Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Other Side of Campus Life

 

It occurred to me that there’s a whole lot of stuffing going on here that I haven’t written about because it doesn’t interest me and/or I'd have to do more than two posts a week to cover it all, but that stuff might be of interest to someone else who could be exploring the continuum care concept of living out the final decade of life---or two if we’re lucky.

Exercise classes I have mentioned. Tai Chi---my personal favorite---Yoga, cardio drumming and sit & stretch I've written about but they also have cardio boxing, strength training, a walking club, balance & barre and circuit training classes. One lady, who goes to most of exercise classes said, "It's my job to stay healthy." That statement was countered  by another woman who replied, "I'm not doing any of that. I'm going to eat what I want, do what I want and if I die early then I'll die happy."

In the tour of things I don't do here I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the game room. That place is busy 4-5 times a week with a bunch of card-sharky people all having noisy fun. Or so I'm told. I hear the gaming group talk at meals and in the lobby and you can tell they've bonded quickly. It's interesting how different the conversations are when you sit with different combinations of people. There's the Gossipers and what I call the Complaint Department and then the Silly Club (my favorite). The Gamers and the Church-Chatters round out the frequent mealtime tables. The box of chocolates metaphor of never knowing what you'll get is over used and doesn't apply here as I'm getting better at identifying on sight the 'candies' in our box of personalities. A handy skill to have when you place your food order and you can choose take-out or dine in. Always on the lookout for blog fodder, I rarely get take-out.

There have been a few lectures here, too, that I have attended: one was about birds of prey (briefly mentioned a while back). I got to see a huge, live barn owl up close enough to touch. We were also visited by a speaker from the humane society who brought three dog ambassadors with her who roamed the room soaking up pets and praises. One pooped on the floor, another got creeped out by the cat-like hissing coming from a man’s portable oxygen tank. Both proved to be quite entertaining. We had another speaker this afternoon who is with an EMT search and rescue K9 unit. She was animated and fascinating and full of great antidotes.

I'm glad we’re on the lecture circuit of people passing through the community with programs like this. These lectures reminded me of the ones I loved at the senior hall as did the two entertainers who came here to play the piano. I was amazed at how easily they can play any song from 1920 to 2021 that’s called out from a crowd.

If you’re into churchy things, this month would have had you feeling right at home. There's a three part discussion scheduled and led by the pastors here that focuses on The Advent. Another discussion on the calendar will be led by the person in charge of the Hospice program here on campus and it’s about getting through the holidays after a loss and managing our expectations as we age. I’m betting that will be well attended. There is also a caroling night and a tree trimming afternoon on the calendar. Oh, and a Christmas party. Lest you think church activities are unique to this campus I toured another CCC once that has church services seven days a week and twice on Sundays.

Every day something new gets added to the community app…a bus trip downtown to see the Christmas lights, a Parade of Apartments here on campus of those who want to share/show off their holiday decorating skills and/or new home décor. I did not volunteer my apartment for the tour but I am looking forward to seeing those who did. Also going on is a "The Twelve Days of Christmas" give-away. Management draws the names of a staff and resident every day for twelve days for prizes. If I win something I hope it's the Fitbit. I've had two watches go belly up since I moved here.

Then there are the collections being taken. I’m not sure if this will be on going or just a holiday thing but we’ve gotten fancy invitations to donate to things like the Therapeutic Equestrian Program that brings horses to our sister campus. Another collection letter came looking for donations to the employee Christmas gift fund. We are not allowed to give personal gifts or tips to employees so whatever comes from this collection gets divided up. I was shocked to hear one lady say she will write a check for $500, but when she explained her math on how much she’d be tipping for dinners in a regular restaurant compared to the no tipping rule here it wasn’t that out of line (if we'd been here a full year) and she didn’t even include the concierge or maintenance people in her math. 

Another appeal for money featured a 97 year old woman who ran out of money to pay her own way at our sister campus. The Foundation takes over her expenses in cases like that which I knew---it’s part of the promise you get when you buy into any continuum care complex. I just didn’t expect them to metaphorical pass the collection plate using an actual resident like abandon puppies featured in humane society commercials. I’m pretty sure these are all seasonal bids for our charitable giving but I mention them because it fits in with theme of what’s it’s like living in a place like this.  ©

45 comments:

  1. That is one busy Community with something for everyone, I can see why it would be a popular way to ride out the latter Years, especially for those who might be lonely or bored living anywhere else where Socially it could be more isolated and things not as convenient to get to in order to participate. I doubt I could ever afford a CCC but it was something I explored out of curiosity and liked what they offered for Security and a full Life in latter Years and potentially declining Health and function.

