It Takes a Lot of Courage

Below is an excerpt from the book Experiences: Life in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, which is a compilation of essays and poetry written and published by residents of Kendal at Longwood.

By Marilyn Van Savage

KAL_smallIt takes a lot of courage to admit to yourself that you’re getting old. I came to that conclusion about ten years ago when I looked in the mirror and saw staring back at me a face I didn’t want to admit was mine. That woman looking at me had laugh lines that were there even though she definitely wasn’t laughing and a body that was obviously not perky any longer. Deterioration had set in and I couldn’t avoid it.

I was sharing my feelings of remorse regarding this situation with my good friend, Gloria, when she commented on something she had been thinking. “I think it’s time we go into a retirement home.”

“You mean an old folks home?” I screeched indignantly.

“No, just wait a minute,” she said. “We don’t have to look at it that way, just a nice place to spend the rest of our lives.”

Well, I finally calmed down and gave it some thought. Maybe it would be good to go someplace with other people our own age; some place where I wouldn’t have to think about climbing the stairs to my bedroom, mowing the lawn or driving to doctor appointments. Thus started a period of exploration: looking at “retirement homes” not too far from northern Delaware.

We looked and we looked: places that looked like institutions, places that were high-rise, and places with no nursing facilities. We were feeling discouraged. Then, finally, we saw Kendal at Longwood. I fell in love with the grounds as soon as I drove down the lane. Magnificent trees lined the walkways—and speaking of walkways, how wonderful it was that they were covered! The apartments being at ground level was a definite plus. And the nursing care section had a feature that I knew I would appreciate in the future—private rooms. That meant that I would not have to share a room with some old, cranky senile person since I was not planning on being senile myself, or cranky for that matter!

Then it was settled, we were coming to Kendal. We had each chosen a one-bedroom apartment. Finally, after a two-year wait Gloria moved in, and then it was my turn six weeks later. Our trip into the last part of our life had begun.

Now, over eight years later, I have to admit I’m not getting old. I am old. And what has Kendal been like? Well, for me it’s great. The people on the staff are wonderful. The other residents are friendly and even though I am not a Quaker, I appreciate their values. But I’d have to say that most of all, I love what I first saw when I drove into Kendal, the beautiful grounds.

I especially appreciate their beauty if I’m feeling a little blue. Some mornings I just don’t want to get out of bed, but then my dog, Christie, sits staring at me and I know she’s sending me a message: “Hey, get up Mom, it’s time to take a walk.” So I dress, get her leash and walk out the door. At Kendal it doesn’t matter what the weather is; even if it’s raining or snowing, I can walk clear to the end of the grounds without getting wet by staying on the sidewalk under the covered walkways. As I follow the sidewalk past the apartments, I admire the flowers people have planted by their door.

As I walk the grounds, Christie stops along the way to check if any of her doggie friends have left messages in the surrounding grass. My neighbor tells me her dog leaves us “pee-mail” near our door early each morning.

Having a dog here at Kendal is a great socializing tool; I’m sure many people stop and talk to me just so they can pet Christie and tell me about some wonderful dog they have known.

Christie is especially delighted when she sees one of her people friends who stoop to pet and talk to her. She goes into a frenzy, wagging her tail, giving a yelp of delight when she meets a special woman from the Housekeeping staff whom we meet as she is getting ready to go into a resident’s apartment to clean. Christie knows this special friend will give her a treat. When we see her in the distance, I let go of Christie’s leash and she streaks over the sidewalk to greet her. She asks Christie to sit, gives her the treat and a hug. Christie gives her a kiss in return. It is a special encounter we look forward to every morning.

Other days, when the weather is especially nice, we head out around the perimeter path. Then I can really see the beauty of the grounds. As I walk down the path, the sun filters through the leaves and branches of the tall trees. Often I see a variety of living creatures along the way: squirrels chasing each other down the path and up a tree, rabbits hopping by the side of the road and sometimes even deer peeking out between the tree trunks.

So, even though I have started the eighth decade of my life and can no longer deny that I am old, being here at Kendal helps me forget that fact. The beauty of this place takes my breath away and makes me realize something: this is one of the happiest times of my life. I just step out my door and look. I am grateful.

For more information about Kendal-Crosslands, please give us a call at 610-388-1441, or request your free information kit here.