Active seniors thrive with new lifestyle options
Whether living at home or in a community, Granite State organizations have a lot to offer
Life as a 55-plus Granite Stater looks quite different than it once did. With diverse cultural offerings and a wide variety of activities available, the lifestyle of those around retirement age can be active and rewarding. We reached out to several experts to learn how the retirement lifestyle has changed.
James Wilkie, Executive Director, Catholic Charities’ The CareGivers. cc-nh.org
Cathleen Toomey, Vice President of Marketing, The RiverWoods Group. birchhillrc.org
Judy Franseen, Director of Marketing, and Karen Rathbun, Retirement Counselor, Hillside Village Keene. hillsidevillagekeene.org
James Wilkie, Executive Director, The CareGivers
Q. Can you explain the CareGivers Caring Rides campaign and how it helps people stay active?
Wilkie: Many of the elderly clients we serve reside in suburban neighborhoods or car-centric communities where car usage is a necessity. When no longer able to drive, they feel stranded. They sometimes need assistance and find it embarrassing to ask for help, not wanting to be perceived as a burden, particularly after spending decades providing for family members.
Access to medical care becomes increasingly important as people age. Research shows older populations miss more appointments than other age groups, citing a lack of transportation as a prominent factor. Next to health,
transportation is the most important issue for seniors. For them, being mobile — and having the ability to get around — is vital to maintaining their social independence with friends and family, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and attaining many other life-prolonging benefits.
Q. What unique skills do older CareGivers volunteers offer, and how does CareGivers benefit from having these skilled people on the team?
Wilkie: Older volunteers tend to be more reliable and available since many are retired and have more free time available on weekdays. Given their experiences and perspectives on life, older volunteers feel a stronger sense of accomplishment, purpose and well-being when working with seniors. Oftentimes CareGivers clients express surprise at how volunteers are so thankful for being able to help. ‘I should be doing the thanking, not the volunteer,’ a client once said. Older volunteers tend to empathize with a client’s plight. They know a client’s need to be heard and therefore listen attentively to help improve a client’s sense of importance and self-worth. They often have a greater capacity for tolerance.
Older volunteers have a wealth of personal and professional experiences to share. In many cases, a volunteer creates their own personalized volunteer role. At CareGivers, they feel free to use their imagination and draw on their skills to provide valuable feedback. Volunteers have often tweaked overall program operations and even identified other ways to better serve clients.
Q. What are some of the personal/professional rewards for Baby Boomers or retirees who volunteer with The CareGivers?
Wilkie: The CareGivers environment mirrors what people liked about working in an office without things they disliked. Volunteers say they feel valued and useful. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities and a lot of flexibility regarding time commitment. Volunteering helps retired people maintain a connection to an organization and a purpose, while also offering a chance to foster friendships and avoid feelings of loneliness or boredom. Some CareGivers volunteer experiences involve working with other volunteers — for example, meeting every two weeks to pack client food orders. Oftentimes these groups meet up beforehand for coffee or go
out for lunch when they finish volunteering.
There is also a sense of purpose at CareGivers. Many older volunteers love volunteering in an environment where they are able to feed a generation that once fed them. They enjoy helping people that are as old as their parents or grandparents and feel a special connection. In some cases, volunteers ‘adopt’ a client as part of the family, and often share holidays and birthdays together.
Cathleen Toomey, Vice President of Marketing, The RiverWoods Group- Birch Hill
Q. When should someone begin planning to live at a community like Birch Hill?
Toomey: People should start thinking about planning to research a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in their late 60s or early 70s. There are a number of retirement options today, with a huge variety of amenities and contract offerings, and it’s best to consider all these options when you are not in a rush, and don’t need services right away. I think often people move to an over-55 condo community as their ‘downsizing’ option, but don’t think about the future, and what amenities or services they might need. Instead of moving twice — once to an over-55 community, and once again to a CCRC — I would move to a CCRC and really invest in and enjoy the community and make it your home. I liken it to flying direct to your destination versus a stop-over. It’s much more enjoyable.
Q. What don’t people understand about Birch Hill?
Toomey: I think Birch Hill is one of the best-kept secrets in Manchester. We are the only CCRC in the greater Manchester area, and we offer a dynamic and vibrant lifestyle to independent adults 62 years or better. Come in as an independent resident and enjoy a hassle-free life that is full of fitness, education, art and cultural programs, and the chance to meet new friends and explore new interests. Meanwhile, you can relax knowing that if you ever need long-term care, healthcare is right down the hall. You know that your children and your spouse do not have to be caregivers — they can be family.
People do not understand how affordable Birch Hill is. We are a Type B contract which means we are less expensive than many other CCRCs in New Hampshire, like RiverWoods. With a Type B contract you have similar amenities of a Type A, but the entrance and monthly fee are less costly, and you don’t pay for healthcare unless you need it. Few people are aware that Birch Hill is an insurance product, not a real estate product, so a portion of the entrance fee and monthly service fee can be tax deductible.
