Three Cheers For Fairway Pointe Apartments

When my mother decided to move back to her hometown after living in Buffalo most of her adult life, all of her children thought it was a good idea.

Why not, we thought? Squarely over 70 years old, it would be good for her to return to her roots. Throw in the fact that two of her children have homes here and it was a win-win for everyone.

She moved to Fairway Pointe Apartments, in Lakewood, nearly two years ago where you must be over 50 and independent to become a member of the community.

Who would have ever predicted she’d be so happy? We wonder why she hadn’t thought of it sooner.

And the truth is we never see her anymore: her calendar is so full of social engagements and community events that we feel like she’s found a new boyfriend and has deserted us.

Didn’t the world once revolve around us?

Not anymore, apparently. We’ve been sold out to an apartment building.

The first clue came when I asked her to dinner one night. “No thanks,” she told me. “Tonight is our weekly ice cream social.”

“Well, cant you miss one bowl of ice cream for just this one week?” I asked her.

Well, she couldn’t possibly. She’s one of the ice cream scoopers and she has to be there. She takes all of her roles very seriously, whether it’s watering the gardens where tenants grow their own vegetables and herbs, or it’s being the fourth player at bridge on Thursdays or knitting with friends or exercising or taking minutes for the tenant organization. What is clear is that Fairway Pointe has become an important part of her life. Where once she lived alone, now she has a built-in community that gives her purpose and provides companionship and structure.

What strikes me is how places like Fairway contribute to the physical and mental well being of the people who live there. It’s well established that people who have a strong source of support and socialization in their lives are healthier, happier and thus live much longer.

Hopefully, these kinds of adult communities convince seniors that hanging onto their homes for as long as possible isn’t always the best route. Older Americans are learning that the opportunities and advantages offered at independent retirement communities provides many seniors with a higher quality of life, and studies indicate they may be living longer and stronger, meaning they become frail less quickly than those who remain in their own home. Residents of independent retirement communities enjoy better health and could potentially live longer because of it.

And here’s the caveat: Research shows that those who move to a retirement community live seven to 10 years stronger, not just longer, compared to those continuing to live in their private homes. This might have to do with the lack of stress caused by maintaining their homes and lifestyles. Plus there are important opportunities to socialize, benefiting their mental health, and opportunities to take care of their physical health by participating in exercise and wellness programs.

Law professor and author Sharona Hoffman has studied the importance of human contact, especially among seniors, who are more prone to isolation. “There are a lot of studies showing a clear correlation between social interaction and longevity, mental health, and physical health,” Hoffman said. “By contrast, people who are lonely do much worse. They have more heart problems, higher blood pressure, more insomnia, and so on.”

Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard University, said such an environment is what you make of it. “If you have the mind-set that everything is getting worse as you age and nothing’s as good as it was before, then anything that reminds you that you’re a senior is going to be negative,” Langer said. “But now there’s the belief that 80 is the new 60, and so if you get people together who are feeling vital, I think that retirement communities can be great places.”

Seniors that remain in their homes do well if they can still get out and interact with people, experts say, and if they have a strong circle of friends or, better yet, family that will come visit them and check that they’re safe. But one expert noted that “a lot of older people get into a situation where they can’t move around, they can’t get out of the house, and they become very isolated and lonely.”

Some of the people who seem to truly benefit in adult communities are people who find themselves alone through the death of a spouse or divorce. But the couples who move to Fairway Pointe seem to be just as vital and happy as the single folks. What’s great is that if you need to take a day off from the world, you can just stay in your apartment and relax.

My mother’s apartment looks out over a spray of woods where she watches deer walk by and where birds chirp in the mornings.

Currently, I’m on a waiting list to have lunch with her, but I’m okay with that.

What we want most is to see her thrive.

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