By Beth Heller
In November, my parents Laurie and Joe moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to a newly-opened senior living development in Howard. Leaving their own, much-loved home for an apartment within a retirement community presented a challenge for my very independent parents. But they could no longer ignore their changing health and housekeeping needs. After careful deliberation, they made a courageous decision to exchange complete independence to free up time for connection with each other, with their family and grandkids, and with a new community. And, frankly, it’s been inspiring to watch.
Their main strategy? Connection. Almost from the first week, each of them began to reach out and become a hub for others in the areas that interest them.
For Laurie, this meant starting a bridge group, taking part in bi-weekly group grocery shopping trips and drumming up interest for a full-scale raised gardening project that will grow vegetables and herbs for the dining service. While their new living situation provides one communal daily meal, my mom – a tremendous and adventurous cook – still prepares a delicious dinner for my dad and herself each evening. I laugh because, true to my mom’s form, she’s got one foot in her own kitchen and one foot in the communal kitchen. She likes to improve things!
Together my mom and dad started a group called “Monday Matters,” based on a shared, life-long belief that Mondays do, indeed, matter even if you’re retired. Each week the group is led by a different resident from their senior community, and features a guest speaker on topics of interest to their peers. Thus far, the group has hosted City Planners from Howard to talk about the new city center development project, a Medicare specialist, a physical therapist speaking about the value of staying active and an elder law advocate. And, they are staying physically active, too, attending concerts and shopping excursions around Greater Green Bay, and taking advantage of the in-house gym and therapy services that are part of their new home.
Beyond the fact that my parents are leading, connecting and creating well into their 80’s, the most fascinating thing for me is viewing their journey through the lens of Live and our model for creating well-being by optimizing the ways we can eat well, enjoy active lives and connect in meaningful ways. Seeing that my parents’ 80+ years of wisdom organically leads them to do these same things in their new home proves to me our guiding principles are not new-fangled “public health speak,” but rather profoundly valuable truths of lived experience.
Have you seen this model – eat, move, connect – in action in a surprising place? If so, we’d love to hear your story!