Retirement living is what you make of it

July 14, 2011

It is with considerable sadness that I read Ann Egerton's op-ed piece of moving to assisted living ("Leaving home and heading for 'the home,'" July 5).

Granted, my husband and I are both still in our 60s and in good health. For the past 35 years, we have resided in our Baltimore County home with its acre of lawn and gardens. But I witnessed my parents make a similar decision as Ms. Egerton and her husband when they moved from an independent home to a more communal, less independent setting.

My parents found new friends and times of happiness, even joy, after their move. I am not one to sugarcoat the aging process. Dad died in 2008 of Alzheimer's disease and Mom died this year when her body simply ceased to function. Both were 89.

But to some degree, are we not responsible for our own happiness and contentment despite our environment? In my parents retirement center, I saw all types of people. I saw the complainers who sat around bemoaning all the things that they could not longer do and longing for their healthier, more independent days. I saw people who hung around the lobby, waiting for their next meal or worse, had their meals delivered to their apartment, avoiding all social contact.

Despite their limitations, my parents engaged in the many activities offered by their facility. Singing groups, religious services, gardening, art classes, history lectures and outings were all a part of their lives. Free from the worry and constraints of house and yard maintenance, they could explore new facets of their personalities. And I observed that the happiest people were the ones who saw this new experience as another chapter in their full lives.

Aging is a reality and it certainly is not always pretty. But I know what group I will strive to emulate.

Linda Rains Allman, Phoenix

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