Part 7: Why the Last Stop?
What the Title Means
Doris scolded me, “That’s a terrible name for your columns in SeniorHomes.com. It is so depressing. I’ve talked to other people and they think so too.” I was surprised at her reaction. Would I have moved here if this were not to be my Last Stop? Of course not. I know I will be cared for here until I die and I feel confident that this is a good Last Stop for me.
I am secure knowing there is a Care Center as part of this Independent Living Lodge and Cottage community for seniors. If I need assisted living, skilled nursing or memory support—all part of the Care Center—it is waiting for me. Of course I do not want to need the Care Center, but if it is necessary, I can go. I will not be a burden to my adult children. I have my life arranged until my death and that is what I want. In fact, one of the reasons I write this column is to introduce readers of SeniorHomes.com to a healthy, happy and realistic Last Stop.
I tell people I have a love/hate relationship with the Care Center. I love that it is available, and I hate to think I might need to go there. The feedback from residents who move to assisted living is positive. We all feel sad when one of our independent living buddies starts loosing their cognitive skills and needs to move to memory support where their care is wonderful. Friends from independent living, who have been hospitalized for an illness or surgery, frequently go from the hospital to the skilled nursing part of the Care Center before they return to their apartments in independent living. Their feedback is upbeat regarding the care, support and concern they receive. Of course, and unfortunately, some go to skilled nursing and die there.
Recognize the Inevitable
Yes, the Last Stop implies death. It is inevitable. When a person dies here, their picture is placed on a stand in the mailroom to alert the residents to the death. There is room on the stand for flowers, cards and funeral and memorial arrangements depending on the families’ wishes. Many residents prefer that pictures are not displayed. Emotionally I agree, but I also know that realistically, it’s the right thing to do.
For me, one of the hardest experiences of living here is that so much of the news is bad. You go away for a week, as I recently did, and upon returning, the logical question to one’s friends is, “What’s new?” And the reply is usually about someone’s fall, another person’s pending operation, and perhaps a death. Sure there is good news to report: Kathy’s grandson is visiting her from Korea; or Hilda and Paul visited family in Silverthorne and had a good time cross-country skiing. However, it’s the bad news we dwell on. I wish I had the skill to change these dynamics, but I don’t.
I believe most of us living at my retirement community feel fortunate that we can enjoy our Last Stop together. We have lots of fun, excursions, classes, exercise, social events and constant dining partners if we want them. One of our residents, age 93, began painting for the first time when she moved here at age 88. The Denver Post recently recognized her work and she was interviewed on local television. There is a group of residents that have a play reading group. Their performances have become so good and popular that many resident come to watch them. And then there is our retired college history professor whose weekly history course is attended by about 60 absorbed people. We have a music study group. I am part of a book club and a writers’ group, both which meet monthly.
I live with a happy fun loving group of men and women—a few men and women have met here and paired up. One couple in their eighties married.
Loss of a Friend
Yesterday as we were leaving yoga, a class member told a few of us of a current death. The picture had not yet been posted in the mailroom. We stood around and reminisced about him and then about our sadness in losing yet another friend. Every age has a burden and death is ours. Where death leads is a mystery to us, but someday we will all find out.
Despite increased longevity there is always an end. And the end is sad. In my parent’s generation and generations before that, aging people were less likely to be living together in groups so their experience of loss was more spread out. In the words of Doctor Seuss, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.”
I hope my readers aren’t turned away as Doris is by the overall title of what I am writing about. It is my wish as I continue writing these essays to share the good life that we over 65 year olds are enjoying.
Written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist specializing in child development. Margery currently lives in a continuing care retirement community outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her senior living experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”