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    1. I didn't think I could afford it either, but here I am and I had the finical office go over my numbers, three times.

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  2. Jean, your campus system really is interesting to me. Where we live, they are not common yet, but I hope the trend catches on here, because there is a huge need for them. We have assisted living facilities on nearly every corner, but they don't offer what your campus does. When you were mentioning the groups of people (gamers, gossipers,sillies,etc) I couldn't help but think it might feel like you're back in high school, at times. That's a good thing, though. Bottom line, having the chance to be around different folks and do a variety of things (if you want) can really add to a person's quality of life. BTW, we finally moved into our little retirement home one week ago. We are unpacked and decorated (sparingly) for Christmas. I absolutely love this smaller home and no more basement steps!! YAY! Change really is good. Thank you for the inspiration you gave while making your move--it helps to know there are others juggling the same stuff we are!

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    1. Congratulations on the move! What a great Christmas gift to yourself. I'm glad I could help in some small way.

      The CCC concept isn't new. Our sister campus has been around since 1906 but three more places similar to this have been built in my area within the last five years....all costing more, giving less but still pretty nice way to live out your last days.

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  3. It's nice they collect for the person who ran out of money but it's also a little embarrassing for that person, I would think. I'd feel better if that was anonymous. But the collection for staff sounds good and it certainly sounds like the only reason one could be bored there is because one chooses to be bored. A lot of the activities sound fun. It seems like you have made a very good choice in picking this spot to live in. I'm pretty impressed.

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    1. I agree that it's a shame that someone's name and particular circumstances are revealed, but when I research historical newspapers, I often come across local news that mentions that a certain family is in need, telling why. (The latest was when a woman, tending to her "decrepit" husband, moved too close to the fire and was horribly burned after her nightgown caught fire.) I hope the response to the 97-year-old's need makes her feel cherished and not shamed.

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    2. I have no doubt they have her full permission to feature the woman in her ads. We all have to sign or reject consent forms for them to even put our photos on their website. They did an interview of her and she'd been with this group for several decades.

      I'm glad I made the decision and carried through with it. Being on this end of town will make a difference when/if I get to the point where I can't make decisions for myself and have to have family help. I really like that it's brand new and all of us are starting out newbies. It's an interesting study of human interactions. And more than just me has compared it to the early days of college.

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    3. The woman was a example of those the Foundation helps. You could donate directly to her account or to a general account to help anyone with a need. I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing after living here for so long and getting great care in their assisted living section that she was glad to help. At almost 100 who else her family would be left to be embarrassed in front of?

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  4. They certainly do provide varied activities. Since I'll never be living in a place like this, it's not something I'll ever experience, but I'm glad you are. I smiled especially at your mention of the lectures that remind you of those you used to attend at the senior hall; that's a nice bit of continuity.

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    1. I've always been a bit of a loner. Except for my husband I haven't had a lot of people around me for most of my life. Was independent, could do for myself. I never, ever thought I'd be living in a place like this either. But living out a power outage in the dead of winter and getting the flu all alone another winter made me realize how easily I could be an elderly dead lady featured on the nightly news, found weeks after I passed.

      I also couldn't leave the huge job of downsizing and disposing of all mine and my husband's stuff to my nieces someday. Selling it all for what it was worth made this move possible, instead of it all ending up in a dumpster.

      I still miss the Guy Land Cafeteria, I miss being able to sit in the corner and write. Doesn't work here. But next spring I'll explore the area for a replacement. I miss seeing birds outside my window but I do see geese, ducks and swans as often as I want to walk down to the lake. Everything is a trade off. Out of the day, I'm only around people between one and two hours. The rest of the time I do my own thing.

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  5. Wow, that is a lot of variety of exercise classes! You could put together a nice trio that covers the bases of strength, cardio and flexibility/balance and then completely change them several times. I need to do that myself as my HOA has allowed classes to start again plus the gym and pool.

    I’ve seen a birds of prey talk and it was fascinating. Ours had two teeny tiny owls that couldn’t keep their eyes open. So interesting.

    And I love your descriptions of the different groups of diners. Avoiding the complainers at all costs would be important to me.

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    1. I'm still trying to figure out that exercises I want to stick with. Once the activities director quits bouncing them around, time wise it will be easier to decide. A lot of them are too early in the morning for me. I can get up early enough, I just can't bring myself to get dressed and be social at 8-9 in the morning.

      The owl is so pretty. He got electrocuted and can't fly. We got to see five different birds of pre, all brought into the nature center to save their lives. In my next blog I write about someone I avoid but not for the reasons you might guess.

