Red-y for Fun

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Barbara Palmer remembered the first time she noticed a group of unique women donning purple attires topped off with red hats of various styles.

“I thought to myself ‘Who are they and what are these outfits for?'” she said.

What Barbara soon learned was that there is more to this national organization, the Red Hats Society, than a fashion statement. Simply put, it is all about fun!

Originating as a mere birthday gift in 1997, the red hat became a trend and inevitably a symbol for women 50 and over. Members of the society believe in taking time out for themselves and participating in activities they truly enjoy.

Not only did Barbara eventually start a Red Hats Society chapter at her current home, North Oaks Senior Living Community, but its members and the extremely helpful staff have made the ‘Sassy Sisters’ one of the most popular groups at the Pikesville community.

The former Queen Mother and her fellow members Jeanette Katcoff, Rosalie Berman and Edna Ray came to North Oaks at the advice of their children, and have been enjoying every minute, whether the hats are on or off!

Living in a senior living community has given these active women a sense of security with its available health services. Jeanette, the current Queen Mother of the North Oaks’ Red Hats, came to the community over two years ago when her children suggested she would not be able to solely take care of her husband much longer.

“It wasn’t too long after I was here that I did need the help and my husband went into the Autumn Ridge health center,” she said. “It is a very important and invaluable part of this place.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Jeanette and her husband lived in Massachusetts before settling in Maryland in 1949 to be near her family. As a result, Jeannette had a few acquaintances at North Oaks before making her move. When the couple’s three sons helped them research different communities, they knew within moments of their visit to North Oaks that they had found the perfect supportive environment for their parents.

“The people here have been very helpful, sweet, warm and loving,” said Jeanette. “I can’t say enough about them. It has been a very positive experience for me.”

Although North Oaks for Rosalie, Edna and Barbara meant a group of fresh faces, they had no problems immersing themselves in the social life.

Rosalie, who is also a part of North Oaks’ Beautification Committee, moved in almost five years ago after her husband passed away. The Maryland Institute of Art and Strayer Business College alum had originally planned to move into an apartment, but Rosalie’s children suggested North Oaks was the best place for her.

And a great place it turned out to be for Rosalie, who takes pride in her home as part of the Welcoming Committee. She enjoys her painting class as well as her jewelry class where she makes beads for all of her grandchildren.

“I didn’t know anyone when I came here but I’ve become friends with a lot of very nice people,” she said. “I’m extremely happy.”

Native New Englander Edna could not agree more. After living in Florida for 25 years, with her husband having passed away 20 years ago, the community was a new start for her.

Knowing she would eventually move to a place that offered additional care, Edna realized she needed a change when she and her friends had difficulty driving and doing the things they used to.

“I knew that life had more to offer than that,” she said. From day one, Edna has relished in the community’s friendly atmosphere while keeping herself very busy.

“I have dinner with friends every night and I engage in quite a few of the activities as well,” she said. Aside from her volunteer work as a receptionist at the community beauty shop and a cashier at the marketplace, Edna is the treasurer of the Resident Association, which offers a voice to those within the community.

This association and the staff of North Oaks have worked together to meet residents’ interests by forming various organizations, such as the Hadassah group. Barbara, who heads the community’s branch of this international organization, is also vice president of the North Oaks executive board.

Barbara attended NYU and taught in Long Island for 20 years before moving to Florida and Baltimore. Like Jeanette, she came to the community knowing she and her husband would enjoy an active lifestyle with the added assistance they needed.

“We both had physical problems,” said Barbara. “After speaking with our children, we agreed this is what we all wanted, and it is the best decision we ever made.”

In her forth year at North Oaks, she cannot say enough about the opportunities and amenities the community provides. From the beautiful library to the expanded fitness programs through LifeBridge, she said there truly is something for everyone.

With a prime location close to Baltimore, residents can enjoy daytrips and meals out. According to Edna, transportation is provided to support residents’ independent lifestyles. As a result, they can stay involved in Pikesville’s entertainment as well as its religious and political activities.

The Red Hats are no strangers to outings since the North Oaks staff has enabled them to visit Annapolis, the Amish Country, and the Gettysburg Battlefields.

“The Red Hats are a ball,” said Barbara, “We go all over the place.”

Rosalie added, “It just gives us a chance to get out in the world and see what’s going on and participate.”

Red Hats or not, residents at North Oaks enjoy a maintenance free lifestyle that begins with the moving process. The community offers resources that ease the transition for its residents.

“Even if you prefer to not leave the community, there are many activities that you can be involved in,” said Barbara. “We have a new activities calendar every month and every day there is something to do.”

From classes through Baltimore Community College to simple card games, residents are able to pursue their various interests. Most importantly, everyone has the choice to spend their time as they see fit. “If you want to be busy you can be busy and if you want to just rest, you can rest,” said Jeanette. “There’s a lot to do and a good time can be had here by all.” And more good times are in store for the Sassy Sisters. With several opportunities to stay active and a great sense of security, one might say ‘hats off’ to these ladies and their peers for making a smart move.

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