Last night I was invited to dinner at the finest establishment in the senior housing genre, La Posada. Though there are private, retirement homes, places like Dominican Oaks, Oak Tree Villa or Aegis- which have even more benefits and accoutrements- these other places lack the heart, laid-back feel, and Santa Cruz vibe that permeates La Posada.
In the last decade, I have visited my share of ‘retirement homes’ and many are less splendid. One place had a single hispanic lady left to oversee 20 rooms. Screams could be heard at regular intervals, with sayings like:
“Please help me!” and “Oh God!” A friend I visited at one such place said to me with equal parts humor and horror:
“Tell people about this place.”
My friend Jack recently secured a space at La Posada after an 18 month sojourn on the waiting list. He was ecstatic because cooking and doing dishes at 92 was becoming more and more exhausting. La Posada supplied breakfast and dinner. Jack does not eat lunch.
Besides Jack, at our table was Helen 86 years old who post meal went to set up the penny poker table with great enthusiasm and Charlotte, aged 95—the cutest elderly lady with a wry smile which appeared to be permanently etched on her face. Charlotte kept showing me the picture, a taken few days previous at Halloween, of her dressed as Darth Vader. The rapport between the diners was tickled with playful teasing.
The biggest challenge at our table related to hearing. Both Jack and I wear hearing aids and Helen spoke very quietly, which, along with the background voices and noises, well, dinner was mostly in silence. Through simple gestures and short conversations, we said what was needed. We became acquainted through presence.
After the meal was over, Helen dashed off, okay she ambled without the use of walker or cane, taking her neopolitan ice cream sandwich dessert with her. I watched as Charlotte and Jack devoured their treat like school children, messy fingers and all.