Part 21: Senior Living Lights Up Life

A Joan’s Journey riddle: How many seniors does it take to hang a wall lamp?

A) ThreeJoan and her new lamp

B) Two

C) One

D) None

If you guessed “D,” you are correct. How does a wall lamp get mounted in a senior residence, if no senior hangs it?

Simple! At Holiday Villa East (HVE), a senior housing community in beautiful Santa Monica, Calif.—and my new home—the capable and consistently available maintenance men hang lamps, arrange furniture, fix ceiling fans and assist with every maintenance task under the sunny beach-area sun. In addition, housekeepers, aides, front-desk and kitchen staff cheerfully provide residents with comfortable, homelike amenities. Whether eating with companions in the attractive dining room or enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner in one’s own space, an easy, relaxed lifestyle abounds.

A Light Goes Up, So Does a Smile

Welcome, Joan’s Journeyers. Why does a wall-lamp light up my life?

The lovely cream-colored lamp, mounted on the west wall of my room, was selected by me, but paid for by HVE management. The lamplight brightens my space on and around my desk/dining table—formerly the dark side of the room. Miguel, our “can-do” master of all mechanical, plumbing, wiring, painting and other handyman tasks, and his competent sidekick Jose, hung “my” lamp. My decorative lamp was paid for and hung at no expense to me. Now, that lights up my life.

At HVE, residents have furniture and decoration choices. They may use furniture provided by the facility, bring their own furniture and belongings, or combine items. In my case, I divided my studio into an area designated as my kitchen, with a new tabletop refrigerator and my dining room buffet from Baltimore. Adjacent to my “kitchen,” I placed my bedroom triple-dresser, with a large-screen television on top.

My cozy easy chair faces the TV, with my computer cabinet and a set of stack tables nearby. My queen-Joan's cat, Heather, takes center stagesize bed and bench dominate the center of the room, with night tables on each side. On the opposite wall, in front of my balcony that faces the Pacific Ocean 17 blocks away, sit my serving cart and two desks that double as dining tables.

Small pets are encouraged at most senior living communities. Heather, my sweet, 5-month-old Ragdoll Kitten, commands my entire space, with her electric litter box neatly tucked away in the corner of my bathroom. On my front and balcony doors hang Mezuzahs—signs that a Jewish person or family live within. I said traditional prayers with Sam, HVE’s building manager, while Miguel hung the Mezuzahs.

“It Takes a Village”

“It takes a full village to raise a child,” a noted African proverb, was paraphrased and made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech Aug. 27, 1996, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Moving into senior living is no different. The tasks of downsizing, moving and getting settled are daunting. The good news is that you are not alone. I could not have downsized my condo in Baltimore and organized my move without the loving assistance of my personal Baltimore village: my three children, Brian, Mark and Allison; my dear friend Howard; my uncle Alvin; my cousin Judy; my girlfriend Marilyn; my friend/companion Gladys; and assorted caring others who came to my help and rescue. To streamline the move, when I thought I could not look at another box, I hired a “professional organizer” to help finalize downsizing and organize packing and long-distance moving.

After a thorough search of Southern California senior living residences, I decided upon HVE. I could not have completed this exhaustive search and decision-making process without the caring assistance and guidance of and my Care Advisor, Cindy. The resources provided by the knowledgeable and always available staff simplified, organized and energized my senior living search. I was not alone.

The last seven months have been my period of adjustment to senior living. A “Village,” including HVE folks, Los Angeles family, my dear, lifelong friend Ellen and so many others have unpacked my belongings and arranged my room, with HVE furniture and my most cherished Baltimore condo furniture. The happiness is indescribable that I felt sleeping on my own mattress, placed on my own bed, overlooking my own bedroom furniture.

Upon arrival at HVE, one of my table-mates, Renee, greeted me and said, “Welcome to your new home, We are your extended family.” I am not alone.

Journeyers, do you agree that living in a senior residence is like life in a “full village?” and I look forward to your remarks below. Until the next post, enjoy your journey, day by day.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle newspaper correspondent, is a freelance medical and social service writer. London recently moved from Baltimore to a senior housing residence in Santa Monica, Calif., where she is closer to her children and grandchildren. Follow her series, Joan’s Journey, on

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