I will continue to express my creativity and personal style. I will challenge the stuck way our culture looks at getting older.” – Sophia Lumen
The quote perfectly expresses the approach taken by two residents of United’s Garrison Green community to getting older.
Hertha Reich is 94 but has an attitude to life of someone much younger. She has become an accomplished painter and her works regularly are displayed in the art gallery along with those of other residents who have also discovered a love for the arts. “Do I feel like I’m 94? I really don’t think about it,” she laughs. “There are times I feel my age, but I am always interested in doing new things.”
Betty Earle, 88, agrees. “Forget your age and do what you like doing. I like to meet new residents when they move in. When my husband and I moved here seven years ago, we decided to make new friends so we sat at a different table each night for dinner. Now there is so much laughter at our dinner table each night. After my husband passed away there was a whole community of friends here to support me. That wouldn’t have been the case if we hadn’t moved here.”
As friends move away or pass on, older adults living on their own often find themselves isolated with few outside activities.
“It’s made a tremendous difference moving here,” said Hertha. “I didn’t want my daughter to feel obligated to look after me. Older people are afraid to commit to a new situation, but they shouldn’t be. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I’m very involved in the activities and outings. I just love going on the trips. When I came here, there were so many things to do. I was delighted. There are so many choices.”
“We wanted to make the decision to move rather than put the burden on our children,” said Betty. “Living in a community like this is much different than people think. Some people think of the old nursing home when they think about moving to a community. But the minute we came here, we heard laughing and people talking. The rooms are so nice. For many people, the children decide for them but the best thing to do is decide for yourself where and how you want to live.”
That decision becomes a little easier after prospective residents learn that part of United’s philosophy is to not separate couples simply because one needs extra care. Flexible care plans mean you pay for only what you need, with access to publicly funded Home Care. United’s approach is social rather than medical. To that end, couples remain together, and those who develop memory or health issues are never segregated, but included in all activities.
Is there anything on their “bucket lists” that they look forward to doing? Hertha and Betty both say they are content to simply experience the new things the community offers, which is quite extensive. United’s partnerships with music and cultural organizations and two universities offer opportunities for residents to enjoy concerts and galleries, while also bringing world-class musicians into the two United communities to perform for residents.
Hertha and Betty are participating in a weekly United Way pilot program called Project Inspire, which brings together older adults from a variety of backgrounds to discuss ageism and isolation, and reflect their thoughts in art.
“You’re never too old to learn,” said Hertha. “There’s always something new to experience.”
Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help!