University of Retirement?
I figured I would start my “reflection” process with this comment. I have been comparing the move to senior housing options with the move to college for many years.
Many times a student making the transition to a new school or college will start with a group of other new students at the same time. I was the only person transitioning into Paul Spring during my week, which might be compared to switching schools mid-semester! Paul Spring staff did share that it’s nice when they get a few new residents moving in during the same week or month.
While I didn’t have the comrade of a bunch of other new “students” on my “hall”, I was able to forge a bond with my new neighbors by sharing my experience of making the transition with them. It was interesting listening to how everyone made their transition; each story was a little different. A common theme was the strategy of moving to a smaller living environment and prioritizing what belongings to take with them. Everyone living in Paul Spring has the common experience of making the transition from a home that is familiar, to their new home at Paul Spring. I see this as a great way for any new resident to bond with each other no matter what community you are moving to. Also, I really like to have an “ice breaker” or a “line” to get things going – talking to people I don’t know is not very easy!
When I reflect on my years in school and college, rarely do I recount any of the physical aspects of those environments like my dorm room, the size of the classrooms, or a fountain on campus. I usually recount my friends, maybe a teacher, road trips, or events I attended as a student. As I review my blog postings during my week at Paul Spring, I see the same thing. Everything I did was focusing on meeting my neighbors and trying to make connections that would make my time there more fulfilling. While I did attend nearly every activity offered, it clearly was a quest to make connections with other residents.
There is no other community or neighborhood in the world that has the same residents (and staff) as Paul Spring. This is the fingerprint that makes each retirement community unique and different. My week reinforced my thoughts that this is one of the most important aspects should be evaluated when considering this transition.
The activities director of Paul Spring had prepared a “scrapbook” that includes a one page biography of most of the residents of the community. This was fascinating to read, and it gave me an easy way to engage some residents in conversation. Ask if there is something like this in communities you might be considering – I have seen very elaborate community biographies created by residents.
So if we are making the comparison to college, where is the academics and learning? You can see that there were activities I participated in with a focus on learning (like the museum trip). It’s my opinion, that this and other communities like it are full of “teachers”! I see tremendous opportunities in connecting residents with people eager to learn about the subjects that they had passion for through their lifetime. It benefits the recipients of the knowledge, and it gives residents and important “purpose”. I certainly learned alot!
Just a reminder that these are simply my thoughts and opinions based on my personal experience. I hope that these might help trigger ideas, questions or comments that will help us make the world a better place for everyone that is aging!