The Cassia Life
By Jesse Watkins, Cassia’s own resident blogger
I think we’d all agree, there’s no other place quite like it—your home. While not everyone is blessed with a happy one, most of us are, or at least it’s safe and comfortable there. And to lift up an old adage, “Home is the place where they have to let you in.” Or, “Home is where the heart is.”
There are so many adages, references and metaphors using the word home that there isn’t space enough here to list them. A friend commented recently that he calls out automatically, “I’m home!” when he walks through the door. “It’s a custom I grew up with and I still do it, said David Scheie, a program evaluation consultant who recently moved into a suburban home. “It’s a way to say I’m glad to be home, and hearing a response from a family member, such as, ‘Glad you’re back, how was your day’ helps me feel that I’m valued.”
As seniors we’re sometimes challenged to “make” home in a new place that someone else chose for us. Perhaps our spouse passes on and our adult kids find a place for us that they like. You may like it too, and you may not, yet you’re challenged to “make yourself at home.”
Eunice Neubauer of Choice Connections, a firm that helps match seniors with suitable living communities contends that step one in making a new place home is for you, the new inhabitant, to at least help choose it. “And it’s better if it’s your choice to move at all,” she adds, implying it’s vital that you know your own needs well and that you not cling too tightly to staying forever in your home of many years.
Neubauer spoke recently at a public library program in St. Paul on “Creating Home Wherever You Are.” The small details are important, she noted. “Who’s helping you move, it needs to be people you like, a team.
“Get pictures hung early in your new place,” she adds.
“In the early going, rather than just one, tour several senior communities. Think intentionally about your needs. Look for the space you want, space enough for things important to you, like your piano, or a favorite rug.
“Consider moving to where you have friends. Look out for yourself,” Neubauer sums up.
From her audience, listeners added ideas for creating home. Eileen Soyenson of West St. Paul said that when she last moved, there was living space for her and her things. “I didn’t have to compete for it. All my things were soon in place; it looked familiar.”
“By the way, it’s a good idea to tell your doctor you’re moving,” she recommends.
Anita Kora of St. Paul noted, “I needed a garden space I could dig into.”
June Englund, a resident 30 years of Augustana Apartments in downtown Minneapolis, remarked in an interview, “I wouldn’t still be here if it didn’t feel like home. When my husband and I moved here in 1988, it was much smaller. There were fewer residents then, and we did a lot of the managing ourselves, like scheduling entertainment. We helped make it our home.”
Her husband, a pastor, died in 1994, and Englund decided to stay on. “Now it’s the place I’ve lived the longest,” she observed.
Asked her view of what it takes from the resident to make a senior living place home, Englund answered, “Move early. Move before your adult children move you. Decide for yourself where you want to live.”
She added, “Also to create home, it helps to have a strong outgoing personality.”
A neighbor of Englund’s who has lived at the same Augustana Apartments a year and a half, Carroll Taylor, 94, said he definitely calls the place home. Before moving here he lived in a regular non-senior apartment building in a smaller town in the region. “Things were too close, and there was nothing going on,” recalls Taylor. “Then my kids found Augustana and helped me move. There is lots of activity, a residents’ association, and other things to help me tune in.”
My own experience relates. When my wife Patricia needed skilled nursing care, our plan was for me to live nearby and visit her regularly. Choosing the Augustana [community] on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, my one-bedroom apartment was a five-minute indoor walk to her care center bedside. She passed in July of 2017, and eventually, as the dark weeks and months began to ease for me, the established community surrounding me began to penetrate. Neighbors became friends, the strange became familiar, and I was home. There was simply no need to look for it somewhere else.
Our chaplain, Rev. Lette Gamble, suggests that home is the place you can relax and find peace. “I call it the hearth feeling, whether you have a fireplace or not,” she explained. “Here at Augustana it’s as much about people as place. I was an intern here some years ago, and having come back as chaplain a year ago, I see familiar faces from the intern time. That helps me feel at home.”
Asked what it requires of the individual moving into a senior community to find home, she responded, “Two things. You need to expect that it may at first be somewhat of a challenge, a little uncomfortable, especially if a person has lived in one place for many years before coming here. On the positive side, expect to have many new opportunities to connect with people, activities and beliefs that perhaps you didn’t have near you previously. There is a built-in community here.
“And you don’t necessarily have to have an outgoing personality for it to work.”