By Ken Smith, Lakeview Village resident
Several long-time friends in my old neighborhood have asked me how I’m doing. Sometimes that phrase is just a polite greeting with no meaning beyond the greeting. On the other hand, it could express a real interest in my home at Lakeview Village. My former next-door neighbors may suspect that I really miss my old place, but maybe they would be interested in Lakeview as a future home. I know them very well; and now that a year has passed, this might be a good time to give them an update. I am even surprised myself as to how I really am doing where I live now.
The beginning was not so good, by which I mean the decision period was difficult. I was having my own problems making decisions of any kind, and my son wanted me to move to West Virginia, to be with my family and five grandchildren. He felt that strongly, and I respected his reasonable persistence, even though it added some guilt to my consideration.
My wife Dorothy and I had visited senior living centers about 10 years earlier as I watched the change in her health; but with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, our plans changed. It was now my plan to hunker down and give full attention to her needs in her familiar setting. I have never regretted that, but after her passing in 2010 there was just too much of being alone, and even a bit of feeling sorry for myself. The idea of a community with events and social life might add something to get me out of my funk. I went back to look at some of the same senior communities, but with a different perspective.
I am frugal to a fault. How much will this decision really cost? What are the real benefits? Sometimes I am quietly skeptical even when the lawyer and financial planner are trying to represent my own best interests. It’s hard to make sense of selling a seven-room house, in a bad market, to move to a one-bedroom apartment!
Now that I have lived here more than a year, I must say that while my decision was based on rather practical issues, those factors have little to do with my life right now. Life has everything to do with the people here, that something called “community.” This is what comes to me as a surprise. The word “community” is everywhere–on the logos, the buses, the maintenance trucks. The Lakeview Village Statement of Values says, “We are responsible for each other.” Of course, any place can use the word “community,” but is it the “ding an sich” (the thing in itself)?
Over the months of living here, I have been surprised by what I have witnessed: people who push wheelchairs so that the physically restricted can come and go to events; visits by residents to old friends now in health care units; the camaraderie of shared transportation, and the personal relationships between student-servers and residents who can no longer read the menu or recall what they ordered. It’s a remarkably happy place to be: well- fed, well- served, and no tipping. There’s a courtesy and kindness that seems infectious. Sometimes I wonder if there exists some mysterious self-selection by which gentle people decide to live here, or do regular people begin some transformation by a form of osmosis in this environment? Maybe I’m actually changing myself; but then it takes time, and I’m just a newcomer.
One of the best things about this community is communication. The leadership wants you to be happy, if possible. Posters are everywhere, where you pick up your mail and where you go to dinner. In the elevators you can read going up or down. There are opportunities to play bridge, go to classes, exercise, hear music or lectures, go to church or vespers and volunteer for almost anything. Back in our own rooms we have our own Lakeview TV channels to get the latest updates. Community and communication hold much in common.
Among the posters we note the “Celebration of Life,” and we know what that means. Living here is a benefit of adequate age, and the passage of one of us will not go unnoticed. The community of residents will join the family of the life we celebrate, and we will say goodbye together.
I have seen all these things of which I speak. They have very little to do with a contract that I signed. Some call it the “buy-in,” as though you could set a price for community. The truth is that I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into at the time. I wasn’t so smart, after all.
You probably get the idea. I’m pretty much happy in this life-care community called Lakeview Village, “the place I now call home.”