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Aging Well

Staying active and engaged are key

Neatly dressed, purse by her side, Frances McKee sits on a comfortable sofa watching news that blares from the TV above the fireplace.  Her upcoming appointment at the Silver Lining Salon is just steps away.  It’s a far cry from the daily commute she made into Atlanta where she worked for an oil company for more than 50 years.

While some seniors choose to age in place, Frances chose to move to a senior living community, Heartis Fayetteville.  A widow with no children, she didn’t like living alone.  Now, help is only a button push away in the assisted living wing.  “I feel safe here,” she explains. “It’s better to be around people. I think you live longer if you stay active.”

(PULL QUOTE)

“It’s better to be around people. I think you live longer if you stay active.”

Heartis Executive Director Logan Johnston agrees.  “We’re designed to be around other people,” she said.  She adds that the stereotype of granny sitting at home in her rocking chair has vanished with the growing wellness movement among senior adults who want to improve their lives through activity. Staying engaged and active can be a challenge for seniors whose adult children live far away and struggle to balance the needs of their immediate family with those of their aging parents. Often, the parent/child roles reverse.  Johnston said when parents are in a senior community, however, children can remain a son or daughter instead of a caregiver.

Heartis Community Relations Director Pat Jackson adds that seniors get to make more of their own decisions at a senior community.  “They get to be an adult with us,” she said.

In the Independent Wing residents Robert and Catherine Harris chat with a new resident, John Williams. Williams tells them about his stint as a minor league baseball player for the Melbourne, Florida, Braves and his 23 and a half-year Army career, serving in Vietnam, Korea, and Germany.

Married for 68 years, the Harrises serve as Heartis ambassadors, helping new residents become acclimated. Robert, a retired shop foreman of a textile mill where he worked for 40 years, also drives residents to appointments when needed. Tired of maintaining their home in Thomaston, the Harrises, who have a daughter in Fayetteville and a son in Atlanta, moved to Heartis less than a year ago.  Catherine, who worked until she was 81, doesn’t like getting up early to go to breakfast in the dining room, but otherwise they’re happy with their decision. “We love it here,” Catherine said.  “We’re not looking back, only forward.”

No matter where seniors decide to age, Johnston said it’s important for families to have the conversation and research the many underutilized benefits available by contacting organizations such as the Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging.

“Put them in the situation to make the conscious decision themselves,” Jackson said, adding that there are many available services and even volunteer opportunities to keep seniors active and get them out of the house.    “Loneliness and depression are real,” she said.  “If you’re looking at four walls and the television all day, it can creep in on you.”

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