My mom has been living “independently” in Preston Pointe, a small senior community in North Carolina, for eight months …and (to her own surprise) she is loving it. She came here reluctantly with great fear and trepidation, agreeing to stay only three months as an escape from the harsh New York winter. This was quite brave of her, approaching 90, unsteady on her feet, and very hard-of-hearing, having never lived anywhere else and leaving all her friends and some family to do it. I did my research but had no experience with these type of facilities so I had my own set of doubts filled with nursing home nightmares.
Turns out, it was a good choice and worth the effort. We are both very happy with the arrangements and I encourage others to consider this option for their parents.
Her one-bedroom apartment is very comfortable, large, and bright. It has a complete kitchen and a small washer and dryer. After she decided to stay, we brought her own furniture and belongings. It’s now like a smaller version of her home but much more manageable. What makes it “senior” is the handicap-accessible bathroom, the sensor over the stove that ensures nothing is left unattended, and the medical alert system throughout the entire facility. What makes it “independent” is that the facility provides all the things that might require asking for help from others. They serve meals in a community dining room so you don’t have to buy groceries and cook unless you want to. They provide transportation in a handicap-accessible van to the local shopping centers, to restaurants and theaters for planned outings, to the pool at the YMCA, and to the senior center for activities — plus, they have a full range of activities right in-house, several choices every day. They have a game room, a TV room, a movie theater, an exercise room, and a beauty salon. Giving up your car is hard and all these conveniences make it easier.
I find it a comical mix of a college dormitory, grade school, and a fine hotel. Like living in a dorm, everyone gets to know everyone else pretty quickly; there are cliques, petty grievances, gossip, and such. Like grade school, there are celebrations for every possible holiday and some non-holidays, each with decorations, crafts, food, and drinks. It’s always recess and seniors love their snacks! The Mardi Gras party was elaborate, even though it was a month late. The Hawaiian party was just as big. Easter, 4th of July, Memorial Day, the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby — nothing is missed. In between, there are singalongs in the lobby and ice cream socials. Like a fine hotel, they clean your rooms and the concierge services are excellent. But, instead of scoring concert or theater tickets, they hook you up with the things you really need at this age. A local geriatric specialist sees patients right in their rooms. Same for most lab work. The physical therapists are also in-house. The audiologist comes once a month. The pharmacy across the street delivers to your door or finds you elsewhere in the building. Need a light bulb changed? Dial 0 and tell the front desk. Need dental, vision, or other medical care? Sign up ahead of time and they will drive you. And, you don’t have to tip!
What makes it really wonderful is the sense of community my mom has found. She didn’t know a soul when she arrived and, although she can’t hear what most people are saying to her, she has made several good friends (many who also can’t hear well and use a cane or walker). She is busy all the time (bingo, card games, chair yoga, movies) and never has to eat a meal alone. Even breakfast is a social opportunity. She has a reason EVERY DAY to get up early, shower, and get dressed (make-up and fancy jewelry included). At her age, that alone is a gift. I truly believe it’s added years, happy years, to her life.