At Home on a Hillside: An ‘Outdoors Girl’ Gets Her Daily Dose of Nature

“The robins are very busy today,” says Judson Park resident Nan Dorer, pulling back a curtain on the idyllic view from her sixth-floor window. Just outside her balcony, an ivy-covered ravine supports a stand of towering spruce, blooming dogwood, and fragrant lilac and honeysuckle. Birds flit through the underbrush and sing from the branches. If you didn’t know better, you might imagine you were at a country resort, not an assisted living community in Cleveland.

That natural setting suits Nan just fine. “I have to be outside as much as I can,” says this gardener and self-described outdoors girl. “I just love the gardens and the walking paths here. And if I’m not outside, this view is the next-best thing.”

It was just this past May when Nan, a long-time Clevelander, moved to Judson Park’s Hillside neighborhood, in the Jordan Gardner Tower. Hillside residents enjoy tranquil apartment-style living, as well as light assistance with personal care and nurse oversight in quaint, one-bedroom apartments with walk-out balconies overlooking the peaceful hillside. Despite her recent arrival, Nan says she feels right at home. “I’ve made so many friends and become involved in so many activities, I don’t feel new at all.”

In fact, even though her Hillside apartment has a kitchen, Nan admits she rarely uses it. “I used to love cooking,” she says. “But now I’m very happy to go to the dining room and eat with my new friends. Someone always comes over to talk with us, and that way I get to know even more people.”

While the move meant downsizing, Nan found the process relatively painless. For one thing, she was able to bring some of her most beloved pieces with her, including a two-drawer Hitchcock side table and two curvaceous antique chairs upholstered in pale yellow velvet. Treasured artwork lines her walls as well, including prints purchased on vacations to Charleston, Bermuda and the Canadian Rockies. “It’s good to have travel souvenirs you can look at,” she says.

As for the possessions she had to part with, “They were just things,” Nan says. “And besides, I knew I needed to be here, with access to healthcare and support, because my daughter, who has been taking care of me, is no longer able to do so. She wanted me to be safe, and we knew that at Judson, someone would always be available to help. My wonderful housekeeping associate even told me that if I wanted to go out on my balcony, just let her know, and she would get me there safely!”

Nan gives much of the credit for her smooth transition to Susan Kent, Judson’s longtime space utilization expert, who helped Nan prepare for her move.

“Susan was just wonderful,” says Nan. “She came to my home with a scale model of the apartment and helped me decide what would go where and how to place it. Then she put little blue tabs on everything that was coming with me, so the movers would take it.”

Better still was the surprise awaiting Nan when she walked in her apartment door for the first time. “Everything was in place, just where we planned it – including all the pictures hanging on the wall! If I had had to do it myself, it would have just been a really big mess. Instead, the rooms looked beautiful, the apartment was filled with my friends and new neighbors, and we had a big party!”

Now comfortably settled in her new home, Nan continues to pursue her longtime interest in music. Besides singing and playing piano, she was a serious supporter of the Cleveland Orchestra. “For close to 40 years, I occupied Row F, Seat 509 at Severance Hall,” she recalls. “A musician had told me that seat had the very best acoustics, and so I sat there every season!” While she no longer makes regular trips to Severance, Nan does enjoy the in-house concerts and recitals at Judson Park, especially those by the resident Cleveland Institute of Music students. “They are wonderful,” she says. “And all I have to do to see them is go downstairs!”

Besides nurturing her lifelong interests, Nan says she also has discovered a new one: pottery. “We have a very nice art room here,” she says. “My daughter said I should try my hand at something, and I said, ‘I’m no good at art!’ But (art therapist) Cathy Bryan is just wonderful. She is so helpful, and with her encouragement I made a small pottery pot.

“I’ve never created anything before in my life,” Nan says. “I didn’t know it would be so much fun!”

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