Q. What are some of the on-site amenities at Birch Hill?
Toomey: Birch Hill has just completed $12 million in capital renovations of the campus. We have added a brand new fitness center, with a new, expanded fitness schedule and full-time trainer. Additionally, the community has a new large resident gathering room for large meetings and programs. Every apartment home has been completely renovated, featuring granite countertops, new appliances, floors and open, bright floor plans. The dining rooms and all our hallways have been completely transformed as part of the renovation. As we are in a wooded section of north Manchester, we have plenty of raised garden beds, walking trails as well as access to a Nature Conservancy preserve of 620 acres, less than half a mile from campus.
Residents run their own library, country store, Terrace Treasures — our consignment store, the Banner — our in-house newspaper, and run and bartend at The Tavern, our in-house pub.
Our shuttle and car services provide transportation for residents throughout the greater Manchester area, making it easy to get to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and shopping. Our independent residents also volunteer in the greater Manchester area as docents at the Currier and as pen pals with local schools.
Q. What should people know about how to stay active as they approach retirement?
Toomey: At Birch Hill, you have the choice to stay as active as you like. Stop in at the woodshop to work on a dollhouse with one of our residents; participate in a watercolor class or a book group discussion; gather for cards in one of our sunny nooks; run for office and join the Resident Council, or even become a state representative as one of our residents has. Join the layout and design team or become a reporter for The Banner, our in-house newspaper, or blog about life for the website. Run in the Ms. Senior New Hampshire Pageant and represent New Hampshire at the Ms. Senior USA pageant, as one of our residents did in 2018!
Q. What are some of the unique offerings?
Toomey: In April, Birch Hill will be announcing a brand new contract to new potential residents, which is the first contract of its kind in New England. It is more affordable than ever before and offers a unique opportunity for residents to be able to use their refundable portion of their entrance fee during their lifetime. Attend our complimentary luncheon event on April 2 at Birch Hill to learn more. Call Britni Fratus at 603-836-2302 to register.
Judy Franseen, Director of Marketing, and Karen Rathbun, Retirement Counselor, Hillside Village Keene
Q. When should someone begin planning to live at a community like Hillside Village at Keene?
Rathbun: Hillside Village is an exciting option for seniors ages 62 and better, though we often meet with individuals even younger who want to be informed about what options are available to them as they look to the future. Moving is never an easy process, but it only gets more difficult with time. Those who are able and in good health can handle the transition better and usually embrace this new chapter in life.
Q. How would you describe the lifestyle at Hillside Village at Keene?
Franseen: Vibrant, engaging, fun are the first three words that come to my mind. However, someone else may have a completely different top three: relaxing, carefree and secure. It really is all about life on the resident’s terms. They can customize their experience depending on what is most important to them being as engaged and involved or as laid-back and relaxed as they wish to be. From classes, concerts, group outings and volunteer opportunities to enjoying the pool,
the library, the greenhouse, hiking and biking and more — there are offerings for a wide range of interests!
Q. What should people know about the opportunities Hillside Village at Keene offers to people looking to stay active as they approach retirement?
Rathbun: I often talk to people who have an antiquated concept of Retirement Living. They think they should wait until there is a concern or a health crisis to consider making a change. While we do have high-quality private long-term healthcare through Assisted Living, Memory Support and Nursing Care on-site to provide peace of mind and security for residents — the exact opposite is actually true. A Life Plan Community like Hillside Village Keene is focused on Independent Living to maximize the resident’s retirement years. In fact, individuals in Life Plan Communities tend to enjoy their independence longer
than those who stay in their homes through:
Services and Amenities: One of many benefits of living at Hillside Village is having easy access to an array of services, amenities and activities. Many of these perks take place within the community, but communities like ours are increasingly providing ways for residents to stay involved in the broader community through service projects, adult education classes and more. Moving earlier allows residents to more fully enjoy and benefit from socializing and staying involved.
Wellness Programs: Hillside Village Keene will strive to help residents stay healthy and live independently as long as possible. Health and wellness programs include access to a qualified fitness professional, aquatic and fitness center, fitness and yoga classes, just to name a few.
Friendships: Residents often say that one of the best things about the community in which they live is the friendships they form with other residents. These meaningful relationships can be particularly helpful as part of a support network. There are also many emotional benefits to having a group
of friends that share common
Q. How has retirement living changed in the past decade?
Franseen: Today’s retirees are very interested in enhancing their lifestyle. They want to keep doing the things they love doing and often want to expand their horizons and add to their experiences. Dining expectations and preferences, in particular, have evolved. Our focus on high-quality, fresh, local farm-to-table offerings is just one example of how Hillside Village plans to meet our residents’ expectations. We are excited to also have a vegan chef on our talented culinary team. Creative, made-from-scratch offerings with fresh ingredients will make you say, ‘I can’t believe this is vegan!’