** All in the name of corporate greed…

We lost my father a few years back to a quick and sudden death. This left my mother who was 74 at the time at a total loss. They had been married for 50 years and suddenly she was all alone in a big rambling house with no one to talk to.

Two of her three children lived out of the area, and the 3rd remaining child lived a life of her own which oftentimes did not include any thoughts of her mother at all. This would not do as we watched my mother take on a slow dismal decline.

My brother and I got together and decided the best thing for mom would be to move her to a retirement community. Now this is not a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. It is a community where older members of our society live together in a centralized place (apartments, town homes, etc), but they are very much independent and on their own for their day to day lives. The advantages of this type of living are one is surrounded by people their own age, usually incorporating common interests of the residents.

Mom was hesitant at first, she hates change of any type, she did not want to leave her home of the past 30 years. But after we convinced her of the possibilities of this new lifestyle she reluctantly allowed us to put her home on the market, pack her belongings and move her to a new place to begin her new life.

The community we all chose consisted of 6 buildings, 3 stories each with 150 apartments in each building. She went into building one, which was the main building and included the leasing and staff offices. She chose to be on the top level, level 3. Each building has a main entrance that one must pass through to access any of the apartments. This was designed this way to encourage the residents to interact with one another on an almost daily basis. The mail room is on the first level, along with a lobby and congregation area, kitchen, small library and laundry room.There were tables set up in the main area that always had a puzzle or two in progress where one could just sit down and work on at their leisure. Want to play a card game, pull up a chair, we will let you in.

The staff had designed quite an extensive social calendar which consisted of coffee & doughnuts each Wednesday morning, a dine-in once a week (where food from local restaurants is brought in and tables are set up), a dine-out once a month (where residents vote where they want to go), bingo twice a week (cost being each resident must bring one item, food or otherwise and winning residents get to choose their prizes), one or two special treats twice a month (might be a musician, poet, comic, etc…that comes in to entertain the residents), and once or twice a month an off-campus activity (concert, play, etc). The majority of these activities are free to the residents of the buildings, (with the exception of the dine ins & outs). In addition to all this goodness the community owns two buses and residents can choose 6 days a week to visit any of the area stores, banks, etc…at no cost to them.

When mom first moved into her new place she still drove but after a couple of strokes we decided that maybe the roadway and her behind the wheel was not such a great idea. She sold her car and started to rely solely on the bus transportation. This put mom at another loss in her life as she liked to run here and there with no real agenda.

Mom made friends slowly, in fact, she has always made friends slowly now that i look back on it. I can count the number of friends my mother has had in my lifetime on one hand. So its only fitting to say that this new lifestyle was going to be a challenge for her. Her first friend was the next door neighbor, a woman 20 years her junior. She was disabled, thus her reason for being in the community at such a young age. They picked up a friendship almost immediately to our great surprise. Afternoons were spent playing scrabble (my moms favorite game and surprisingly her new best friends also). They watched TV together and went places on the bus together. Things looked like they were going good. Each day when i spoke to my mother she would recite “Bobbie this, and Bobbie that” (her friends name of course). But then something changed, whether it was my mother or Bobbie we may never know. Just weeks before mom could not get enough of Bobbie, now she had had enough. She started saying they had nothing in common, Bobbie was so much younger than she, they ran out of things to talk about. I do not know what happened. They started spending less and less time together. And then one day, Bobbie died.

Out of the blue my mother started talking about all these other ladies in the building. Ladies that when she first moved in ignored her, or maybe it was just my mother, being my mother. But these were the movers and shakers of the building and now my mother was in with the in-crowd, so much so that i noticed she was quickly becoming their leader. Oh, what had we created. Mom was now spending a lot of her time outside of her 4 apartment walls. She was becoming difficult to get a hold of because she was always socializing in one place or another (others apartments, the lobby, outdoors, shopping on the bus with her new friends) We knew never to call during social activities because she was the first to be signed up. She was thriving like we had never seen her before.

Then the ball dropped. The corporation that owned the complex decided to change all the rules. They started slowly, creeping in just like a disease that eventually takes over and ravages your body until there is nothing left. They called all the residents of the building together one day and told them they were planning on remodeling the building. Now this was considered a godsend as the buildings are 60+ years old and well lets just say that the upkeep for the past 59 years has been less than stellar. The place was abuzz, the residents thrilled. And true to their word they started the remodel.

They spruced up the exterior, started painting the interior, gutted the entire downstairs and put in a wonderful lobby with a fireplace and promises of new couches and sitting areas. The main floor laundry room was dismantled and each floor got their own new separate laundry facilities. The place was beginning to take on a whole new look. This was just too good to be true. Another meeting was called, the residents excited to see what was next got the surprise of a lifetime. It went something like this:

We will not be putting in a new kitchen area as we see no reason for your need to have one. The library also unnecessary as we do not wish for our residents to be congregating in the lobby area any longer. This area is to be kept clear for residents to come and go. There will be no more puzzle building, card playing or socializing at any time. Wednesday coffee and doughnuts will be no more, as for the dine-ins and any other activity that would require a group to be in the lobby area. We are changing the name of the complex from Crestwood to Club Crestwood. Oh, and by the way, rent for everyone will go up $100 a month beginning the first month of their new lease.

Now you can imagine the uproar that this has caused. These are senior citizens, most just barely making ends meet as it is. You are raising their rent (and i have to tell you this is not because their rents were too cheap to begin with, no they were very much in line with market values). Most of these people do not drive and although they have not taken the bus away from them YET, all these activities that i mentioned were what kept these people going. They have nothing now but to sit in their apartments and wait the rest of their lives out. And it infuriates me. My own mother is talking of moving, a good majority of the residents are talking of moving. Just when my mother finally found her groove after all these years she is in real danger of losing it again.

What the heck is wrong with this company? My mother says it is a new big-shot that has taken over the corporation. Some young shining pup, who has no idea what kind of damage he is causing to our older generation. I wonder how he would feel if his own mother lived in the complex, but then again, maybe she already does.

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