Tag: retirement

Embracing new friendships in a senior living community

If you ask senior living professionals, current residents or their family members, they’ll likely tell you that the social opportunities available in senior living are life-changing.

In fact, before moving to a community, many older adults experience different degrees of loneliness and isolation. Everything changes when they make the move to a senior living community filled with neighbors of the same age-group and friendly, compassionate staff members who build meaningful relationships with residents.

Although the opportunities for engaging in an active social life and making friends are plentiful, that doesn’t always mean the process is easy for everyone.

Many older adults, in fact, may find they’re out of practice in making friends. By the time we reach retirement or decide on a maintenance-free lifestyle, we often assume that our most meaningful relationships have already been made. New residents sometimes go into senior living with the mindset that other residents will be nothing more than neighbors, friendly folks to say good morning to and chat with at the barbershop or hair salon.

However, at Diakon Senior Living, we find that residents often form strong, long-lasting friendships with fellow residents. In our communities, residents truly share life together. They share meals, attend events together and take on leading roles in one another’s lives.

So how can you embrace new friendships in your senior living community? Click here for a few ideas to get you started…

 

 

Adjusting to your new senior living lifestyle

After all the hard work of planning, narrowing down choices and making the big move, you’re finally settled into your new senior living community. Your family helped you move in. They’ve called almost every day. You’ve met a handful of new people. But community life is still very new—and you wonder how long it will take before you start to feel at home.

This scenario is more common than you might think among older adults who make the move to senior living.

While the relocation process can be exciting, after the hustle and bustle of moving day ends, new residents can feel unsure what to do next or how to integrate into their new community. No matter how old we get, huge changes in our lifestyles inevitably come with an adjustment period.

If your recent move to senior living has you feeling a bit out of place, don’t worry! You didn’t make a mistake—it just sometimes takes time to adjust to a new way of living. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to shorten that adjustment period and start feeling at home. Click here to read more!

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Taking art to new heights

It is hard for me to remember a time that I didn’t love art.

 

In fact, I have been pencil sketching since I was a kid. Ironically enough, I used to draw pictures of airplanes. Little did I know that after college graduation, I would become a pilot—a profession that would take my sketching skills to new heights.

 

I flew for Pan American Airways. Traveling internationally for a living, I never left home without my sketchpad. It was my companion during layovers. Together, we ventured to some of the most stunning cities around the world. Sketching primarily with charcoal pencils, I captured the beauty of churches in Frankfort, the Opera House in Vienna, Ireland landscapes and street scenes in Warsaw, Africa and Tokyo.

 

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that my love for drawing shifted from pencils to watercolor. My wife, Joy, gave me a watercolor kit. For a while, I just dabbled with it, but then I got serious. I took a couple night classes at a local high school to learn water color techniques. I had tried oil painting and acrylics, but I didn’t find them to be as challenging or have the beauty of watercolor.

 

Water color is more spontaneous—it has a mind of its own. When you put brush to paper, the color spreads and you never know exactly what you will end up with until the color blends.

 

For more complex pieces of work, I sometimes include color pencils in the process. Not only are they easy to carry around, but they allow you to add more detail to your painting. Using both colored pencils and water color can help an artist cover a larger surface area, create a more interesting background and develop a more involved painting.

 

Just as my techniques have changed over time, so have my subjects. There was a period when I drew only sailing ships. Then I went back to airplanes.

 

However, for the last 20 years, I have primarily focused on landscapes. A recent subject has been Cumberland Crossings’ barn. To me it is a magnetic landmark. [As a resident of Cumberland Crossings,] I walk about the campus property three or four times a week, and often wind up at the barn doing some sort of sketch.

 

I have done many sketches in various seasons. My most favorite painting of the barn—a summer/spring scene that I did three years ago, I donated it to the campus auction benefiting Cumberland Crossings’ fund. Several residents got together and bid more than $400 for the painting, with the executive director agreeing to hang it in the Davis Dining Room.

 

Of all the sketches and paintings I have done, that is probably the most special. It makes me feel good when I go to dinner and see my painting. More importantly, I enjoy the fact that it was liked enough to be placed where it could be shared with others.

 

Last year, I did a small watercolor winter scene of the barn. I printed 100 of them on Christmas cards that were sold in the gift shop to benefit the auxiliary. This year, I had another 100 printed. It was then that Diakon hosted a Christmas card art contest for residents. It turns out I won. It was quite an honor.

 

Anytime I can share my art with others is a pleasure. Over the years, I have started to sell my paintings and show them at local art shows—including at the Waynesboro and Mechanicsburg Art Centers.

 

My children and grandchildren have their walls lined with things that I have painted—a bottle nose dolphin, a church in Cumberland, Maryland, and airplanes to name a few. I was recently asked how many pieces of art I have produced. I am really not sure. I have three or four sketch books and completed more than 80 paintings. Some are simplistic—others are more detailed.

 

I work under Parkinson’s Law—the adage that “work expands as to fill the available time for its completion.” However, normally I sit for about an hour at a time to paint. It is therapeutic and relaxing. It is something you can do to allow your mind to be carried away from personal problems. It is an escape. It definitely keeps me going and gives me a reason to get up in the morning.

 

 

—Dale Fernandes, 85

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Making learning a part of really living

When you’ve spent most of your life learning to make a living, how do you make the transition to learning for the simple sake of learning?

 

For many people older than 50, that’s a familiar situation.

