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Counteracting Social Aging with Congregate Living (Part 2)

After College

Upon graduating from college, I was dismayed to find that many of my good friends were planning to return to their hometowns or had accepted job offers in various parts of the country.   I busied myself finding a roommate and moving into my first apartment which was actually within an old house, but rather than being excited, I was a bit sad and anxious.  My roommate had a serious boyfriend with whom she would spend most of her time, while the few college friends who had stayed in Rochester were dispersed all over the county.  Luckily, I lived in the Park Avenue area where there was a lot to explore.  But still, I was lonely. I missed the socialization of congregate living.  I thought that my teaching job would lead to new friendships, and it did.  But my fellow teachers were either married or nuns; I taught in a small Catholic school.

So, that first year I made an effort to see my friends every weekend and a plan was hatched.

We agreed that we had mistakenly chosen apartments within homes rather than a complex.  We all felt isolated.  Our social circles had shrunk since the good old college days.  So the search for the perfect apartment complex began.

Move in Day

Move-in day was June 1st.  This time, I was ecstatic.  We were moving to a relatively new and modern apartment complex in Fairport.  Some of us wanted to live alone in a one bedroom apartment while others wanted to share the rent in a two bedroom apartment.  We were scattered around the complex, but within walking distance to one another’s places.  We were all teachers so we had the summers off.  Our telephone tree was a Godsend (we did not have text messaging or e-mail back in the day).   Afternoons and early evenings were spent poolside.  Pizza parties were held in one another’s apartments.  Holidays were shared by those who couldn’t afford to go home to their families.  We carpooled every chance we got, chipping in for gas for the designated driver.  An important benefit of living in this new complex, of course, was meeting new male friends who were also looking for companionship and of course, love!

We had arrived!

 

The Positive Affects of Being Social

Friendships and social circles sustain us.  As we age into our not so “Golden Years” our circles shrink.  As the years pass, the more funerals we attend.   “Lonliness brings its own dangers; studies have shown associations with higher blood pressure, with nursing home admissions, with risky health behaviors like inactivity and smoking, and with dementia.” (New York Times 12/30/2016).  New relationships are essential to our emotional, physical and mental well-being.

 

Over the years, I have forged close relationships with people who had struggled to remain in their family homestead or apartment while aging in place. But once, their circle shrinks and their driving ability decline they find themselves living a very solitary existence.  I have seen the miracle unfold from introducing prospective residents to the concept of congregate living at Ashton Place.   They are stunned at the amount of activities and the proximity to doctors, shopping, banking and the various other services available.  Most importantly, they see themselves as part of, rather than separate from the action of community living.

 

 

Residents find, that even at advanced ages, cultivating new friendships results in a very fulfilling life.  I’ve seen these friendships take root and the payoff is priceless.  Family members are befuddled when they call their loved ones and no one answers!  Why?  You’ll find them at the coffee bar, or on their way to a shopping excursion, or in their new friend’s apartment learning how to play a new card game…their whereabouts are endless!  Ask any of the residents and their family members at Ashton Place and they’ll tell you their stories.

 

For more posts by Virginia Tortorici, click here.

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