Creative Possibilities: Assisted Living at Judson is Anything but Boring

Creative writing classes. Pottery lessons. A classical music recital. A dip in the pool.

If this sounds like a day in the life of a 20-year-old arts major, think again. These are just a few of the enriching activities enjoyed by residents of Ambler Court and Hillside, Judson Park’s assisted living communities.

There was a time, of course, when “assisted living” might as well have been code for “time to throw in the towel.” But at Judson, the focus has always been on enhancing the quality of life.

Consider Beth Hoffman, a published author, respected educator, and talented musician who started a new chapter in life after moving to Ambler Court, Judson Park’s beautifully renovated neighborhood that offers signature programing and care in a specially designed environment ideal for those in need of increased assistance and oversight. Among the activities that especially drew Beth’s attention were the book club, the creative writing workshop, and the arts studio, where she discovered a true talent for watercolor painting and collages.

“This is all very new to me,” says Beth about her artwork. “I had never had time for art before; I was too busy with music, writing, and teaching. But there are endless opportunities here to do things you never thought that you could do, and to find out that you can do them pretty well. The feeling of creative possibility – even at an old age – is very attractive!”

Or listen to Nan Dorer, a resident of Judson Park’s Hillside assisted living community in the Jordan Gardner Tower, where residents receive light assistance with personal care and nurse oversight in quaint, one-bedroom apartments. A lifelong classical music fan, Nan held an annual subscription to the Cleveland Orchestra for nearly 40 years. While she no longer makes regular trips to Severance, she does enjoy the in-house concerts and recitals at Judson Park, especially those by the young artists-in-residence from the Cleveland Institute of Music. “They are wonderful,” she says of the students. “And all I have to do to see them is go downstairs!”

While it is true that assisted living implies a certain level of care oversight, that’s not a negative for Nina and Jim Gibans. When health demands began to challenge their independent lifestyle, the couple agreed: It was time to move to Ambler Court.

“Over the past 20 years, Jim had taken care of me completely,” says Nina, who has cerebral palsy. “As his own health needs changed, he couldn’t do that anymore, and we knew it was time to start planning a change.”

The couple’s two-room Ambler Court suite was the perfect solution.

“We could both be here together, I would have the assistance and the therapies I needed, and for Jim [whose architectural firm had designed the building], it already felt like home,” says Nina. “Our families were very supportive of our decision, and we knew we would love it here!”

The care component was also important to Beth Hoffman, especially when she fell and broke her hip not long after moving into her Judson Park home. “It was a real blow,” she says. “But I was able to enter into a very intensive schedule of physical therapy, right here at Judson, and I have been able to graduate to walking with a walker.”

A former swimmer, Beth recently resumed water exercises as well. “I hope to get back to swimming soon,” she says. “There is a wonderful pool here waiting to be used!”

While thoughts of assisted living sometimes conjure up visions of drab surroundings and institutional décor, nothing could be further from the truth at Judson. In addition to nurturing lifelong interests and discovering new ones, Judson Park residents can take comfort in being surrounded by cherished personal belongings, professionally arranged by an expert in space utilization. That alone can be an important factor in combatting the sense of loss that often comes with aging.

For the Gibans, avid arts patrons, that meant being able to fill their suite with a well-curated selection of the art, books, and furniture – including a vintage “womb” chair by the much-lauded architect Eero Saarinen – that they had collected over the course of 62 years. What they didn’t bring with them, they placed in the hands of family and friends. Now surrounded by a thoughtful distillation of their treasures, Nina says, “We feel very much at ease.”

Nan Dorer also found the downsizing process to be relatively painless. Working closely with Susan Kent, Judson’s space utilization expert, Nan was able to bring some of her most beloved possessions with her, including prints purchased on happy vacations to Charleston, Bermuda and the Canadian Rockies. 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. My daughter wanted me to be safe, and we knew that at Judson, someone would always be available to help.”

It all adds up to a lifestyle that supports residents in living every day to its fullest.

“Judson is built to make the end-years rich and fulfilling,” says Beth Hoffman, “with great care when you need it, wonderful physical therapy, and all the activities they provide.”

“Oh, my goodness,” adds Nan Dorer. “Assisted living at Judson is the best thing in the world!”

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