The Art of Retirement Living

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grandmother artist in retirement homeBefore Madeline Brown Fowler moved to Sommerset Retirement Community in Sterling, Va., she had never picked up a paintbrush or had any significant interest in art. Now the energetic great-grandmother of ten proudly talks about her newfound passion for creative expression through art. While many people can find the transition to a senior living residence challenging, Madeline’s optimistic personality and passion for life has unlocked many opportunities for her in her new home. She truly has mastered the art of retirement living.

Madeline met her husband Stan during WWII. He was a B-17 pilot assigned to the Air Force base in her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. “We met on a blind date and were married about three months later,” she said. “We were together for about 60 years.”

After several assignments around the country, they settled in Stan’s hometown, Swickley, Pa., and raised their two children. Her husband flew for commercial airlines for a while, but said that he “felt like a bus driver,” so he joined the family business. “We built a beautiful house in a wooded area that we loved,” said Madeline.

As much as she loved the family home, she did not feel comfortable living there by herself after her husband’s passing with the amount of work needed to maintain the property and its secluded location.

She opted to find a new home near her daughter Susan in Northern Virginia. After visiting many communities in the region, Madeline chose Sommerset. She cites the location, which was walking distance to the library and other amenities, as what initially drew her to the community. However, it has been the friendships she has formed and the full plate of activities that has kept her fulfilled.

While many people might find the downsizing process a huge challenge, Madeline graciously accepted help from her daughter and daughter-in-law to make the transition. With her granddaughter also helping organize her spacious two-bedroom apartment, it was soon ready for Madeline.

At her arrival, she was greeted by another resident who took her down to dinner, “I have been enjoying my new friends ever since,” she exclaimed. “Friends are so easy to make.”

Madeline had also made up her mind that she was going to take advantage of every opportunity possible at Sommerset. She not only tries to participate in every activity, but is also very involved as a member of the activity committee, which is made up of residents who plan the activities, events and trips for the community with the activity director.

One aspect of living at Sommerset that Madeline particularly enjoys is the daytrips, especially to the museums in Washington, D.C. “There isn’t one single thing I don’t think that I haven’t seen; I’ve seen everything!” she said with a laugh. Her daughter even marvels at the various attractions Madeline has been able to visit.

Another convenience at the community is its regularly scheduled transportation to local grocery stores and shopping centers. Madeline is also able to get a ride to her doctors’ appointments, “I love the fact that I don’t have to bother my daughter for a ride to the places I need to go,” she said.

In the eight years that Madeline has been living at Sommerset, she has experienced some slight changes in her mobility. “They take such good care of you,” she stated, referring to the supportive staff and services that have helped many of her friends maintain their independence. The community works closely with the residents to coordinate healthcare providers if needed, offering a cost-effective alternative to other senior care settings.

With endless activities and a sense of security, Madeline is of course pursuing her artwork and proudly displays some of her paintings in her apartment. After spending some time with her, one quickly realizes that her first and best work of art is the wonderful lifestyle she has created for herself at Sommerset.
“It’s a very happy place to live,” she said.

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