A Reason to Keep Swimming: Active Adult

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mature man in assisted livingFollowing a successful kidney transplant in September 2001, Gary Melickian looked forward to a full recovery and a full life. Unfortunately, his life was once again derailed by medical problems when he suffered a massive heart failure. His heart problems caused extreme fatigue, which forced Gary to quit his job and left him virtually bed-ridden.

Having worked his entire life as a Geologist and Civil Engineer who traveled around the globe, Gary found the boredom and isolation caused by his illness extremely difficult to cope with: “Physically I was a zombie; mentally I was down, which is very uncharacteristic of me. I was actually really depressed,” relates Mr. Melickian.

The depression caused by his illness was nearly overwhelming for a man who had always had such passion for life. Gary was a partner at Dames & Moore for 25 years before establishing a business that offered experts for construction claims to attorneys. In addition to these positions, Gary also lectured to university students about natural hazards and building problems. His status as an expert was secured both in the field and at the University of Southern California, where he earned a Master’s degree in Engineering Geology.

After battling kidney failure and then being faced with heart problems, Gary was not optimistic when his cardiologist told him that swimming would help him to regain his strength. He didn’t feel motivated to exercise, and he didn’t know how to locate a safe and convenient place to swim.

When he called the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Senior HelpLine for recommendations, everything seemed to change: “They gave me five recommendations for pools, and I visited them all and decided to go to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville. Joan DiCostanzo, my contact at JCA’s Senior HelpLine, continuously called back to see what I had decided and how I was doing. I was amazed by the level of service!”

In addition to building his muscles, Gary has fostered many strong relationships at the pool. Finding intellectual companionship has been instrumental in his continuing recovery. Gary unhesitatingly acknowledges what JCA’s Senior HelpLine did for him: “I am not being facetious when I say that they essentially saved my life. There are wonderful resources in this area for seniors, but you have to search them out. JCA helped me to do that.”

Gary recently moved into Friendship Terrace, an Independent living facility in D.C. “This is a good place for me,” concludes Gary. “I really like to have a lot of people around. Because of my background and all of my world travels, I really need the human interaction that the JCC and Friendship Terrace continue to give me.”

While he is still working to regain his physical strength, he is once again in peak intellectual and emotional condition. Only friendship and community involvement could complete the transplant that has given Gary Melickian a reason to keep swimming.

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