In response to the longevity revolution, geriatric professionals nationwide are calling for “aging in place,” encouraging the elderly to “stay at home, where you want to be.” But residents of Kendal at Longwood, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) adjacent to Longwood Gardens in scenic southeastern Pennsylvania, see aging from a much different perspective.
In EXPERIENCES: Life in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, 45 residents of Kendal at Longwood tell 54 stories that reveal why they moved to a new home when they retired. “They describe the safety, predictability and joy of living with others in a community that guarantees care throughout life,” says co-editor Peggy Brick, a 12-year resident of the community.
The book includes wide-ranging essays and poetry, and is divided into six sections. It begins with “Why Kendal,” which reveals a variety of reasons behind the decision to move to a CCRC, including financial security, Quaker values, a parent’s longevity, a spouse’s diminishment, and recognition of new opportunities. Other stories describe the community’s 10,000-book library, a compelling weaving room, memoir writing classes, a blind painter’s determination, and a grandchild’s declaration following a visit: “Grandpa, I won’t mind getting old.”
“Fundamental to the decision to age in a new place by moving to a continuing care community, is the acknowledgement that as one grows older we are likely to experience declining capabilities,” Brick says. “Both staff and fellow residents honor the worth of each individual here throughout that journey. This means that residents living in the Health Center are not segregated but, in so far as possible, are integrated into the community for meals, events and creative activities with those living independently.”
While acknowledging that remaining in one’s home may be the only option open to many as they age, Brick says, “The idea that independence is best preserved by ‘aging in place’ is a myth. The idealized old place will not remain the same: neighbors move away, friends die, grass grows and roofs leak. Inevitably, personal limitations, particularly the inability to drive, leave the older person increasingly isolated and dependent on others for the basics of life.”
Proceeds from the sale of the 168-page book will be donated to the Kendal at Longwood Reserve Fund. The book can be purchased for $12 on the Kendal Outreach website at: http://tiny.cc/OrderBooks.