Mom Took Care of It: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

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Mother and Daughter enjoying their CCRCThelma Covner and Edie Helman are accomplished scholars, authors, and mothers. Both women decided to move to a retirement community while they were young enough to enjoy it.

Thelma Covner was born and raised in Virginia and married her late husband, Bud, during World War II. A Ph.D in both industrial and clinical psychology, Bud was working for the United States Navy when he met Thelma at a dance. The pair eloped and were married for 56 years.

Shortly after they were married, Bud was transferred to California, then to Puget Sound, Washington-where they lived in a building on stilts in the water. Thelma says, “It felt like we were living in a house boat, and the scenery was gorgeous.” When the war ended, the Covners moved to Connecticut. When Bud started his own private practice, Thelma “went to help him for one year and ended up staying for 15!”

Thelma was always active in her community, serving as president or on the board for almost every organization she joined. The Covners were one of twelve families that started a Reform Jewish synagogue in Stamford, Conn.

In the 1970s, Bud accepted a teaching position at the University of Minnesota. He had previously taught at several universities including City College of New York, CT Wesleyan, and Yale University. However, it was Thelma’s academic career that began to thrive at the University of Minnesota, where, in her 50s, Thelma graduated cum laude and earned her Master’s degree in English: “I just loved going to college. It was like one great, big smorgasbord. I wanted to taste everything.” Hired by the English department, Thelma served as an adjunct faculty member and enjoyed her colleagues and students.

When Bud retired in 1983, the couple moved back to the East Coast and lived on Cape Cod for 20 years. Thelma remained on the Cape for several years after her husband passed away in 1999. Gradually, she grew concerned about becoming isolated if she lost the ability drive. In 2003, she began researching information about retirement communities in the Philadelphia area, where her daughter lives.

Thelma explains, “I’ve done many things in my life and whatever I’ve done, I’ve given my all. And I’ve enjoyed what I was doing at the time. But we live our lives in chapters.” For Thelma, the next chapter began at Martins Run. “I decided that I liked Martins Run. And having been here for almost two years, I congratulate myself on having made a good decision.”

It is an unfortunate misconception that younger seniors will only move to a retirement community if they are ill or in need of assistance. When asked if she came because she was ill, Thelma responded, “No! I’m here because I’m well!” Thelma knew she wanted to move to a retirement community when she was young enough and well enough to participate and be an active person.

Thelma is currently the editor of the Martins Run Residents’ Voice, a quarterly publication. Her recurring column, “Life in a Petri Dish,” highlights different activities at Martins Run. In explaining the title she says, “You don’t need buttermilk when you live here. We have plenty of culture.” She is a member of the Cultural Activities Committee and the Executive Committee of the Residents’ Association.

One of Thelma’s most recent columns focused on the art classes offered at Martins Run-something Edie Helman knows all about.

Edie Helman was born in Poland, and then lived in Cuba for six years before moving to Minnesota with her mother and two brothers. She got married shortly after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Master’s Degree in bio-chemistry. She and her husband moved to Anaheim, CA but divorced after 18 years of marriage. She raised her two children herself from the time they were 12 and eight-years-old.

Edie had many successive careers in the sciences until she started her own medical publishing company in 1974 with $3,000, while working full-time and raising two children. In 1985, Edie retired and helped raise her granddaughter while her daughter, who is now a pediatric rheumatologist, was fulfilling her residency. She relates, “It was rough on me, being in the business world and then taking care of a baby again, but it had its rewards.” One of the rewards of helping to raise her grandchildren was all the quality time she got to spend with them; she never regrets becoming the “grandma on-call.”

When her daughter, son-in-law, and their two children moved to Pennsylvania, they asked her to move as well. On choosing Martins Run, Edie says, “I liked the fact that they have a Jewish traditional emphasis and the people are very friendly. So when I looked at other places and then looked here, it just clicked.”

Like Thelma, Edie was drawn to the cultural emphasis at Martins Run. She says, “What’s so great here is the people are so culturally minded and have so many interests. Many of them have collections of ballets or famous orchestras.”

Edie has been working on a collection of her own. In 1998, Edie took a course in art appreciation and discovered she had a passion-and a natural talent-for art. Now she uses pastel, oil, and acrylic paints to create original works depicting biblical or Jewish themes.

Edie’s passion and energy have transferred into her artwork, which is currently being displayed in two different galleries. When asked how she accomplished so much artistically in a mere five years, Edie replies, “Well, I’m a very goal-oriented person, let’s put it that way. One boss said I was the most goal-oriented person he ever met!”

In addition to practicing her art, Edie is an active member of the Activities Committee and the Development Committee at Martins Run, and has started a reading group. She also volunteers on Friday mornings at the Marple Public Library.

All of the opportunities to get involved have been perfect for Edie who loves to stay busy. She says, “To me, work was one of the most satisfying passions in my life. I could hardly wait to get up in the morning and get going. I know people think of work as a four-letter word, but I don’t. I loved it.”

With all of her energy and activities, does she ever rest? Edie admits, “I really do try to sneak in a little nap in the afternoon, so I can play bridge and enjoy the evening programs. That’s what Churchill used to do. You’re more efficient that way.”

Both Thelma and Edie think it is vital for seniors to remain active as they age. Thelma says, “I’d rather wear out than rust away.”

Both women are extremely happy with their decisions to move to Martins Run. As Thelma explains, “I am at peace knowing I have spared my two wonderful children from ever being faced with the question: What are we going to do about Mom?” (Mom took care of it!)

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