Growing old, growing up together

By Jennifer Walch Three women sit in a circle in the near the entrance of the Pines One Independent living home. They pass around two photo albums, careful not to let the pages fall from the album bindings.  Two women sit with walkers in front of them and  the other sits in a wheelchair. Chatter and small talk fills the circle. Repeated sentences are frequent as the women overcome the hindrance old age and the loss of hearing brings.   

As site manager and daily operation supervisor, Ryan Edmunds sits in his office adjacent to the entrance. His sixth grade daughter Kylee sits next to him, smiling with a mouth full of braces. The Edmund’s youngest daughter, Ashley, is sure to be found roaming the halls under the careful watch of one of the residents.

The photo albums the women pass around are proof of the involvement the Edmund family has within the residences. Pictures of various social gatherings and holiday parties the residents have participated in fill the pages. Several pictures can be found of various residents side by side with Kylee as a toddler.

The atmosphere and presence of the residents within the Pines One complex has been a major influence on the way the Edmunds daughters have been brought up.

“It’s changed their entire personality,” said mother and co-manager Gwen Edmunds.  “Most kids are afraid of senior citizens; Kylee and Ashley will go right up to them and start talking.”

Ryan Edmunds also has a similar view on how the presence and atmosphere of the residents has shaped his daughters personalities.

“It really helps their social skills in everyday life,” he said. “They see it all, from walkers to oxygen tanks, nothing fazes them.”

Kylee expresses her favor of the residents.

“Its fun being here all the time and talking with the residents,” she said. "They are all really nice and you can talk to them about anything.”

The apartments are home to senior citizens on average 80 years of age. A majority of the residents live alone in their apartments, however seven rooms are occupied by couples. Each resident brings their own personality to the building but the underlying independent traits of each resident bring a strong sense of family bond.

Bette Norde, 80, enters the circle of women and sits on the love seat to chat with her friends.

“This is an independent living home you know, so we come and go as we please,” Norde said. “But we’re all like a family here. If anyone needs help all you have to do is ask.”

She recalls one night she received a call from her neighbor.

“I walked in the door and my friend was lying in sweat,”  she said. “I had never seen so much, it was like water was running off her forehead.”

The woman had fallen ill to an ulcer in her stomach and had severe flu symptoms. Bette took her to the hospital around 8 p.m. and stayed with her there until 11 p.m.

“She wouldn’t let me call her son before she reached the hospital; she likes to be independent,” Norde said.

Norde recalled a recent death of a man that occurred within the last month.  The man wished to remain in his home until his last breath with the friends he considered family.

“We stayed with him until the end,”  Norde said. “He was happy and wanted to be with us just as much as we wanted to stay with him.”

The Pines complex practices what is called the button system. Each resident has a magnet on their door. At 8 p.m. every day, the residents put their button on the outside of the door to symbolize their well-being. The buttons are to be removed by 10 a.m. A hall monitor walks the halls each night to monitor, and if the magnet button is not visible, a check will be made to ensure safety.

“I’ve never felt afraid living here,” Norde said. “I may live alone but I do not often feel alone.”

The two independent living homes, Pines One and Two, are made up of 82 apartments. Directly across from the Pines buildings three assisted living homes complete the estate. There is currently a two-year waitlist to move into the Pines One building.

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