 

As a result of the learning we’ve done so far, we have been able to provide for our families. But, after a certain age at which we no longer have to worry as much about making a living, or our nest is empty, we may face the question: What do we do now?

 

Some people will say retirement is about just enjoying life. After all, you’ve earned it!

 

For others, however, shifting gears is not as easy. We’ve been too busy and feel the need to remain that way.

 

So how do you begin? How best can you experience new things, meet new friends, try a hobby we have been meaning to for years or, even, share a talent we’ve gained over the years?

 

That’s the focus of an innovative program I oversee for Diakon Community Services. It’s called Diakon Living & Learning After 50.

 

For nearly a decade now, the program has offered classes in everything under the sun at sites throughout Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania—workshops on yoga, painting, writing, antiquing, eBay, dancing, scuba diving, learning a new language and a host of other topics.

 

Our class atmosphere is informal and fun, allowing people to mingle while still focused on learning or teaching.

 

During this time, I have seen many friendships blossom as a result of attending weekly exercise classes; witnessed participants create a support system or reunite with old friends or co-workers.

 

I have watched wondrous transformations, as someone stares at a blank canvas, doubt eventually overtaken by a special spark as the person creates a beautiful painting, saying “that’s something I’ve wanted to try for years.”

 

With this need in mind, we develop our courses, classes, and special events to appeal to as broad a range of interests and abilities as possible.

 

And all geared to making certain that learning remains a pivotal part of life, even if the focus is more on fun than making a living!

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Jump in and have fun…at every age

When I arrived at Luther Crest in 2011, at the age of 76, I had no idea I’d end up writing a book. But it was, after all, a period of starting over.

I had lived in New York State all of my life before my move and had experienced numerous new beginnings: leaving my parents’ home to marry; moving from Brooklyn to Long Island as a young mother; getting divorced; meeting my life partner and moving to his home; retiring from my job as a social worker in the domestic violence field; seeing my partner through his final illness and then moving into a kind of transitional housing situation until Dan the Moving Man carried me off to my new, and probably final, destination, Luther Crest.

I was happy and excited about starting over again.

I loved my small apartment, crammed too full of precious items from my past lives, and I was excited by the novelty of no longer having to eat solitary dinners in front of the TV.

A lot of other things were different, too. I no longer had an excuse not to exercise; there were all kinds of options available, including a swimming pool and water aerobics classes.  I loved water aerobics but hadn’t attended for several years because there had been no classes nearby.

There also was a well-stocked library, interest groups, lectures by some of my learned fellow residents. Had I stumbled into heaven, or what? Well, perhaps some place more like a cruise ship.

When I went to my first meeting of the Luther Crest writers group, I was terrified. I hadn’t written anything that would be judged by others since I had finished classwork for various degrees and certifications I had taken over time.

I could hardly breathe, but the men and women in the group seemed pleased with what I had written; they actually laughed when they were supposed to! I was invited to submit my two pages to the Crest Chronicle for publication.

So that’s how my writing a book came to be.

The friends I met each month in the group were encouraging, sometimes even cajoling me to keep going.

And it began to seem to me that if I was having so much fun in my new environment, it would be nice to urge older adults everywhere to have fun whenever and wherever they could.

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an “old woman” has been to jump in to whatever interests me and have as much fun as I can along the way.

The responsibilities of mid-life can be soul-numbing, so leaving many of them behind opens the way to experiencing things as we did when we were children and the world was new.

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A very old friend told me she read my book on her 80th birthday, when she was feeling depressed by the weight of years, so she started thinking about the joys she’s had along the way.

“It helped,” she said, and I’m glad. We’re going to be this old no matter what, so let’s have fun and thank God for it.

Helen Wernlund
Luther Crest resident & author

Editor’s Note: Little Excursions in the Alternate Universe, by Helen Wernlund, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $14.95 plus tax. A portion of proceeds benefits the Luther Crest Benevolent Care Endowment Fund.

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‘Storied lives’ program helps students learn what it truly means to “live life”

The deepest learning often happens when students are able to connect the classroom experience with the “real world.”  Our winter-term partnership with Manatawny Manor for a project called “Storied Lives” allowed my students to put a face to our learning and make it personal.

My students and their residents cried together and laughed together; they exchanged personal stories, shared life advice, and sat in thoughtful silence together; they held hands and emotionally embraced each other. Their interactions were emblematic of a deep connection that these partnerships built over the course of seven weeks.

Life after retirement

Retirement.

What images or feelings come to mind when you hear that term? Is retirement something you anticipate? Or something you fear?

As with many topics, retiring means different things to different people. For some older adults, retirement means more freedom and the ability to focus on activities for which there was little time in the past. For others, however, retirement can sometimes represent a break with familiar ties and a resulting sense of isolation.

With these thoughts in mind, we asked some of the residents at Luther Crest, a Diakon senior living community in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to tell us a few things they learned about retirement and how their daily routines and life in general changed.

If there is one common thread, it’s the idea life is what you make it and that activities such as volunteering and taking up interests for which there was limited time in the past can be key to successful later years.

Senior living Q&A

Should we move?

How can I possibly begin to downsize?

What will I do if my health declines?

As older adults consider options in retirement, they often have questions and concerns. One of the major questions concerns where they should live. We asked admissions staff at a variety of Diakon Senior Living Communities for their input on the topic. Here are their combined answers: