by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 26 February 2015
On Stone Way, University House Wallingford provides an elegant and inviting option for those looking to free themselves from the worry of home maintenance, the loneliness of solitary living, and/or the concerns of what might happen if something goes wrong…
“I think it becomes sort of a prison,” observed Margaret Konzak, about home ownership after retirement, “when we moved here I really felt released.” Konzak, and her husband, gave up their home in Walla Walla, where he had served on the faculty at Washington State University, for a two-room apartment at University House. The apartment has an office, room for their collection of music and books, and opportunities for them to keep up on their individual studies and hobbies by freeing them from the daily worry, and work, of organizing roof repairs or other, more menial, home maintenance.
“We came a little earlier,” Konzak said, “when we are still capable of enjoying it and having fun.”
‘Get Out And Do Things’
University House Wallingford has 146 apartments, according to Ike Almo, Community Relations Director, and while most residents are in their 70s or 80s, anyone over the age of 62 is welcome. Residents rent maintenance-free units, that the staff treat like condos, allowing residents independence over their decoration and use. Konzak confirmed that calling for a repair, or assistance, is easy. “The people here are particularly nice,” she reported.
University House, built on a life-long learning approach, offers its residents an almost overwhelming array of activity options – in addition to providing seniors with a safe place to live. Every month activity staff schedule off-site events, with transportation, and residents can sign-up to attend things like:
- a weekly shopping trip to Fred Meyer, QFC or Trader Joe’s, scenic drives of Ballard and the University District, dinner out at area restaurants
- a marina walk at Shilshole, park walks at Magnuson, Lincoln, Evans Creek, and the Arboretum, a hike at Seward Park
- theater at Seattle Repertory and Shakespeare & Company, presentations at Burke Museum, Wildlights at Woodland Park Zoo, tours of the Central Seattle Public Library, performances at Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet and UW World Dance, visits (and lunch) at the Tacoma Art Museum, tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral, concerts by the Early Music Guild, Seattle Chamber Music Society and UW International Chamber Music, and a movie at a local cinema
Also, during each week, transportation can be arranged to banks, doctors or other errands (although on-site parking is available for those who want to keep a car.) As for more mundane matters, every week the University House Wellness Center has foot care/podiatrist, blood pressure screenings, hearing aid help, massage, beauty salon and lab services regularly scheduled, in house, and a seamstress comes in to do alterations twice a month.
For Konzak, the activities have been a great opportunity. “You really should get out and do things,” she observed. “In Seattle, you have so many more opportunities for concerts, theater and opera,” she said, “I think it is wonderful that we can do it. It’s wonderful that they have these options.”
‘In The House’
Yet, University House, like many senior living facilities, also provides for those who might find themselves unable to get out. “We’ve had health troubles,” Konzak explained. Last fall both she and her husband found themselves unable to get around, comfortably, but by living at University House they could still access social, and other enriching, experiences – without wandering far from home.
Among its on-site activities, in addition to a fitness center, library and computer center, University House provides residents with a long list, each month, of on-site activity opportunities including:
- classical, chamber and jazz concerts by youth and professional musicians, language lessons in French, Yiddish and Spanish, discussions on Shakespeare and poetry, current event discussions and coffee klatches, religious services, art gatherings for painting, and knitting, music lectures with Dr. Deacon, travel presentations
- tai chi, ping pong, stretching, yoga, and brain games
- board games, foreign, documentary, operatic, and Shakespeare film screenings, book groups, trivia, visits by the Seattle Public Library bookmobile
- presentations by local politicians, the League of Women Voters, the University of Washington Retirement Association, authors, support groups for Parkinson’s, and low-vision, and an active resident’s association
Konzak has particularly enjoyed being able to keep up with her book group during her health crisis, participating in a play reading, and having her grandson come visit. “You can still do things in the House,” she observed, since going down to the auditorium or library for activities, or entertaining relatives and friends, can be done safely when home is a simple elevator ride away.
‘Make The Right Choice’
“I was really afraid of being alone,” Konzak said when she and her husband talked about their retirement. At University House Wallingford, there are currently 165 residents who share the couple’s interests and experiences in higher education. “It’s an opportunity to make new friends,” she said, “One should see it from that point of view.”
Almo advises touring carefully when you look for a place for after retirement. “It’s good to come in for a visit,” he explained, “to get a feel for the community, not just deciding based on a brochure.”
Even if University House Wallingford isn’t for you, Almo and Amy Jackson, the UH Community Relations Associate, can help with advice. “This is for the long term,” Almo observed, “You want to make sure you make the right choice for you.”
When you do decide, like the Konzaks, that it is time to make life a little easier – and richer for it – “We’d like to help them, every step of the way,” Almo said. University House is part of Era Living, developers of quality senior communities with seven others around our region. Era Living can also connect seniors with relocation resources for those planning to relocate, through partnerships its developed with companies that help with downsizing, disposal and moving.
“You are not on your own,” Almo observed, “you are not the first one to think about moving into a retirement community.” If you have, or if you haven’t, a place like University House Wallingford can make this time of life a blessing instead of a burden, for everyone.
Contact Almo, or Jackson, at University House Wallingford through the website or by calling 206/452-3209.
Read more details about University House Wallingford in a previous column at http://www.fremocentrist.com/commentary/?p=24126
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©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.