“We are all neighbors. Be kind. Be gentle.” – Clemantine Wamariya, Rwandan-American author, speaker and human rights advocate.
One of the most exciting – and potentially worrisome – parts of leaving the family home and starting fresh in a retirement community is the question of neighbors. Who will they be? Will they make us feel welcome? And how will we rebuild the sense of community we knew at our former home?
These aren’t just idle concerns: Numerous studies lend support to the notion that seniors are best served in neighborhoods where they are actively involved, valued and supported. Within such “elder-friendly” communities, age is not considered a barrier to pursuing lifelong interests; opportunities exist for older adults to develop new sources of fulfillment and engagement; and the community design fosters both connection and contribution.
In other words, in order to best serve the needs of their residents, retirement communities must function as vibrant, engaging and supportive neighborhoods.
That basic belief is brought to life on all three Judson campuses – Judson Manor, Judson Park, and South Franklin Circle – where opportunities for engagement and fulfillment abound. Options range from yoga and water exercises to life-long learning programs offered through area universities. Got a yen to write? Join the staff at the Cardinal, South Franklin Circle’s polished campus newsletter. Ready to flex those artist muscles? Develop your practice at Judson Park’s well-equipped art studio. Want a deep dive into culture? Check out the myriad possibilities at the cultural institutions on University Circle, in the backyard of Judson Manor.
As a bonus, these activities also serve as fertile soil to sow the seeds of friendship, according to Judson Manor resident Peter Pesch.
“When we first moved in, I was pleased to discover that a man I had known years ago as president of the Case Alumni Association was living here with his wife,” recalls Peter, a retired professor of astronomy, department chair, and director of the Warner & Swasey Observatory at Case Western Reserve University, who moved to Judson Manor in 2016.
“Within a few weeks, he ‘volunteered’ me to form a committee to liven up the Friday social hours. For my committee, I recruited a couple that had not yet moved to the Manor because their apartment renovation was not completed. They accepted immediately, and for the past three years I have worked with them, and numerous Judson associates, in organizing special events every third Friday.”
Other neighborly gestures are more spontaneous, says Peter, but no less appreciated. “One of our neighbors kindly shares her copies of The New Yorker with me when she has finished reading them. In addition, she shares her very delicious home-made yogurt with us. She also tries to share her cat,” he adds, “but it is so shy that, although it comes into our apartment to explore, it dashes out if we make a move or speak to it.”
Ask almost any Judson resident, in fact, and you’ll hear similar stories of friendship in action, whether that takes the form of an impromptu birthday celebration or support during the loss of a beloved pet. Through it all, residents will tell you, the sense of being surrounded by caring neighbors is never out of reach.
“We are a small group of people,” Peter says of his Judson Manor neighborhood. “There’s only about 100 of us, and that’s a pretty good number if you want to get to know each other. In a real sense, we have become a community. There is always something going on here and it is wonderful to be surrounded by so many interesting people.”