      The thing of it is you don't really know what kind of table you'll end up at as people come and go and it changes with the addition or subtraction of one person. The best easting experiences are the ones with larger groups of 8-10 because there's always something of interest going on, or funny comments the get thrown in.

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  6. My goodness, all that sounds so interesting. Only a few things I'd pass on which means I would sleep well at night from exhaustion. That owl is beautiful and glad they brought in dogs. The table groupings would be interesting though I'd probably stick with the ones that made me laugh the most.
    All in all you are making this all sound so attractive.

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    1. Change is hard but it's easier when you embrace it and roll with it rather than fight if or waste time dwelling on what you've lost. I do miss seeing my Gathering Girls group but the pandemic pretty much killed us off before I even moved farther away. I miss easy trips to the grocery store. The ones down here are SO business. All things considered, a year from now I know I'll be 100% happy and indoctrinated.

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  7. I'll say it again--you are living in a resort! I'm glad your careful research paid off and you landed where you did.

    Every community has a Complaint Department, doesn't it? Thank goodness they find each other and you can avoid them.

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    1. The Complaint Department is interesting. Sometimes they actually complain about stuff I might like to see changed as well...like too many fried foods on the cafe' menu and they got the chef to add more vegetarian choices. Sometimes they complain about stuff like getting boxes built around steam pipes which would tick me off because that would block view, so it's helpful to be prepared with a counter argument if it comes up at a resident's dialogue meeting with management. Complainers are neither all good or all bad. Lots of social movements like recycling started because of the social drum beat coming from complainers.

      I did do a lot of research on my options and I trusted my gut and it paid off.

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  8. Glad you are feeling at home and enjoying yourself!

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  9. I'm just so impressed with the place you've found to be your new home. It sounds like there are varied offerings that anyone could find of interest. And your observations are always so spot on! Thanks for letting us "move in with you"!

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    1. Because of the ages of the baby boomers driving the marketplace, these kinds of places are going up all over the place. What is unique about this one is its non-profit.

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  10. There seems to be something for everyone at your place...and of course that makes for lots of blog fodder too! I think these CCCs are a wonderful option for people. I hope my sister's next place will be just as lively - she is basically a shut-in where she is now because of her declining health and scary/crappy neighbours. I'm very happy for you, Jean. Good call, moving there!

    Deb

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. Since I started blogging almost twenty years ago I've always been driven to get out more, mingle more to gather blog fodder and that's been good for me. Other wise I'd tend towards being a hermit.

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  11. Your new neighborhood and home still sound fabulous to me! I'm not sure I'd get my money's worth because now I am a true homebody/hermit. I no longer feel bad/guilty about it! It's just me.

    I'm happy you still have personalities for blogging posts!

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    1. We don't pay for classes unless they come with supplies like the painting classes did. So you'd still get your money's worth in heat, water, free IT services, food, etc. You could still be a hermit and have your food delivered to your room and conduct all your business through the community app...I know you like your computer.

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  12. I've enjoyed reading your experiences in CCC. Is one in my future? I do not know... maybe. I hope you will write about the nuts and bolts of your daily life. What do you do for yourself... and what is included in the monthly fee. For example, I know you don't rake leaves or shovel snow any more but do you clean your apartment, do laundry, change the bed? Does the fee cover all meals? If not, where do you eat the others and get supplies? Do you pay extra for the guy to hang pictures? Are exercise and painting classes, lectures, bus trips extra? If so... pricey or a bargain? Is there transport to grocery stores, doctor's appointment, outside concerts/plays? Again... included or extra? And finally, has there been any pressure... even a little to "join" activities?

    I am glad to read that so far your experience is good. Being ready for a change is important.

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    1. A lot of what you're asking about I'll be covering in a post in January. We have our first meet-and-greet with a partner to the CCC who does on-call services that we might want or need as we age This in an independent living apartment building, not assisted living so we do our own laundry and are free to come and go as we choose with no pressure to do anything other than wear masks which is strongly encouraged. We do get a free house cleaning every month but they don't change beds.

      Classes that require supplies like the painting class and the coming wood shop there is a small fee but everything else is free. Bus rides to things like concerts and seeing the Xmas lights are $5.

      Being one of the first 25 people to sign up to live here I got $5,000 incentive that I've been using for getting maintenance to hang picture and shelves and I just ordered a screen door for my deck that will come out of that plus I upgraded from an electric stove to a gas with that my incentive dollars. There is a list of maintenance fees for stuff like deep cleaning, painting, putting up shelves, etc. IT services are free to a point but charges after the first 15 minutes I think it was.

