Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life in the Retirement Center - it's all a big party

From time to time I've shared my experiences with both my mom and my in-laws. My mom lives in a retirement village made up of attached cottages. She loves her new friends there, and most of all she loves the ability to travel without worrying about her house, yard, garden and plants. Because her cottage doesn't come with many amenities, it's very affordable for her, leaving her enough each month to do what she loves - travel. So she's home from time to time between her trips to visit relative all over the US, her annual Hawaii get-aways, and her volunteer trips to places far across the world.

My in-laws, both in their 90s, just this past summer agreed to give up their home and move into a retirement community.

My father-in-law says, "We've moved to the Penthouse." He loves their 5th floor apartment overlooking the beautiful courtyard. He also loves Friday evening "wine tasting" which, last time we talked, he described as a "wine-drinking contest" for the old folks. "They just keep pouring and pouring," he explained. He laughs as he talks about how handy it is just to slide down the wall to the elevator and ride home.

For my mother-in-law, moving was a painful experience. She had determined to live out her life in her home of 57 years, even when it had clearly become a burden and a danger. Only after persistent, repeated family discussions did she finally relent and agree to move.

Last week they took the bus to a nearby casino (she loves to play the slots). She joined a knitting group. She marvels at how many nice, active people there are still alive in her age group (she had lost all of her long-time friends, and felt pretty lonely for peer companions).

Clearly, life isn't all a big party when you're 90+. Hearing is a challenge for her, and getting around is tough for my father-in-law. But living in the "penthouse" and going to weekly wine tastings isn't all bad. And smiling more, talking more, and enjoying what's left of their lives is truly quite wonderful - for them and for us.

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