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Life Enrichment : It's About Choice

October 1, 2002
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Residents live life to the fullest at Kendal at Oberlin By Linda Zinn, Managing Editor
Residents of this CCRC demonstrate that living life to the fullest isn't just for the young in years By Linda Zinn, Managing Editor As I drive down the road leading to Kendal at Oberlin, a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in the small college town of Oberlin, Ohio, I observe that the campus is bustling with activity. A couple works in the garden outside their cottage; clusters of people are walking, talking, laughing, coming, going. It brings to mind a college campus, except that most of the "students" here have white hair.

As I enter Kendal's main building, the Community Center, I spot a jigsaw puzzle spread across a table near the grand piano in the living room, ready for someone to come along and add another piece to the psychedelic pink-and-green paisley pattern that is taking shape.

I see a man and woman, he in white shorts and she in a white tennis dress, heading off to the tennis court for what I learn is their daily game. Someone tells me he's in his 90s.

Down a hall from the living room, a group of residents-Darlene Krato, chair of Kendal's Art Committee and four friends from the art club-are busy hanging a new exhibit across from the in-house bank and beauty salon. It's one of Kendal's many art displays scattered throughout the building; some are on loan from local galleries and schools, and some are permanent exhibits.

The laughter of the art club group catches the attention of a woman who's guiding her motorized scooter in their direction on her way to an appointment. She jokes that she has five minutes to "waste" and says she might as well spend it with them, since they seem to be having so much fun.

On the other side of the Community Center, a woman sits in the library, quietly enjoying the morning newspaper and the morning sun streaming in through the large windows behind her. It's a typical day at Kendal at Oberlin.

The nonprofit Kendal Corporation's approach to providing a home for older people is rooted in the principles of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), with emphasis on respect, independence and choice. This is one of nine Kendal communities. The first opened in 1973 near Philadelphia, with eight more following in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Virginia. Two additional Kendal communities are currently in development.

Kendal came to Oberlin when a group of retirement-age Oberlin College alumni, searching the country for a retirement community to move into, visited a Kendal community near Philadelphia. They liked it so much that they asked if the Kendal Corporation would build one in Oberlin. The representatives of the Kendal Corporation weren't sure the market would support a new CCRC here, so they told the alumni that if they could get enough commitments to ensure two-thirds' occupancy, one would be built. They did, and it was.

Kendal's philosophy is that "retirement and growing older can usher in new opportunities for growth and development, even if emerging limitations or infirmities necessitate a degree of dependency." A Kendal brochure expands on this philosophy: "The lifestyle offered in our communities seeks to make the later years independent, productive, and stimulating while providing security, assurance of quality health care, and relief from many of the burdens of day-to-day life in environments not designed for older people. Such a community contributes to life enrichment, as residents have the opportunity to explore new experiences and new relationships and to cultivate lifelong concerns and interests."

And explore they do. Whether a resident prefers watching birds at the natural wetlands across from Kendal's Community Center or at one of its ponds, enjoying a rousing game of bridge, attending a concert or class or lecture at nearby Oberlin College, participating in a science discussion, going for a refreshing swim, playing in a croquet or ping-pong tournament-or participating in any of the dozens of other cultural and recreational activities-there seems to be something for everyone here.

Again, it's all about choice. Red School House. Resident Ruth Schwaegerle volunteers as a docent at Oberlin's historic Little Red School House.

Whether residents live in one of Kendal's independent living apartments or cottages, or one of its private or semiprivate rooms in the personal care (assisted living) or health center (skilled nursing) wings, they are free to participate in any activity they're capable of enjoying, according to Director of Admissions Maggie Stark.