      As for food we get a $200 credit on our account the first of every month that doesn't roll over if you don't use it. We can use that any way we want. A couple of people have invited their families out for dinner and spend it quickly. I budget mine out to spend $50 a week. so I can come down for lunch or dinner every day, for the social aspect of it. Some go way over their allowance and don't seem to care. I'm trying to live within my pension and S.C for as long as I can to preserve other assets.

      Our monthly fee covers everything but electric---my bills so far have been under $50---and insurance on our belongings.

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  13. I knew of a young woman who worked at a place called Sunrise and she was what I referred to as the activity director. She contacts people to come to discuss on topics she thinks residents will enjoy. She arranged a holiday hay ride (comfy seats, easy to get on and off for seniors) one year and I thought, oh no one is going to do that one or be able to. But it proved so popular that they do it now annually. At Christmas they do caroling while on the hay ride. I think it's nice because you can do it all or none of it. How wonderful to have choices. But that exercise woman I'd have to hurt. :-)

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    1. That's pretty much how the Enrichment Director does it. She's open to doing anything there is support for and she'll put our ideas into the app in the form of a poll we vote on. That's how several of our activities came about. Our sister campus got reindeer to come visit them. I've been on senior hay rides with my old senior hall. Fun but in Michigan only fun in the fall, not the winter.

      I could not do all the classes Exercise Woman does, but she is in really good shape because of her attitude on staying healthy.

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  14. Your posts are making me think of checking out retirement living in the UK or maybe even somewhere in Europe (if the UK sends my pension there). You know I live alone in a largish house (like you did) and often feel quite isolated, particularly with Covid. I'm not sure that I have enough money, that would have to be explored too.
    I really like the idea of living like you are doing, although I'd probably not join as many clubs as there are.

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    1. I toured quite a few independent places and followed their online presences to get a feel for them, also shopped smaller homes, condos and cottages before falling into this deal. It was a combination of educating myself about the options which helped me recognize what a good fit this place was for me.

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  15. There sure seems to be a little something for everyone there. My mother in law lived at a place like that and she liked going down to the cafeteria for her meals. Her apartment was very small compared to yours though.

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    1. I'm not sure the menu of classes will stay this full. The Enrichment Director is throwing the kitchen sink at, so to speak, to see what sticks and what no one is interested in doing.

      My 1,000 square feet is small compared to what I've had all my life but it's really all I need.

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  16. I love your posts. I don't think there are retirement places like this around here, and I'm so glad all your research and downsizing have paid off.

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    1. I'll beet a lot of people thought I spent too much time researching and downsizing and would never do it. LOL I've talked to people here who made the same decision I did but got the process done in 2-3 months. But a few have not sold their houses yet too and m0ney-wise and scary-wise I couldn't have done that.

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  17. So many options! I love it. And I'm definitely keeping that in my back pocket if the day comes when I want/need a CCC. So far, it sounds just lovely and I love the location. :-)

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  18. I love the idea of this location. On paper it ideal but I'm not liking the shopping or more precisely the traffic when I get off campus. This is a busy end of town! It will get better when I'm able to get new glasses and spring weather so I can explore easier.

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    1. Fair enough. I lived right around there long enough that it's really familiar to me, but also -- the traffic has REALLY increased since I moved.

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    2. Next spring it's in the game plan to learn the area off campus and find a grocery store I like. I loved the one I used to have, this one done here---the same chain---is a constant crush of people and bigger.

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  19. I never thought about all the activities that might go on in a campus like yours. I'm not much of a joiner, but in this situation I'd give a few classes a go. Why not? It's not like you have to drive a half hour, find parking, then get yourself back home again.

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    1. That part is really nice. I'm only 16 steps from the gym with state of the arts equipment. Most of other classes are a short walk to the next building.

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  20. interesting reading the questions posed in the comments and your answers to them...
    I know that are retirement villages with different levels of needs here in New Zealand but I don't know the nuts and bolts of living within them...at this point in time, they are not for me, due the upfront dollars required.

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    1. I hear you. Most people have to have enough equity built into their houses to use their house to buy into these kinds of places and also have a enough pension money or savings to live afterward. They go over that If you time it too early they won't take you, if you time it too late you won't get your money's worth. Your monthly fee is based on a plan you choose. If you want your heirs to get 50% of the value of of your unit when you die you pay more monthly in fees than I do at 25%.

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  21. That place really has some interesting programs. I think I could be very happy there with the ability to join or close my door according to how I felt that day.

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    1. Anyone who can't find something interesting to do around here...alone or in a group...really isn't trying very hard. Plus there are lots of places outside to be alone with nature that I'm looking forward to doing come spring.

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