11 April 2011

Good Living with the Grey-Haired Set

If you're into house blogs, you know that they come in all varieties. Some are about true houses, while others focus on condo/apartment living. Many are written by owners who are building or undertaking renovations; others provide an outlet for renters who are limited to decorating projects. But that's not really the entire range of homes out there, and today I'm going to highlight one of the most fabulous living arrangements I have ever seen.

Last week, I wrote about a trip I took recently to visit my grandmother (Tutu) in Oregon. Tutu lives in an amazing retirement community, Rogue Valley Manor, where she and my grandfather moved about 25 years ago. This is not your grandmother's retirement community (metaphorically speaking, of course) -- it's not some sleepy or institutional place where old folks go to wind down. As a "continuing care retirement community" (known in the biz as a CCRC), it's designed to accommodate every phase of the over-65 life cycle, from active seniors to truly elderly folks needing nursing care.

When they first moved to the Manor, my grandparents lived in a cottage like this one:



Each cottage has a deck out back:



And lovely landscaping all around:





In the early days, Tutu and Grandpa golfed (on the Manor's own course):



They played water volleyball in the indoor pool (you know, in the water so no one breaks a hip), traveled, volunteered, and spent time with friends. The Manor reminds me of college (although it's also been likened to summer camp, a country club, and a cruise ship). I have noticed two significant differences between the Manor and college, though: (1) you get to bring wine to the dining hall (and residents frequently do), and (2) you get to live with boys:



After my grandfather died (while I was in college), Tutu decided it was time to move out of her cottage and into an apartment in the main building:



This building has a huge, stylishly decorated lobby where residents can gather:



Being a smart, pragmatic woman, Tutu wanted to make the move while she was still able to take charge of the decision and the logistics, and it worked out wonderfully. A few years ago, while living in that apartment, she fell and broke her ankle. The Manor is totally equipped to handle that kind of incident -- she spent several weeks living in the health center before returning to her apartment, good as new. She has since started using a walker -- also not your grandmother's walker, as it has a seat, a storage compartment, brakes, and reflectors -- and she gets around very well, albeit slowly. In the last couple of years, Tutu has gotten quite forgetful, but she's very aware of how forgetful she is, leading her to decide that it was time to move up to the next level of care. This decision coincided with an expansion of the health center, so she is now the first resident of a brand new apartment in that building:



This picture doesn't do it justice. With a cool, slightly metallic exterior, it looks like a fancy urban hotel. Inside, it's a combination of hotel and hospital, with a nurse's station on each hall. Tutu lives on one of the more independent-living halls, where she has a nurse bring her medication right to her apartment and staff on hand for anything she might need, but she's mostly on her own. In the coming years, she will likely progress through the levels of care but will always be able to stay where she has come to know as her home.

The Manor and its staff take care of her every need so she can just enjoy herself and her wonderful friends. Here's her oh-so-stylish friend Kay (who is turning 94 soon):



Kay still lives completely independently in a cottage down the street from Tutu's first place at the Manor and only recently gave up driving. You know those old ladies you read about from time to time who clobber muggers to within an inch of their lives? I could totally see Kay doing that.

Every Saturday evening, Tutu, Kay, and a bunch of their friends gather in a meeting room at the Manor to drink wine and tell jokes (many of them kind of dirty!).

While the dirty-joke-telling is an informal gathering organized by a handful of rogues, the Manor also plans lots of on-site (as well as off-site) events for residents. While I was there, a bird rescue group brought several birds in for a presentation for health center residents:



There were also signs up advertising a Jack Hanna-style wild animal event, but I had to leave before that one.

At the risk of overusing the word "amazing," the Manor has amazing grounds. Set up on a hill above the town of Medford, there's a fantastic view in every direction (the house in the foreground is unrelated to the Manor):




Even the room I stayed in (an extra studio apartment intended for prospective residents but also available for visiting relatives) had a nice view of one of the mountains:



The flowers were looking their springtime best during my visit:



There were daffodils by the hundreds. These yellow ones were actually miniature (barely bigger than a quarter), with five or six growing on each stem:



Star magnolia (which I think is the same thing as Japanese magnolia):



So gorgeous...but I don't think they'd do well in Austin.



The sky was grey for parts of my visit, but that led to a rainbow, so no complaints:





Even bunnies love it there!



There's a community garden:



The resident count has grown from about 400 to 1,000 since Tutu and Grandpa moved to the Manor in the eighties, so there's been a lot of construction over the years to accommodate the growth. There's a third apartment building, called the Plaza:





And a newer community of cottages:



Needless to say, I'm a big fan of their vaguely Craftsman styling:



As I took a run through the neighborhood, it felt a little bit like Wisteria Lane. Hopefully things are less dramatic, though.



And then there are those mountains again....



Every time Steve and I visit, we joke about wanting to put our deposit down for our retirement. I can't imagine there's a better place to grow old anywhere in the United States, and we couldn't be happier that Tutu is in such a safe, caring environment.

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