Life Through a Different Lens

Jane Sydney explains the impetus behind her transition to Judson Park and how it provides a community larger than campus.

Jane Sydney can get “lost behind the lens” of her camera for hours photographing architecture and nature, particularly flowers since the pandemic set in. She buys fresh-grown bouquets from farmer’s markets close to her new home at Judson Park, where she became a resident in December 2021.

“Different lenses allow me to get different views of the same things,” she says of her work in macrophotography, of which she sells her engaging images. And in many ways, this idea of looking at life through different lenses has helped Jane make an admittedly tough transition to living in a Continuous Care Retirement Community (CCRC) as a highly active woman who walks up to five miles daily, works at Appletree books, volunteers at the Lee Road Library in Cleveland Heights, and is a member of the Cleveland Photographic Society. Importantly, “I’ve always been a presence in the life of my grandchildren,” Jane says. So, when it came time to consider the next chapters in her enriching life, she looked through the lens of her children—a daughter living in New Jersey and son in Cleveland—and their combined six children, with whom Jane has always been close.

“As you age, things that are important in life change…family relationships change,” she says. “You’re starting a new life in a way, and I see this type of living as an important aspect of insurance for me and my children.”

Teeing up for Transition

Jane only looked at CCRCs because earning the accreditation involves meeting rigorous standards. And though she wasn’t necessarily “ready” to move into a continuous care environment, she also recognized that running her own household would likely inhibit her independence at this stage. In a place like Judson Park, she could decide how to use her time rather than being bogged down by typical household issues.

“In a traditional apartment, if the heat doesn’t work for example, you can’t get maintenance done on anything,” says Jane, who lived in Midtown Manhattan during the 1990s and 2000s while working as a legal administrator at Rockefeller Center looking out over the skating rink. She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, worked at a public relations firm in New Jersey, was a legal administrator in Rhode Island and started a sweater knitting business called Pennycandy Designs with knitters from across the country. Their sweaters were sold in Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s.

“I value my independence,” Jane says. But she values her children’s busy lives, as well, and wanted to be sure she was setting them up to enjoy family and time with her without the pressure of “what ifs” that aging can bring, no matter how healthy a person is. Making a choice earlier would help secure the future. On the topic of the Sandwich Generation, Jane says, “I feel that it is up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen to my children. They don’t have to be concerned with, ‘What are we going to do with mom?’”

This reality came to light in February, when six weeks after moving to Judson Park, Jane broke her elbow. She could not drive for two months and relied on Larry, Judson’s driver, who “saved the day.”

“He took me to OT (occupational therapy) all the time—that was a Godsend to have that right at my fingertips,” Jane says. The dining room has been a gift, too, since she can’t lift to cook while rehabilitating. “Moving to a CCRC is definitely a big life change and the transition does present challenges,” Jane says, adding that she is adjusting to her new norm.

Independent in Community

Book shops and grocery stores are how Jane determines if a community is a fit—and Cleveland Heights is a win. She can walk to Starbucks, Barrio, The Fairmont, clothing and bookstores, Dave’s Market, bagels in less than a mile. And as a woman who spent most of her years living in the city, she loves that everything is at her fingertips. And since she moved to Cleveland in 2019 to be closer to her son, she has enjoyed exploring the museums and cultural scene, which is right at her front door now.

“I love my apartment—I love the space,” she says, relating that her personal outdoor space is “delightful and just makes my day.” Looking at life through a different lens can result in making decisions that position you for life’s many perspectives, and that is what Jane wants others to know about making a move like this. “Being in a place like Judson allows me to keep my independence with a backup, an insurance for my children,” Jane says.

And as someone who is out and about, active and engaged in a number of creative and social pursuits, Jane says, “Judson is part of the community I live in, not the community.”

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