answer makes so much sense. I’d asked Joan O’Brien, a spry
and engaged 80-year-old resident of Symphony Senior Living,
why she moved from her Wendover home three years ago.
wanted to move into a retirement home while I could still
enjoy everything it had to offer,” she says. “I think that
people are often forced to move into a home because they
are sick, or something happens. I wanted to make the decision
myself and not have it made for me.”
from Toronto, Joan has lived in and around Ottawa since
entering the convent at 16. After eight years, she left
the convent, got her Grade 11 and Grade 12 credits in less
than a year and pursued a nursing career: first qualifying
as a Registered Practical Nurse, then as a RN and finally
earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the age of
years before her retirement from nursing at age 65, Joan
moved into a two-bedroom house in Wendover and 20 years
later she decided to downsize. A friend suggested Symphony
on Lumberman Way in Orléans . After one visit, she didn’t
look anywhere else and speaks of the facility and its staff
in glowing terms.
first moved into a one-bedroom apartment in one of the three
independent living buildings in the complex. She prepared
her own meals and quickly became an active participant in
a myriad of activities, from yoga to Euchre, the knitting
club and, her favourite, the weekly Bingo and monthly Super
was the best move I ever made because I didn’t have the
responsibility of a house and everything that goes with
it, but I was still independent,” she says.
still physically and mentally able to live independently,
she recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the main
Symphony residence, which is 95 per cent dedicated to assisted
living. Her move was made possible by a major change in
the financial situation of her daughter Eileen, who lives
in British Columbia.
is touched that her daughter’s priority was to make life
easier for her mother. She laughs that the best thing about
moving into assisted living is she doesn’t have to cook.
you don’t have to cook, everything tastes good!” She no
longer has to buy groceries or clean her apartment.
Joan isn’t using her extra time just to pursue her own interests.
Two mornings a week she volunteers answering the residence’s
phones and another morning she volunteers in the Tuck Shop.
She will be missing a few volunteer shifts after Easter
while she is on a two-week vacation with six friends that
includes an Alaskan cruise.
knows how fortunate she is to be still active, able to travel
and volunteer. The financial security to move into an apartment
with a higher level of service is a bonus, as is not having
to walk outside if it is slippery. Most of all, she has
the peace of mind knowing “if anything happens to me, I
am here. I don’t have to worry about moving somewhere else.”
Vroom, executive director of Symphony Senior Living, echoes
Joan’s belief in the importance of making a decision about
retirement living sooner rather than later.
time to “find a home that fits and feels right is before
a crisis,” she says. “During crisis, the choice will be
taken out of your hands. It will be wherever there’s a spot
and the fastest place that can take you in,” she says. She
sees firsthand the value of seniors having “more access
to activities, enter-tainment and social networking”.
stresses that it is not “a sign of weakness” to move into
a retirement home. “You can enjoy life without having the
burden of owning a home and all that entails.”
columns will explore the cost of retirement home living
compared to staying in one’s own home, as well as the daunting
task of downsizing.