... Facing old age with gusto
Retirement Homes come in different flavors: take your pick. You might start by checking out one of the expensive Retirement Homes - one with a golf course, a 24-hour in-house medical staff, a workshop for hobbies, a pool, a gymnasium, sculptured grounds far away from a city's tumult, and three meals served every day in a beautiful dining room.
And then there's the Retirement Home where I live. I've a dozen trains roaring past my window every day, automobile traffic a hundred feet from the front door, and all the noise from being near the center of Melrose. Not only that, but we're each responsible for our own meals, our own health, our own activities.
And you know what? I like it that way. How can this be? I'm 83 years old and isn't it just about time for me to choose taking it easy and having everything done for me?
No - that's walking away from life. Let me tell you about myself and some of my friends here in the Melrose Congregational Retirement Home who choose life.
Let's start with eating - my favorite activity. Our meals are our own responsibility. A few of us watch out for cars and cross the street to the Milano Senior Center for our Monday through Friday noon meal. Except for that, and the occasional eating out, we're each on our own in our kitchen - and I'm having a ball in mine. I make my own meals, plus every now and then I'll make cookies, biscuits, brownies, a pie, or a pizza, and some of these goodies have been very good indeed. (Lets not talk about the other kind.)
But cooking needs groceries. That's why you'll see some of our elderly white-haired residents picking their way down town to the supermarket, and coming back after a while pushing a loaded shopping cart. They're not waiting for someone else to do it for them. And if they can't manage on their own, there's regular transportation to take them to the market and back again every Thursday.
But lets face it: we're all of us not as young as we used to be, and there'll be times that call for medical attention. No problem; it's only a brief walk to the Melrose/Wakefield Hospital and the doctors' offices near it. Or if walking is out of the question, cabs are a lot cheaper than owning a car. Many of us still have our own cars, just the same. And there's a popular HMO ("Secure Horizons") available just for senior citizens.
So we're students of life here at this Retirement Home. We know there's more to life than eating our meals and taking our pills. We want action - and there's plenty of it for us right here. The Milano Senior Center, just across the street, offers Cribbage, Chair Caning, Board Games, Aerobics, a Writers' Class, Yoga, Writing for the "Melrose Mirror"(that's what you're reading now on the Internet), Line Dancing, an Art Workshop, Handcrafts, Tai Chi, Strong Bones Exercise, a Veterans Club, Wellness Screening, and an occasional Tea, Health Talks, or Movie. There's an Arthritis Support Group, many Bridge Clubs, a Singles Club, Volunteer opportunities, Bingo and by appointment, a Podiatrist, an Attorney for the Elderly and Income Tax Preparation.
Melrose has many churches, fraternal organizations and art groups, while in Melrose Center we have a fully equipped YMCA and stores for almost everything we need, including four pizza parlors. (I have my own favorite, but I won't tell you which one; you'll have more fun trying them all out by yourself. Go ahead: enjoy.) And the tenants' association arranges Sunday evening Vespers, twice monthly Mass, Friday evening Sing-a Longs, regular Blood Pressure readings, out-of-state trips, and many special events to choose from.
But there's something more important behind it all. While we enjoy these activities outside our Retirement Home, at the same time we enjoy a Retirement Home life of mutual caring and affection. We're family. We look out for each other.
And this family is based on courage. Courage? Yes. This is a quiet courage, the day by day courage of facing what life has to offer, good or bad, past, present and future. For you see, we each know the pain of past deep sorrow and loss. We each know the daily hurt of present limitation. And we each face an unknown future which may turn out to be simply this sequence: Retirement Home - Nursing Home - Funeral Home.
And you know what we're doing about it? Visit us some day. You'll hear us laughing. We have learned to enjoy each day as God gives us friends and strength.