People Make All the Difference

This three-part series, “People, Passion, and Purpose,” explores how each aspect is critical to a happy life. While the three P’s are well-known as a popular leadership philosophy, they can apply to individuals of all ages. For seniors, the three P’s can make an enormous difference in day-to-day life.

Community, or the lack of one, can significantly affect one’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Aging in place can lead to loneliness and depression, leading many seniors to move into retirement communities with active, engaged residents. In other words, people need people.

At Clermont Park, new residents see right away that they’ll make great social connections in the community. Upon arrival, a resident ambassador, someone from their new neighborhood, will greet them and show them around the community. Before COVID-19, they’d enjoy a meal together or take part in one of the many programs available. Residents lead more than 35 clubs, committees, and community groups catering to interests of all kinds.

Social connection starts from the very beginning. There are all kinds of programs (and in non-COVID times) parties and get-togethers to get connected. Typically, the social connection comes best through meeting folks in the restaurants, at programs of interest, and passing each other in the community.

ANDREW SHARP, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY LIFE

Since the pandemic began, residents formed a new group called Conversation Connections. In-person resident-led talks recently covered gender equity, ballot blues, and grief—all topics residents themselves suggested. Barbara M. and Shirley B. are co-collaborators of the program. Shirley said the group provides meaningful connections.

Residents have a chance to get out of their apartments and join in a face-to-face discussion that goes beyond the surface. We really need to connect with each other, so we don’t become depressed during this pandemic,” Shirley said.

The Garden Club offers a way for residents to join others with like interests while spending time outdoors. In addition to planting and tending flowers, vegetables, and herbs, they discuss their ideas for landscaping improvements. A harvest celebration brings them together to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“I love being outside, watching things grow, and giving back to my community,” said Alice L.

Social networks like these could help cultivate a feeling of staying young. According to Louis Cozolino, a psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University, relationships affect brain health. In his 2018 book, “Timeless: Nature’s Formula for Health and Longevity,” he wrote that there are many secrets to staying young. “They all begin with nurturing our existing relationships to foster brain health, keeping us happier and healthier,” Cozolino wrote.

Volunteer and leadership roles present residents further opportunities to meet their neighbors while giving back to their communities. Sales Counselor Susan Eakin described one such group, the resident Dining Committee. In regular meetings with Marco, Clermont Park’s master chef, and Sonia, dining services director, the committee dispenses valuable feedback regarding menus, offerings, and dining experiences. During COVID-19, one resident member has taken on the all-important role of crowd control to remind other residents to remain properly spaced and to direct them where they can safely wait for to-go orders.

“Yesterday, our dining team hosted a Teaching Kitchen as a surprise thank-you to our resident Dining Committee. They hand-delivered personal invitations to each committee member and treated them to crepes suzette,” said Eakin. “Marco talked about the history of crepes suzette, his chef training, and the recipe he prepared. Then, he cooked and served them—to everyone’s great delight.”

The community will host block parties in the Fellowship Hall in February and March following public health guidelines around capacity. Last year, residents widely attended block parties, where they enjoyed the lively atmosphere.

An emphasis on meaningful activities has been central to community life at Clermont Park since its founding. While COVID-19 has upended everyday routines, Clermont Park has continued to offer safe methods for residents to connect, pursue their hobbies and passions and find their purpose.

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