Teacher Knows Best: Caregiver for Elders

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caregiver for elderlyAs a teacher for 40 years, there was nothing Sarah West enjoyed more than watching her students grow and gain necessary skills. Now, thanks to the thriving environment she has found at her current home, Cathedral Village, a continuing care community in Philadelphia, Pa., she has been able to maintain this lifelong passion of teaching and learning from her peers while pursuing a variety of other interests.

Sarah taught mainly on the secondary level covering subjects such as Biology and Physics, but she also led introductory college courses at Temple University.

“I really love learning new things and it was a career where I could do that everyday,” she said.

During their 50 years together Sarah and her husband had three children. In 1999, the couple decided to be proactive about their future and research local continuing care communities.

“We didn’t want our children to have to make the decision for us,” said Sarah. “It was our way of deciding how we would be cared for.”

Staying near their family, church and activities was extremely important. Though the nonprofit Cathedral Village was the closest, there were several other factors that attracted the couple.

“The kind of community and who I’d be living with was of paramount importance to me,” said Sarah. “There is a wonderful staff here that is cheerful and pleasant and really works hard to enhance the quality of life for residents.”

Though her husband has since passed, Sarah remains grateful that he had had the chance to experience all the community has to offer as she does to this day.

With a tradition of residents determining the activities at Cathedral Village, the opportunities are endless. And from serving as treasurer for the Resident Association to helping her peers as part of the computer committee, Sarah is constantly on the go.

This longtime teacher is highly active in the Village College started by a group of retired professors ten years ago. While Sarah has conducted six-week courses, she has truly enjoyed learning from her fellow residents on different subjects. The program has gained such popularity that three classrooms had to be added to the community for exclusive use of the College.

More ‘hotspots’ at Cathedral Village are its state-of-the-art greenhouse and the fenced gardening area, Plotter’s field, where Sarah has her own plot. She also stays active as part of the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix dragon boat team utilizing the fitness center’s conditioning equipment and swimming pool.

“We had permission to do winter training in the pool,” she said. “A group of us met and practiced paddling strokes to stay in shape so we can participate in regattas and win a lot of them.”

And while Sarah has been training and as her peers enjoy a concert or daytrip, they are able to do so with peace of mind knowing healthcare is available for their potential needs. In fact, Assisted Living services are even provided for Cathedral Village residents in the comfort of their own apartments.

With this security, no home maintenance, a supportive staff and the liberty to also stay involved in her church and activities outside of the community, Sarah encourages others to make the same transition.

She said, “People feel they have to give up their life or freedom to come to a community like this, but I think you actually get your freedom.”

Coming from not only a teacher, but an individual who planned ahead and found the perfect home for her lifestyle, this certainly is a valuable lesson.

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