Story and Photos by Madeline Park
In this day and age, people are constantly looking to feel connected. While some seek to find their sense of connectedness through social media, others in different interests, very little expect to find it within the confines of the retirement center.
For many, the words ‘retirement home’ often brings about several negative connotations—with scenes of no privacy, little independence, and extreme depression. Yet, despite its bad reputation, more and more elderly have turned to these homes to find a community. In a way, many have found a family within.
Enter the Arcadia Gardens Retirement Hotel, a large expanse of a building located in the midst of a small residential street. This retirement center is only one of six that lie scattered throughout Arcadia. With homes like Arcadia Retirement Village, Vista Cove, Naomi Gardens and others, Arcadia’s retirement community is continually growing. For around 23 percent of Arcadia’s total population, this community is vital.
Sheila Kinney, an activity director at Arcadia Gardens commented, “[We provide] a whole wide variety [of activities] to bring a sense of community. Because they’re giving up a lot: they’re leaving their homes and it’s a big adjustment, and so we want to keep them happy, and engaged … and thinking of it like a new fun chapter in their lives.”
Meet Kay Obler, a resident who sleeps on a couch every night in what she calls her ‘living room.’ Forced to move into a retirement center because of landlord problems, Kay was not exactly thrilled to move. Yet, she continues to have a contented air about her. “I still have my car. I still drive. I still go out,” She said with a small smile. “I’m very involved in several activities outside of the retirement home. … I do a lot of activities around different places and I do love to go to the theater! … I’ve been here now two years, and I’ve made a lot of friends—a lot of people who I really enjoy.”
However, Kay is not happy merely because she is involved—although that is a big part—but it is her positive attitude and continual interaction with people that makes the center feel increasingly like home to her.
On the other hand, unlike Kay, many who go to retirement centers cannot take care of themselves, and stay as a means of safety and care rather than of finding friends. But it is oftentimes the community around them that helps them amidst their struggles. Kento Sie, a personal caregiver at the Arcadia Retirement Village, remarked, “I think one of the biggest [ways people can help the elderly] is listening to what they have to say. … [People should] just help them, and listen to them and try to understand them. That transition from an independent life to one depending on others is really difficult so you want to be there to help alleviate that.”
Retirement centers are not for everybody. But they provide an alternative to the loneliness that many—not just the elderly—feel. And, despite its often dated appearance and faded furniture, they more importantly give people a place to call home.