Welcome to the Aldersbridge Communities Blog.
Welcome to our community. We will introduce you to many of the fascinating people who make up the world of Aldersbridge Communities: residents, employees, family members, trustees and volunteers. Altogether we are a community of people who struggle to be our best selves, make sense of the life we have been given and show our love and appreciation for one another.
As a wise leader knows, surround yourself with smart people and you will do just fine. So we plan to share their experiences and wisdom as well as that of the staff, family members and volunteers who ensure our residents receive the great care, amenities and respect they deserve. Perhaps some of these observations or their words of wisdom will strike a chord in you. Please join us by clicking the subscribe button below and we will give you a glimpse inside our community where older persons live in comfort, with dignity, and purpose.
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I asked Denni if I could take her photo and interview her for this blog and she obliged. I want you to meet her because she is such an asset to United Methodist Elder Care. I wish that we could claim Denni as only our’s, but the truth is Denni has two children at home, works another job AND attends college classes. She belongs to the world. But Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 3 PM, we have Denni here at Linn Health Care Center. She doesn’t just vacuum and perform other housekeeping duties, Denni sparkles a room by brightening it with her cheerful disposition. She can instantly put a person at ease – it is just a talent that she has.
I ask Denni, “What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you over the past four years on the job?” She relays a story to me: “One day while I was mopping the hallway in Linn Health Care Center, one of our residents was passing by and suddenly became faint. As she was falling, she reached out and grabbed onto my mop, which alerted me just in time to catch her, preventing her from hitting the floor. I was so scared.”
“Why Denni – you are a hero!” I exclaim.
“Nahhh”, Denni laughs humbly, “I was just so glad that I was there and able to catch her.”
We won’t always be so lucky to have Denni working with us because she is studying to be a phlebotomist and we don’t employ those. I ask her “How does a sweet gal like you ever want to puncture people’s blood vessels?”
She explains, “I became motivated from an experience I had with a very bad phlebotomist. She had zero people skills and didn’t even say hello back to me when I greeted her. I figured that I could be better than her at helping people relax.”
Ah, making lemonade out of lemons – how Denni is that?
It isn’t the growing old that is so difficult, it is the attendant aches and pains of poor and failing health that makes one feel old. And this can happen at any age. By the time we are in our fifties, we have a list of same-age friends who have come down with serious illnesses or live in chronic pain. I know this fifty-something-year old does.
Some of our residents shock and amaze me when I find out how old they are because they are so active, happy and the picture of good health. Some have all their teeth and many don’t wear glasses. And guess what? They are in their late 80s or early 90s! Every time I see Robert, age 82, who works out at the gym and drives a car and has a sturdy, steady stride, I say to myself, “See? He is proof that growing old is not so bad.”
Then there are much younger residents who are wheelchair-bound and even look older than their age. But we know that life isn’t fair.
What about those who look young and healthy, but suffer quietly and invisibly? As the Winslow Gardens author laureate, Myrna Griffith, writes, “Age isn’t always the reason we sit, viewing life from the sidelines.” She explains that “Others assume that because I’m younger than 80, I should be able to do more, but there are a few reasons that I can’t keep up anymore. They are all medical and mostly involve chronic pain.” She figures some folks might think she is lazy sipping her coffee and munching on a cookie while watching others do the work she used to do.
However, Myrna is adaptable to whatever happens in her life and applies a philosophical outlook to her physical ailments stating, “God and I know I have done my part in the past. I can relax and enjoy being a spectator now.” I marvel at her positive attitude and acceptance in the face of chronic pain. Why do we appreciate the folks who paint a happy face on the figure of pain?
God bless Myrna and all our friends who are younger than they feel.
Everyone at United Methodist Elder Care knows Mary – she has been here for nineteen years and serves as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.
Mary Montanaro is the face of Winslow Gardens. Her office is the first place a new visitor sees when they enter our independent and assisted living building. Mary embodies the ethos of our building: Always there to help, offers a welcoming and calming presence, provides good humor and great listening, and does it with a smile.
When asked about what she does here at Winslow Gardens, Mary said: “Going above and beyond is a daily occurrence. Whether it is delivering a package to a resident, helping them with their coats or sweaters, tying a shoe, plunging a toilet… It’s all part of life here.”
Not only do the residents rely on Mary for many daily things from collecting their mail, getting quarters for the laundry machines, or helping them pay their rent, but staff relies on Mary as well. We know that if we ask Mary to help, the job will be done right. We come to her with just as many things as the residents – help with computers, documentation, and institutional knowledge. It should also be remarked that our Executive Director, Paul Parks, Jr. relies on Mary for many things, including keeping his calendar straight, organizing Board of Trustee communications, and all manner of administrative work.
“Working at United Methodist Elder Care is very gratifying,” Mary told me. “Every day, I feel needed and appreciated.” When I press her for why she has stayed for nineteen years, Mary doesn’t hesitate and gives me a smile, “I love making a difference to the residents in their day-to-day lives. Sometimes just a smile, a hug, or asking how they are feeling, lets them know that I care.”
Joie de vivre! I remember my mother teaching me that French word when I was about ten years old. She told me that it meant the joy of living and that I had a lot of it. I honestly couldn’t understand how anyone couldn’t have joie de vivre – I mean who isn’t happy to be alive? Looking back, I don’t believe that I was happier than any other child in my neighborhood, rather just as happy as children generally are.
I think of all the older people I know at United Methodist Elder Care and I notice a certain mellowing back into that childhood happiness. Perhaps the lack of responsibilities or the adoption of an “it’s all small stuff” philosophy is responsible for this trait. When I think of this blessed quality, I think of Joy Millard. Joy is a resident at Winslow Gardens Retirement Center and turned 90 years young this past April. Honestly, she doesn’t look a day over 70 and could be an Oil of Olay model. Joy rides the exercise bicycle that is in the library outside my office every day while reading a book. I wave and she greets me with a big smile. I usually tease her by calling her “Joyful.” We’ve had our conversations about being so happy that it grates on folks around us – and then we laugh. Perhaps it’s an excess of serotonin in our brains.
I asked her, “Why are you so happy? Were you always this way?” She confided that she hadn’t been happy during World War II when her fiancé and three brothers were away on tours of duty. She lived with constant anxiety that gave her nightmares and the unrelenting stress of war resulted in her having a nasty disposition that is definitely not her normal resting state these days. All three brothers and her fiancé returned safely and she settled into a marriage that lasted 58 years and blessed them with three children, five grandchildren and even six great grandchildren.
Joy credits her faith in God for her happy disposition, having been born into a strong Baptist family and later finding a spiritual home within the Congregational Church. She reports having a heart to heart with God every day and tells me that the habit of thanking Him for her blessings makes her happy just to be alive. I ask her, “Do you think if your fiancé and brothers hadn’t come back you wouldn’t have had such a strong faith and such a cheerful disposition now?” A serious expression shadows her usually smiling face, “Maybe not…”, she sweetly and honestly answers me, then snaps back, “But for now I’m just a sunbeam for the Lord!” And she sure does shine!